Squola - Center for Contemporary Italian Studies


By Anna Shapiro
Photo courtesy of Daniela Lateana

This interview was conducted by Anna Shapiro with sQuola faculty member Daniela Lateana as part of a course project for Advanced Italian II.

Daniela, tell us about yourself. 

I'm lucana*, originally from Policoro, a city in the Basilicata region of southern Italy. I've been based in Florence for about 20 years. I initially came to Florence for university studies since the humanities division is well-known here. After completing my degree in Italian studies, I stayed on and am happy to live in a city that I have grown to appreciate.

*Lucania is the original name for the Basilicata region deriving from ancient times. The official name for the region is Basilicata but it still goes by the name Lucania and its people “lucani.”

I recently had the opportunity to visit Basilicata. What can you tell us about the region's dialect, its cuisine, and its culture? Matera was announced as the 2019 European capital of culture, which I imagine will be an important event for the city.

The main dialect for the entire region is lucano while at the local level there are several dialect variations. An interesting fact about the region is the presence of subpopulations of Albanian descent who speak their own unique language. As for cuisine, a traditional dish is “pastizz,” a local word that stands for “pasticcio” or savory pie. It's basically a stuffed calzone containing vegetables or meat. Matera's appointment as the European capital of culture is extremely important for the entire region. Though it may not be as easy to arrive due to the lack of a train station, the event will help the region to grow and to gain recognition in Europe. In addition to Matera, visitors can also visit the Dolomiti Lucane mountain range, which offers a beautiful natural landscape.

As for Florence and Italy in general, what are some positive and negative aspects of living here?

Florence is a welcoming city in all senses. I appreciate its reduced size and the fact that one can get around easily, that it's possible to get many things done in a single day: go to work, work out at the gym, visit a museum, and go out for an aperitivo with friends, for example. Impossible for a city like Rome, where citizens lose precious time due to daily travel and traffic. Florence is a lively city that offers great cuisine and where people are welcoming. Perhaps a negative aspect could be the lack of stimuli in the area of contemporary culture, we're not doing enough in this regard. I'd also like to see more ethnic restaurants in Florence and to experiment with more diverse types of cuisine. As for Italy in a broader sense, I appreciate its culture, art, cuisine, and people, though this is not an easy time for the country. Job security is low, the economic situation is negative for many individuals, and in the south it's even harder due to the few opportunities available to the youth.

Would you like in another European country or somewhere else in the world?

I'd actually choose the United States due to my love for American culture, language, literature, and especially cinema. As for European countries, I'm attracted to northern European countries such as Sweden but I'd also try living in France.

You mention culture and cinema. What are some specific forms of entertainment interest you?

I go to the cinema quite often as I'm a big fan, and when I was a university student I chose to take various courses on Italian cinema. I love the medium not only because it represents an escape but it's also a stimulating form of cultural entertainment. Film events and festivals in particular are of interest to me, such as the ones held at the Odeon in Florence where original language films are often featured. I especially enjoy French and independent films, and regardless of the genre I believe that films are best enjoyed on the big screen. Cinema is a main passion of mine, but I also enjoy going to the theater and to concerts.

What do you most enjoy about teaching and can you name some challenges about working with international students?

My job gives me great satisfaction and I love being in constant interaction with students, communicating with them, and getting to know them and their cultural backgrounds. It's also interesting to talk to students about their experiences, thoughts, and lives from a different generational perspective. As for challenges related to the job, it's difficult to say given that I don't see them as problems. 



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