We have celebrated 140 years of diplomatic relations with over 20 events in Sofia and in five other Bulgarian cities

This year marked the 140th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between Bulgaria and Italy. The 16th traditional edition of the Italian Festival in Bulgaria, which includes over 20 cultural, economic and other events in Sofia and in five other cities in the country, was also associated with this anniversary. In 2019, 500 years were marked since the death of the brilliant Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci, the epitome of the Italian Renaissance. This anniversary was celebrated with an interesting exhibition for the immortal artist. The Embassy, ​​ICE Agency, the Italian Cultural Institute, the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Bulgaria and Confindustria Bulgaria have jointly organized many events on these occasions. The diverse and original events have aroused great interest among the numerous Bulgarian friends of Italy and have contributed to the deepening of the relations between our countries and peoples. The rich program recently concluded with an international conference dedicated to the 140th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between Bulgaria and Italy, with the participation of Bulgarian and Italian historians.

- Your Excellency, let me ask you first about the latest in the series of events that took place during the Italian Festival in Bulgaria - the International Forum "140 Years of Diplomatic Relations of Italy - Bulgaria". What were its highlights? Were there any interesting, and perhaps some, unknown facts about the history of our centuries-old relationships revealed?

- The forum was an ideal occasion for reflection and a thorough examination of some historical aspects of the relations between our two countries. This allowed for a constructive juxtaposition of not only the various episodes of the two countries' history, but also of some diplomats who played a particularly important role. Such is certainly the case of Vito Positano and Enrico de Gubernatis. In addition, through the meeting and debate, the Forum has helped to strengthen the links between the academic and scientific communities of the two countries. The topics covered were multifaceted and extensive, including an in-depth study of some documents about the Bulgarian State and the Eastern Question, taken from the archive of Minister and Diplomat - Luigi Corti in 1878. Some presentations focused on economic and cultural aspects in connection with some Bulgarian writers from XIX and the beginning of XX century - Ivan Vazov, Konstantin Velichkov and Pencho Slaveikov; they also focused on religious aspects - on the occasion of the Bulgarian celebration of the feast dedicated to the brothers Cyril and Methodius in Rome. I also personally participated in the work of the forum, analyzing the professional characteristics and work of the 36 ambassadors who led the Italian Embassy in Sofia one after the other over these 140 years. Certainly these are the people who have contributed to the development and strengthening of the friendly relations existing between Bulgaria and Italy.

- Were there any events accompanying the conference?

- Yes, the forum was accompanied by two other important initiatives organized by the embassy for this occasion - an exhibition and a book presentation. The historical and photographic exhibition recreates these 140 years through images that represent the various stages characterizing the diplomatic relations between Italy and Bulgaria. The exhibition, shown for the first time during the forum, will be visited by some schools, universities and other Bulgarian institutions.

During the forum, the edition "History of the Diplomatic Relations between Italy and Bulgaria through Italian Diplomatic Documents" was also presented. The 904-page book contains Italian diplomatic documents sent by or to the Italian Embassy in Sofia, which have already been formally published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. The edition, which can be downloaded free of charge from the Embassy's website, is an unusually rich source of information and gives an opportunity to get acquainted with events characterizing relations between the two countries from a diplomatic point of view. It is envisaged that the presentations from the forum will be published further and they will also be uploaded to the Embassy's website.

In addition, the first time was featured the video "Guests, not captives - 200 Italian cuirassiers in Sofia in September 1943", created by the Italian Embassy in Sofia to tell about an unknown event so far. The short documentary - interview recounts the story of 200 Italian cuirassiers from the Royal Guard of Honor, who, while in Sofia for the funeral of Bulgarian Tsar Boris III, were arrested by Nazi troops after the declaration of a ceasefire between Italy and the anti-Hitler coalition. The video is a clear example of how the story told - even through short specific episodes - can contribute to a better understanding of the history of relations between the two countries.

- Social networks are now playing a big role in information and social interactions. Your embassy is known to have thousands of friends on Facebook. What was the response on the network regarding the forum and what were the comments on the Bulgarian-Italian relations?

- The participation of the audience was really surprising given that it was a scientific conference. In addition to being present during the forum itself, over 300 live views were recorded on social media during the broadcast of some presentations. Now, on our page, you can see online some of the highlights of the conference with access to photos, videos and the book presented on this occasion.

- The program of this year's 16th Italian Festival in Bulgaria was particularly rich. Would you say a few words about the most important events and the interest of the audience in the various events?

- The Embassy and the Italian Cultural Institute have been cooperating for a long time in a series of cultural initiatives of great interest among the Bulgarian public. Some examples of particularly significant events this year are the exhibition "Colour Paintings from Ancient Rome - Mosaics from the Capitol Museums", showing how the distinction of art from design existed in ancient Rome, as well as the exhibition "Matera - Nuances" presented in Plovdiv and created on the occasion of the declaration of the two cities as European Capitals of Culture in 2019. The activity of presenting the Italian culture in Bulgaria is carried out in different areas. And besides the events related to design and cinema through participation in festivals and cinemas, many other initiatives, some of which related to theater and literature, also took place.

- It is interesting to learn also what will happen in the coming months in the multilateral relations between Italy and Bulgaria - in politics, economy, culture?

- The list of upcoming events is very long, but we cannot forget to mention the "Italian Cuisine Week in the World" - an annual panorama that attracts numerous participants from Italy and Bulgaria each time. This year's fourth edition (November 18-24) will include all components of the Italian system (Italian Embassy in Sofia, Italian Cultural Institute, Italian Trade Agency ICE, Italian Chamber of Commerce in Bulgaria, Confindustria Bulgaria). The event will also be an opportunity to explore less known aspects of our culinary tradition. In addition, on the 17th of November, in Hall 2 of the National Palace of Culture a multimedia performance will be featured, entitled "Leonardo Reloaded", with the main character Martux_M - one of the creators of what can be called the "maestro" of contemporary electronic Italian music. The event will also give an opportunity to see the exhibition created on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the death of the Italian genius Leonardo Da Vinci.

The material is provided by the "Standart" newspaper - www.standartnews.com