By Madeleine Mulford |
April 26, 2023

In March, the Consul General of Italy in Miami, Cristiano Musillo, brought together the finest Italian entrepreneurs and business leaders living in the Southeast United States and Caribbean. The group was gathered to meet the Ambassador of Italy to the United States, Her Excellency Mariangela Zappia. In attendance among famous design companies, global leaders in luxury yachts and iconic fashion brands was Chiara Mazzucchelli, UCF’s program director of Italian Studies.

The Consul General invited these representatives to the new Italian Cultural Institute in Coral Gables to present the accomplishments of top Italian industries in the consulate’s jurisdiction to the Ambassador. Out of seventeen states and territories in the jurisdiction, UCF was chosen to represent education in Italian language and culture.

The Consul General invited Mazzucchelli to two full days of exclusive events in celebration of the Ambassador’s visit.

On Thursday, March 16, Mazzucchelli attended the opening of the exhibit, “Fashion is Female: Lights on Italian Design as Cultural Legacy,” created in conjunction with Women’s History Month, Italian Design Day and in celebration of Zappia’s legacy as the first female Ambassador of Italy to the United States.

The exhibit pays tribute to legendary Italian female fashion designers Elsa Schiaparelli, Sorelle Fontana, Fernanda Gattinoni, Mila Shön, Krizia, Lella Curiel, Laura Biagiotti and Miuccia Prada. The designers’ iconic gowns from the 1930s to the 1950s were on display at the show. One of the gowns, Mazzucchelli said, was worn by actress Audrey Hepburn on the set of the 1956 movie War and Peace.

Two gowns on display in the exhibition, “Fashion is Female: Lights on Italian Design as Cultural Legacy,” at the Italian Cultural Institute in Coral Gables.

“It was elegant. It was sophisticated. The food was amazing. Leave it to the Italians, it was a beautiful event,” Mazzucchelli said.

On Friday, March 17, Mazzucchelli was one of eight representatives of Italian industry in the U.S. to present the accomplishments of her sector to the ambassador at a closed-door event. Following presentations from presidents and vice presidents of Pininfarina and Benetti, Mazzucchelli stepped up to present three goals for the Italian Studies program at UCF.

The first goal Mazzucchelli introduced is to continue the recent growth UCF’s Italian Studies program. Since 2016-2017, enrollment in the program has increased by 43 percent, with the occupation rate growing from 64 to 82 percent. Part of this growth is thanks to $38,000 in grants earned from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Consulate General of Italy in Miami.

“We’re very proud of this growth,” Mazzucchelli said. “I’m grateful to the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures Chair, Geri Smith, and Jeffrey Moore, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, for their continued support. The grants from the Consulate General of Italy in Miami have also been a major support for our program. They have allowed us to grow over the years and to become an exception in the alarming enrollment drops we’ve seen in language classes nationwide before, during and after the pandemic.”

A second goal, Mazzucchelli said, is to further strengthen the Italian Studies program’s relationships with Italian institutions, businesses, and industries in Florida.

“For the past six years, our program has collaborated with the Consulate’s Education Office on all sorts of activities, lectures, contests and events, for things like Italian Design Day, the week of Italian Language in the World and Dante Day,” Mazzucchelli said. “So, our goal now is to branch out to Italian industries and businesses around us to provide our students with hands-on experience and real-world opportunities to use their language skills.”

Mazzucchelli’s final goal is to establish the Italian Studies program at UCF as the hub of cultural activities. Through the support of the Euliano family, the program has already been able to organize successful annual events with renowned guests like opera expert Fred Plotkin, Dante scholar Guy Raffa and celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich in the past few years. Mazzucchelli hopes to expand these activities in the future.

“UCF is the largest university in Florida, and the second largest the United States. So, we have the numbers, but we also have a prominent position in the panorama of higher education in the US,” Mazzucchelli said. “We want to continue organizing top-class events on all aspects of Italian and Italian American cultures. Things are looking good, and we’re working very hard to build something even greater.”

Learning Italian, Mazzucchelli said, can complement a variety of disciplines like literature, history and even biomedical sciences. Thanks to study abroad programs supported by the Italian Studies program, students across disciplines can study courses in their major overseas in Italy while practicing their language skills. Meanwhile, several generous scholarships exist to help students fund their educational pursuits.

Learn more about the Italian Studies program at UCF here.