As ASA Magazine were honoured to be invited to the Italian National Day celebration, held at the Italian government-owned mansion in Bishopscourt, Cape Town. Rain may have fallen this past Sunday, but it merely provided a backdrop to the vibrant conviviality within the mansion’s walls, lit up by Italian music and the tantalizing smell of traditional Italian cuisine. The day was far from grey, illuminated instead by shared laughter, joy, and the strong human spirit that permeates every celebration. 

The Italian National Day is a significant marker in Italy’s history, celebrating 77 years of democracy following World War II and two decades of dictatorship. These values—democracy, solidarity, respect for human rights, and freedom—are, as the Italian Ambassador, Paolo Cuculi noted, mirrored in the new South Africa. The celebration was not only a festivity but a tribute to these shared values, forming a bridge between the two nations and amplifying the warmth within the mansion.

ASA at Italy Day 2023

The spread of food served was a grand spectacle, reflecting Italy’s rich gastronomic heritage. Every dish was a love letter to Italian cuisine, meticulously prepared and beautifully presented. The appetizing array of pastas, cooked to perfection and doused in sauces that sang of home and comfort, seemed to dispel any remnants of the chill brought by the rain outside. The calamari, each bite evoking images of Italy’s sun-kissed coastlines, paired wonderfully with the hearty pastas, adding a touch of the sea to the gastronomic journey. Let’s not forget the stunning risottos and Caprese salads.

The dishes served epitomized the Italian culinary philosophy: simple ingredients of high quality, combined with care and love.

Desserts were plentiful and irresistible, everything from panna cotta to cannoli; each was a tribute to the art of Italian pastry making. The Aperol spritzes, with their tantalizing balance of bitter and sweet, the fine Italian wines embodying the romance of the country’s vineyards, and the sparkling MCC all complemented the food perfectly, drawing contented sighs from the guests.

Aside from the food, there was also entertainment. The Ambassador and his wife truly outdid themselves.

ASA at Italy Day 2023
Opera Performers from Italy, gathered around the grand piano, performing during courses.

The performers, six Italians (one of which was a South African), crafted an exquisite tapestry of sound. The mansion resonated with Italian opera and beautiful melodies, each note striking a chord within the hearts of the listeners. But it was a spontaneous second performance that etched itself deeply into our memory. Amidst the celebration, the musicians, plates of food in one hand and drinks in the other, gathered around the grand piano, their arms around each other like a group of old friends. Their voices filled the room, a testament to the unity and camaraderie fostered by the celebration, their evident joy and love for their art adding a magical touch to the day.

ASA at Italy Day 2023
Writer Wilke-Mari Hamman interviewing Italian Ambassador, Paolo Cuculi and his wife Mrs. Oriana Mannaioli Cuculi

“Emptiness has no value, the important thing is to share it with others,” Mrs. Oriana Mannaioli Cuculi voiced. This quote seemed to infuse every element of the celebration. The event, rather than an impersonal, unoccupied building, became a dynamic space filled with life, love, and laughter.

Art, music, and friendship were not just themes of the day but the connecting threads binding the guests. People from diverse backgrounds found common ground in these shared passions, strengthening the cultural bond between South Africa and Italy.
For the Ambassador and his wife, the sight of the rooms filled with friends, each person enjoying the day’s offerings with a palpable sense of contentment, was the day’s highlight. It was an embodiment of their desire to share their culture, food, music, and the joy of life with their guests, turning the mansion into a home away from home.

As the day drew to a close, the rain outside became a soft soundtrack to the end of a beautiful event. “We feel completely at home,” declared the Ambassador, a sentiment echoed by many. By the end of the day, despite the weather, was filled with the rich tapestry of Italian culture, art, and life, making every guest feel part of an extended Italian family, even for just a day.

Being part of the Italian National Day celebration was an honour for ASA Magazine. It wasn’t merely a party, but a unifying event that underscored the beauty of shared values and the enjoyment of life, food, and music. It reaffirmed the human capacity to come together and celebrate, regardless of the weather, and served as a stark reminder that when we share what we have—be it a home, a meal, or a song—everything becomes infinitely more valuable.

Thank you again to the Italian Embassy for inviting us to share this day.


Words | Wilke-Marie Hamman
Images | Migal Van As