The ambassador of Italy to Malaysia His Excellency Massimo Rustico on the essence of la dolce vita

He also speaks about the seventh edition of Italian Design Day, which fell on March 16.

"Italian designs have always been known for their sophistication, elegance and attention to detail" (Photo: Sam Fong/ The Edge Malaysia)

Options: Congratulations on the seventh edition of Italian Design Day. Tell us how it all began.
Massimo Rustico: 
I am glad we can again celebrate this initiative created by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in collaboration with the Triennale Design Museum in Milan and other organisations involved in promoting Italian design. The first edition of Italian Design Day was held in 2017 and, since then, it has become an annual event celebrated with an ‘Ambassador of Italian Design’ as the key speaker, assigned for different countries every year in March.

And what are its key objectives?
The purpose of Italian Design Day is to promote and celebrate the ‘Made in Italy’ brand around the world, highlighting its excellence, creativity and innovation that it represents. The objectives are to create a global network of events, exhibitions and conferences that showcase the best of Italian design in all its forms, from fashion and industrial design to architecture and interior design. Italian Design Day also seeks to foster collaborations between Italian designers, businesses, and institutions and their international counterparts, encouraging the exchange of ideas and the development of new projects and partnerships. The initiative has been a great success, with more than 100 cities around the world participating in the 2022 edition. Through exhibitions, workshops and online events, Italian Design Day continues to showcase the best of Italian design and inspire new generations of designers and creatives.


Rustico recommends first-time visitors to explore the Colosseum

What are the plans for Malaysia this March 16?
My first Italian Design Day as the Ambassador of Italy to Malaysia last year was organised in a different format to bridge industry experts from prominent Italian brands with local institutions as a platform to share their insights and experiences. We are continuing that successful format but with a new theme: ‘The quality that illuminates. The energy of design for people and the environment.’

We also have a new selection of speakers representing world-renowned Italian brands such as Maserati (luxury vehicles), Roberto Cavalli (luxury fashion), Agusta (VIP helicopters), Roberto Coin (handcrafted fine jewellery), Fincantieri (the world’s largest shipbuilding group for cruise ships and mega-yachts), Lightcraft (a leading Malaysian lighting company that represents many Italian brands) and the Icona Design Group (a design company for smart mobility, sanitisation devices and automotives). We also have Franz Cerami, an Italian digital artist and ambassador of Italian design in Malaysia, among the key speakers.

Italian style and design is renowned the world over. How do you incorporate it into your daily life?
I’m Italian and an ambassador of Italy. So, of course, Italian style is part and parcel of my life! Italian designs have always been known for their sophistication, elegance and attention to detail. I start the day by choosing Italian-made products that reflect these qualities, from clothing to shoes and accessories as well as have it reflected in my home via decorative household items, artworks or design pieces.

You are also one of the lucky ambassadors to be able to have a premium Italian marque to drive. Tell us about your ride and why it makes navigating KL’s roads all that much better.
I drive the Maserati Ghibli. Maserati is a luxury brand known for its quality and elegance. I love the sound of the car, especially when arriving at an event. Its rev and distinctive exhaust notes are a signature of Maserati sports cars. I must mention the Naza Group here, who is the importer and distributor for Maserati and Ducati, and who just launched the new Grecale SUV to great success.


The new Maserati Grecale SUV was recently launched in Malaysia (Photo: Maserati Malaysia)

You hail from Rome, the Eternal City. What would be your recommendations for the first-time visitor?
Definitely the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. These ancient ruins form some of Rome’s most iconic landmarks, offering a glimpse into the city’s rich history and culture. Then you must explore Vatican City, home to the world-renowned Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica. I also recommend wandering the streets of Trastevere, a charming neighbourhood renowned for its narrow cobblestone streets, picturesque piazzas and lively nightlife. A spot of shopping along Via Condotti, home to all the Italian luxury brands, is also a must, followed by the enjoyment of Italian cuisine and wine.

There are also specific Roman dishes to try, are there not?
Two must-trys are Pasta alla Carbonara and Cacio e Pepe. There are also many good Italian wines to try.

As Italy is the birthplace of some of the greatest names in art, music and culture, do you have any favourites to recommend?
There are too many. But, of course, Leonardo da Vinci must be named, as well as Michelangelo, Giuseppe Verdi, Dante Alighieri, Pavarotti and Niccolò Machiavelli, whose work The Prince is still widely read and debated today. I must also mention Paola Antonelli, a curator at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, who is known for her innovative and thought-provoking exhibitions on design and architecture; Franco Battiato, a musician and songwriter who has been active since the 1960s and is known for his eclectic and experimental music, blending elements of pop, rock and classical; and Federico Fellini, the celebrated director renowned for his surreal and dreamlike films, particularly La Dolce Vita and .

What is your favourite way to spend a day in Rome?
A typical morning for me is to start with a cappuccino and cornetto for breakfast, walking at the heritage site of Fori Imperiali, followed by a trattoria lunch with friends. In the evenings, I like watching the sunset from a terrace rooftop while drinking spritz before dinner at a restaurant facing the Colosseum.

And what about your new home base of KL? What’s a preferred weekend like for you?
I like to relax at the residence after a busy week. I sometimes go away to explore the country, perhaps to the beaches of Langkawi and Pulau Perhentian. I am also pleasantly surprised to discover that there are a number of really good authentic Italian restaurants outside Kuala Lumpur.  


This article first appeared on Mar 13, 2023 in The Edge Malaysia.


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