So you want to be Italian?
by Laura Guzzo
Considering Italy’s enormous influence on history and culture, it’s no wonder so many people of various backgrounds are ardent admirers of all things Italian. In this issue, Panoram Italia spoke with one such admirer: Lena Cynthia Semenic. The managing director at plastic surgery clinic MediSpa Mont Royal in the Town of Mount Royal has been a fan of Italian culture since her early teens, and that appreciation keeps growing stronger well into adulthood.
When did you first become enamoured of all things Italian and why?
It started during a family vacation to Sardinia when I was 13. In my late teens, I also happened to date an Italian boy who had recently moved to Montreal, and he introduced me to many new Italian foods, wines and customs. While he ultimately wasn’t the one, I probably knew even way back then that Italian men were for me!
What was your favourite experience when you last visited Italy?
Eating lunch and drinking at Crotto Merlo in Carlazzo, Lombardy – a charming, seasonal rustic restaurant owned by my husband’s cousins and located deep in the woods. We had 10 traditional regional courses dished out over four hours – it was incredible. The mix of fine food and family: what could possibly be better?
If you could live in an Italian city, which would you choose and why?
Every time I visit Italy I seem to change my mind but, if I had to choose today, I would say Sorrento. It’s charming, and I love the location. It’s close to Naples and near the Amalfi coast for hiking.
If you were a famous Italian personality (dead or alive) who would you be?
Leonardo Fibonacci, the famous mathematician. It would be so cool to be brilliant at math. Complete this statement: Italy is . . .Seductive.
Complete this statement: You know your neighbours are Italian-Canadian because . . .
. . . they use sawed-off hockey sticks to prop up their tomato plants.
What is one element your cultural background shares with the Italian culture?
My Finnish grandmother was very much like an Italian nonna. She was known for her amazing baking. When we went to visit her or whenever she came to Montreal, I have the fondest memories of watching her cook effortlessly without a recipe and for large crowds at a time.
How well do you speak Italian?
I picked up a few words of dialect from my husband’s parents when we were first married but, in the last two years, I decided to get serious about learning the language. I’ve taken a couple of courses at the Istituto italiano di cultura downtown on Doctor Penfield and I really enjoy them and the amazing teachers. I try to speak as much as I can and am grateful to those who graciously humour me and my broken Italian.
What is one difference between Italians in Italy and Italian-Canadians?
Breakfast. Italians seem to never eat at home but instead go to the local corner bar for their cappuccino and cornetto.
What is one element of the Italian culture that you most appreciate?
The passion with which Italians speak and the gestures they use.
What is one Italian product (made-in-Italy) that you own?
I love everything from Fabriano, the paper goods company, but have also been known to spend lots of hours and euros in Obag stores shopping for handbags!