“Charleston is an extension of Italy. It’s a European city.”
In Italy, the philosophy of La Bella Figura ("the beautiful figure") rules the land, especially in the south from where Dr. Giovanna De Luca hails. It’s a way of life emphasizing beauty, good image, aesthetics and proper behavior.
Italy is a place of grandeur and elegance and attention to detail. There's an inherent sense of appreciation for color, design and form throughout its art, history, architecture, fashion, food and fine wines. Behaving properly, appropriately and respectfully is crucial to maintaining the right air of Bella Figura both in family situations, as well as in the business world. Sound familiar?
It does to Dr. Giovanna De Luca, Associate Professor of Italian at the College of Charleston for the past nine years. She notes, “the care and preservation of Charleston’s history, architecture, arts and culture is very Italian and unusual, as most American cities are constantly tearing down and rebuilding in endless reinvention.” She loves Charlestonians’ genuine interest in others, our manners and our mastery of the art of conversation.
Giovanna is a born storyteller and a cigar smoker. Ask her a question and she responds circuitously with a story that implies an answer and creates a vivid mental image. Like the time she told a puffed up Regis Philbin that Parmigiano absolutely did not accompany linguini with clams. Nor did a martini. He was not interested in having the “true experience” and got his cheese.
Dr. De Luca’s research interests are Italian cinema, 20th- and 21st-century Italian literature, comparative literature, literary and film theory and cultural studies. Eight years ago, she founded Charleston’s Italian Film Festival, the Nuovo Cinema Italiano held annually in November, which introduces Italian filmmakers, journalists and cinephiles from all over the world to Charleston.
She has had a life-long love affair with American cinema starting with Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Roman Holiday. She calls it “The Spectacle.”
“The Spectacle is in American DNA. Everything is a show – weddings, funerals, you name it. It’s part of the culture, because everyone is an audience. Vegas,” she declares, “could only be done in America. No one else could come close to achieving that spectacle. No one else does it better!”
Giovanna is excited by the changing energy and momentum in Charleston these past five years. “I see the vibe, the thinking and reaching towards the future that’s happening. We can’t rely solely on the past. Charleston is slowly approaching that turning point of becoming a truly international city. And I hope we will continue to embrace diversity and other cultures, and teach that to our children from an early age. You cannot be afraid to try. You’ve got to try.”
Words by: Claire Gibbons
Photography by: Mark Stetler
Hair and makeup by: Stella Nova Flagship