From the Italo-Americano Newspaper
Isabella Weiss di Valbranca’ s CV strikes for its eclecticism: from law to journalism, from entrepreneurship to fashion design, all the way to politics, Isabella has demonstrated, since her youth, to be a woman led by a thirst for experimenting, creating and knowing. This is what, throughout the years, brought her around the world, first on her own then w ith her family, until she settled in San Francisco where today she is active member of numerous associations and organizations dedicated to Italian and Italian American culture and heritage. It is here she has recently become Secretary of the Circolo PD San Francisco – Berkeley – Silicon Valley.
L’Italo Americano had the pleasure to chat with Isabella about her career, her travels and what it means for her to represent Italy in North America today.
You were born in Italy, you studied in Rome, London and the US, where you currently live and work: what made you such a “citizen of the world?”
This question makes me think about a page of an old diary I used to keep when I was in high school. I read it last Summer, while I was home in Rome with my daughter, after finding a bunch of old notebooks stashed in a drawer filled with memories. Its title said “What will you be when you grow up: to be read in 10 years time:” it was a page filled with many, many words, the first few lines reading “when I grow up, I want to travel, actually, not only travel, but live in other countries, I want to meet and get to know people different from me, because we only have one life, and the world is such a big place.”
I was 15 then, and I was lucky because I had already been on holiday to Paris, Madrid and London with my parents, but I think that being a traveller, confronting myself with other realities, getting to know the world, is truly part of my DNA. And it doesn’t only happen through travelling, but also through the experience of being an expat, which is a very different thing.
Your curriculum speaks of journalism and law, but also of creativity: how did you develop such a multi-faceted career?
After graduating in Law, I began practising in a firm specialised in civil and tributary law, in Rome. I mostly worked at the Tribunale del Lavoro and for the Justice of the Peace. In my – very little – spare time, I started writing for a culture and current affairs magazine. Writing began taking up more and more space in my life, and I ended up becoming a freelance journalist. Beside law, I’ve always loved cinema and so I started writing movie reviews as a correspondant from the most important international film festivals. I’ve also been a radio author and presenter for Rai International and I’ve worked for Theleton, Rai Uno.
Life had a big surprise for me, though: my husband, an American, who worked in Singapore at the time. It wasn’t easy to move to Asia with my three cats, locking the door of my Roman home behind me. But it turned out to be a wonderful experience: my daughter Giulia was born in Singapore, and we travelled through Asia from Thailand to India, from Indonesia to Vietnam.
While living in Singapore, I noticed the lack of choice in children clothing,which was either boring and cheaply made or of good quality, but extremely expensive. There was no high street option, so to speak, nothing well made, but affordable. So I decided to start another adventure and I became an entrepreneur in a world I really knew little about. Finding someone to produce my designs was particularly difficult: I tried in several countries and eventually chose India, where natural fabrics, cotton and silk were of good quality and where I found a dedicated and committed entrepreneur, leader of company where employees worked in a healthy and safe environment.
I often returned to India, a difficult country, made of contrasts, but also beautiful, that never leaves you indifferent, where you can cry in fear and hopelessness, but also meet fantastic people, who know what living with dignity, love and solidarity truly means.
How did you get to the US?
Myself and my husband, who works for Apple, decided to move to San Francisco where he grew up – even though he was born in New Jersey – and where I had lived for a while, when interning at the Istituto Italiano di Cultura. A place we both knew and loved. I had also lived in Los Angeles and Newport Beach, so California was a second home to me, my very own American Dream, and it had always been, since the very first time I had arrived here when I was 18, after graduating from high school to attend a Summer course at UCLA.
How did your career as an “Italiana d’America” develop?
Since I came back to the US I’ve been very active in various Italian and Italian American organizations, I’m a Board of Directors’ member of one of the most prestigious cultural associations in the Bay Area, the Leonardo da Vinci Society, I organize events of political, economic, cultural and social nature. I am also the Secretary of the local Circolo del Partito Democratico and my commitment to social issues dates back to my years in university.
Tell us something about your candidature for the Partito Democratico.
My candidature is both an honor and a duty: I’ll do my best to make myself known in this very large territory that runs from Canada to Central America, and to become a spokesperson for all the Italians living abroad like me.
What does it mean to you, as a journalist, a lawyer and as a politician, to be Italian?
Being Italian is a plus value: we had the luck to grow up surrounded by art and history, we absorbed them like sponges. From the smallest hamlet to the largest city, Italy is an open air, free spectacle of art and beauty. But we must learn how to use this gift, so that we can offer it to others; we must demonstrate we can keep together, that we are not only proud of our country, but that we can also be constructive, proactive and with a solid vision for its future.