Live

Watch CBSN Live

Italian ambassador to the U.S.: "January 20 will be a very important day"

Italy's ambassador to U.S. on "The Takeout"
Italy's ambassador to U.S. on "The Takeout" 45:30

Armando Varricchio, Italy's ambassador to the United States, believes that President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration will be an important date not just for this country, but for the world.

"We look forward to working with the administration, and January 20 will be a very important day not just for the United States but for the world," Varricchio said in an interview with CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett for this week's episode of "The Takeout" podcast.

Varricchio said that President Trump "is a friend of Italy," and added that "we have been working with him very effectively." But he explained that the relationship between the U.S. and Italy goes beyond who is in office at any given moment.

"Our alliance goes beyond the different administrations," Varricchio said. "This is something rock-solid important."


Highlights from this week's episode:

  • Varricchio on the upcoming inauguration: "We look forward to working with the administration, and January 20 will be a very important day not just for the United States but for the world."
  • Varricchio on the relationship between the U.S. and Italy: "Our alliance goes beyond the different administrations...This is something rock-solid important."
  • Varricchio on populism in the U.S. and Europe: "This is something that has always been there. A sort of pendulum between opening to the world while at the same time trying to retrench within borders. And this is true for Europe but this is true also for the United States."
  • Varricchio on the coronavirus pandemic: "In a country blessed with this unique history and heritage like Italy, we have gone through many difficult times. And this has, in a way, shaped our resilience and shaped who we are."

Varricchio said that the high participation rate in the November election had sent a signal to the world about the strength of democracy. Mr. Biden received over 80 million votes, more than any other presidential candidate in history.

Italian Ambassador to the U.S. Armando Varricchio
Italian Ambassador Armando Varricchio Getty Images

"The elections have sent a very important message to the world. When people decide to participate, take responsibility, sometimes being in line to cast a vote, a ballot. This is the soul of democracy, this shows to all who might cast doubt on the system that we cherish so much, that this is the best possible response," Varricchio said.

Varricchio also noted that the incoming first lady, Jill Biden, is of Italian descent.

"The new first lady is Italian-American, so this is very important for my country," Varricchio said.

He briefly talked about the strain of populism represented by Mr. Trump is also present Europe, but said it was a pattern of history.

"This is something that has always been there. A sort of pendulum between opening to the world while at the same time trying to retrench within borders. And this is true for Europe but this is true also for the United States," Varricchio said.

Varricchio also talked about how the coronavirus pandemic has affected his country. Italy went into full lockdown in the spring for several weeks, and will do so again from December 24 to January 6 to mitigate spread during the holiday period. He said that he took pride in seeing pictures of empty cities during the spring lockdown, because it showed that people were taking the virus seriously.

"I've seen pictures taken of the beautiful historic Italian cities, from Rome, to Venice, to Milan, to Naples, completely silent and empty. This was something that was never experienced before," Varricchio said. "We had to rediscover, in a way, ourselves, our communities, our families."

However, he noted that "it's in times of crisis that culture flourishes," giving the example of Boccaccio writing the Decameron during the plague in the 14th century.

"In a country blessed with this unique history and heritage like Italy, we have gone through many difficult times. And this has, in a way, shaped our resilience and shaped who we are," Varricchio said. "We had in our DNA a strength, a resilience, to be aware that during difficult times we can stop and try to build and figure out a better future. I think this is the best lesson that we can draw from this terrible experience."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue