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From Syria, once the Cradle of Civilizations, to Italy

14 May 2008
Published in Attualità, Fiori
by Luna Brozzi

I close my eyes, clinic I think of Damascus… I see a corner dressed with jasmines, site I smell their intoxicating perfume…. In just a few seconds, pills the thought of these simple flowers floods my mind with delightful memories, and for a few seconds, the world stops.
At this point you are wondering who is daydreaming… it is I, Luna Brozzi. Who am I? From my name you might come to the immediate conclusion that I am Italian, but do not be fooled as I have Syrian blood running through me. Twenty-five years ago I was born in Parma to an Italian father and a Syrian mother. A few months later, a journey began that has molded me into the person I am today. The first twelve years of my life were dispersed between living in China, Libya, Iraq, and the USA; the following six were in Damascus, Syria. In Damascus, like in all the other countries I had lived in, I attended an American school. Every summer consisted of visiting family in Italy and the United States. At seventeen, I graduated from high school and I felt that I was at a standstill. What to do with my future? Should I attend college in Italy or in the United States? In the end, I decided that it was time to live in Italy. I moved to Milan to attend Bocconi, where a degree was being offered entirely in English for the first time. After my graduation in 2004, I decided to move back to Damascus, where my parents still resided, in order to work. Three years later, under my fathers’ great encouragement, I moved back to Rome to begin a Master’s degree in Luiss.

It hasn’t been an easy ride. Damascus has a special place in my heart; the people are warm, the sun rarely disappears, and the history is deep… but like all roses, it has its thorns. The bureaucracy is absurd, the smog is terrible, and freedom of speech is a privilege for other countries… it is what it is. Upon arriving in Italy, I had many expectations. After all, I was coming to live in a developed, open-minded, European country… finally! It’s true that I had visited Italy at least once a year for the past seventeen years, that I was half Italian, that I spoke the language fluently, but somehow I had never absorbed it; I had always been just a visitor. Until now, between Milan and Rome, I have been living in Italy for four and a half years. I have come to learn many things about my country, and I have learned to love and hate it at the same time. Nobody can deny the wonder of Italian cuisine; its fame reaches all corners of the world. And it would be immoral to exclude its role in history, people, architecture; its physiognomy is among the most beautiful in the world. But let’s talk about the bureaucracy- at times I feel that it’s worse than Syria! At least in Syria I can escape the bureaucracy in two ways: first, as a woman, I am given a bit of “special treatment” and second, it is common knowledge that paying a couple of Syrian pounds can help get things done quicker.
Among the various encounters I had with Italian bureaucracy, the worst was renewing my Italian passport, which had expired a few weeks before. The bureaucrats did not want to renew it because I had no other valid ID, so I went to make an ID card. Once there, I was told that they could not give me an ID card because my residence was still in Damascus, despite the fact that I had officially changed my residence to Italy six months before. I had no idea what to do at that point. Back at the passport authority I re-explained the situation and the answer I received was, “I can NOT help you.” At that point I had had enough. I had waited in infinite lines and the people were rude and unwilling to help. How did I get them to do my passport? I shed a few tears. When did I receive the passport? Two months later. If this is the treatment an Italian citizen receives, how are immigrants treated?
Another thing that has left me perplexed is the university system. In the American system, students are taught to respect deadlines, to work under pressure, and to follow rules. Professors are there to teach and help the students. Transparency is important and so is organization. My perplexity arouse while attending Luiss. All final exams are oral but on rare occasions a professor might integrate it with a written exam. One of the first written exams I underwent in Luiss, I remember the professor asking us to write no more than 15 pages. At the end of the exam, I came to discover that some students had written over 20 pages and I figured that they would be “punished” as they had not followed the clear instructions that had been given. However, the opposite occurred – they were awarded. How about oral exams at the end of the semester? I have never understood how grades are attributed, and it seems to me that grades are very much at the discretion of the professor. Coming from a system where exams are graded much more objectively, as each question has an expected answer and set point value, it was hard for me to believe that the grades attributed in the Italian system were fair. Deadlines are not respected either. I fail to see how the Italian university system prepares students with the most basic principles needed in the working world.
The last thing that has left me in great awe is the mentality. Endless talks and conversations have led me to conclude that Italians are not so different from Arabs even though one is considered European, democratic and developed while the other is considered dictatorial and underdeveloped. Of course with regards to freedoms and rights there is no doubt that Arab countries cannot compete, but when it comes down to the way of thinking, how much does one differ from the other? As in Syria, Italians tend to live at home with their parents till an advanced age and great importance is attributed to family. How about the relationship between men and women? In the Arab world it is common that a man prefers for the woman to stay home and raise children, to dress conservatively, and to not go to out excessively without the company of a man. I was shocked when I realized that many of these things are the same in Italy and the more south you go, the more conservative it is, just as in the Middle East the more towards Saudi Arabia you go, the more conservative it gets.
I do not want to put under scrutiny any country, nor do I want to highlight the greatness of another. I believe that there is space for improvement in all countries and it can only come if new generations acknowledge the problems and try to make a difference.
People continuously ask me if I feel more Italian or more Syrian; my answer is that I feel neither completely. It is simple really… people who grow up in one place watch the same cartoons, hear the same stories, track the political situation, know the different dialects; I cannot relate with either Italians or Syrians on many of these aspects. I feel partially Italian, partially Syrian and partially American; I belong nowhere and I belong everywhere. As I try to take the best of many cultures, I hope countries can unite and do the same by learning from each other and taking the best from each other.

7 Responses to “From Syria, once the Cradle of Civilizations, to Italy”

  1. Amira says:

    Cara Luna, mi ha fatto molto piacere leggere il tuo articolo e vedere, attraverso altri occhi, le stesse sensazioni che spesso provo anche io, per essere figlia, come te, di due mondi!Un saluto, Amira

  2. William Sbrega says:

    “Endless talks and conversations have led me to conclude that Italians are not so different from Arabs even though one is considered European”

    E’ probabilmente per questo che l’Italia è sempre stato (fino a pochi anni fa) un paese filo-arabo…

    Comunque complimenti per il post, è molto interessante e ben scritto!

  3. Giacomo says:

    e daje luna!!!!

  4. Dana121 says:

    It is good to hear other people point of view. However, what i did find it interesting is that how you went deeply talking about Syria and Italy and yet you ended up feeling partially American!!. I’m sure visiting USA is not enough to discover all it hidden details and you might be surprised as much as you got when you lived in Italy!!

  5. Nizar says:

    I want to thank you so much for this wonderful article. Syria is a very wonderful place and it’s 10.000 years deep in history. Italy always was the source of the thinkers and the shadow of Rome is still been seen everywhere in the Sunny Damascus. Wherever you go in Syria you found Italian people who are 3000 years old are there to make sure that no harm will happen to the wonderful ruinsthat they’ve built.

  6. Mira Kocache says:

    Luna Bianca Maria Brozzi …. Bravo …. You are actually the perfect definition of half Syrian and half Italian and i would say in one way American .. I loved the article , you actually put a smile on my face while reading it .. i would like to thank you for portraying Syria the way you did , and as you said in ever country there is the good and the bad . But at the end of the day you will fall in love with your own country whether its perfect or not . .. Keep up the good job . Mira Kocache

  7. Lema says:


    Excellent article, very well put, and happy to know that you left here feeling very well connected to what it really is! This is truly the best way to portray the world we live in here, and how it can relate to other cultures you have been associated with. It is interesting, though, seeing the connection you built between Italy and Syria and the similarities that exist. I guess this is a start to showing the West, what it is about, and what a better way to know about it than fromt someone who has experienced both worlds! All the best to you…