Andrea Davis came to Florence in the mid-1980s, a bright, young lawyer from Boston who was looking to take a career break and live the dolce vita in Italy. It was her original intention to stay for a year. Twenty years later, she is still here, with a husband and child. Earning a law degree from Harvard, she practices international law and has been an active volunteer in the Florence community for the past 20 years. This year she was elected co-president of the Tuscan American Association (TAA), along with Italian ‘art diplomat' and fellow lawyer, Federico Frediani (see TF 127). Building community, says Davis, means teamwork. Thus, she and Frediani are seeking to increase the TAA's presence across Florence and Tuscany through new partnerships, new events and new opportunities for networking and collaborating toward a common goal.
First, let's talk about you. Tell me about your professional and volunteering experiences in Florence.
I have worked with both American and Italian companies that are thinking of doing business overseas. I have also spoken at many trade shows about the issues involved in opening operations or distributing their products in Italy or the United States. I work with several American universities and have assisted clients in estate planning and real-estate transactions.
However, aside from my professional life, I have always believed in giving back to the community. One of things that I am especially proud of is a mentoring program. In my law office here in Florence, we have had four student interns from different American universities, and it has been a wonderful experience. I have always found them extremely attentive, very prepared, and I strongly urge more colleagues and professionals to get involved in the numerous internships offered by the American universities in the city.
I stay involved in the local community because I am very grateful to be here. It was my choice to come to Italy, so since 2000 I have been president of the Consulta, which is the advisory board of the Jewish community in Florence. It's something that I am very proud of. For the last three years, I also have been the secretary of the local chapter of the Lion's Club, the Lion's Club Firenze Palazzo Vecchio, which is involved in fund-raising and charitable events.
For years, I have been a board member of the TAA and founding member and organizer of the TAA's Professional Women's Committee (PWC). Over the past five years, the PWC has hosted seven conferences on various themes; it is part of our effort to create a forum in which Italian and American professional women can meet and network. Our conferences are open to all professional women. So often highly qualified and educated women come to Italy for one reason or another and they fall into a trap of either accepting jobs they are too qualified for or getting stuck in a niche, unable to grow and take advantage of the opportunities that are available to their local counterparts. At our conferences, we want to break these barriers: we provide ample time for networking with each other and the speakers.
What is the TAA's mission?
The TAA is an Italian nonprofit organization, or ONLUS, that seeks to create connections between Italian locals and expatriates who live in Florence and stengthen relations with the United States. The TAA organizes special annual events, such as Memorial Day, Independence Day, Welcome Day and a Thanksgiving Day celebration.
Our mission is to strengthen friendly ties between the United States and Tuscany at many levels: particularly commercially, culturally and socially.
The TAA has 16 board members. In addition to Mr. Frediani and me, the TAA also has two honorary presidents: the president of the Tuscan Region (currently Enrico Rossi) and the U.S. Consul in Florence (currently Sarah Morrison). We are grateful for these two nominations, as it is very important to have institutional support.
In addition to organizing our traditional events, we have also started co-hosting, co-organizing and co-participating in events organized by other associations to increase our presence in the city and create a stronger network. We want to become known as the 'go-to' place for local and national Italian organizations that want to connect with the American community in Florence and Tuscany. In the past, many events and initiatives were organized independently, but I believe that by working together, we can do more and do it better.
You've just recently taken the reins of the TAA, with co-president Federico Frediani. What has that been like?
Federico and I want to reinvigorate the association by increasing membership and community involvement, and we are doing this by increasing our collaboration with other associations and institutions. In the past five months alone, we have organized special events like a guided tour at the Gucci museum and/or participated in charitable events like Help the Children that supports the Meyer and other pediatric hospitals, in addition to our traditional events like Memorial Day and American Independence Day, which was held this year we this year at the Castello dell'Acciaolo in Scandicci-made possible with the help of Simone Gheri, the mayor of Scandicci.
What do you have planned for Welcome Day this year?
The Welcome Day celebration is our signature event for the students of the U.S. Institutions here in Florence. The lead up is Open Day, in which the U.S.-based universities open their doors to the public for two days on September 24 and 25 (see page 7 for details).
Organized months in advance, Welcome Day will be held on September 26 at 5:30pm in the Salone de' Cinquecento. An important part of Welcome Day is the formal greetings by the U.S. Consul and the mayor of Florence. It is a formal welcome on behalf of the City and an important acknowledgement of the American students studying here.
We confer two honors: one to an outstanding American and the other to an outstanding Italian. This year the awards will go to Ellyn Toscano, director of Villa La Pietra, and Eugenio Alphandery, of the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. Also new this year is a special award for Zubin Mehta, honoring his outstanding work at the new opera house, in the city of Florence and in the world of music. New this year during the event is a musical performance.
Does the TAA have any upcoming events in the works?
We will certainly be holding an event for Thanksgiving Day in November. We also hope to organize another PWC conference by year's end or in early 2013. (Check toscanausa.org for upcoming events.)
Become a TAA member!
Membership in the TAA, open to all, is just 20 euro a year and allows you to take part in special events that are not open to the public. Members who wish to give back to the community can also help organize events through and for the TAA. See www.toscanausa.org for details.
[This article was published on September 13, 2012 and has been corrected online for a typographical error.]