Italian. 34. Museum Fundraiser. World citizen.
There are few people who can say they’ve lived in five countries (Italy, Germany, France, the UK and the Netherlands), and mastered five languages (at least!), so when Valentina says she’s a citizen of the world, we definitely won’t be the ones to argue otherwise. Getting to know her, you wonder to what extent her experiences living amongst other cultures have affected her personality, her customs, her style, yet she is quick to point out that whilst her surroundings have, of course, influenced her in many ways, beneath it all is a sturdy foundation of Italian Classicism she learnt from her parents. When Valentina’s style veers off into the territory of edgy or risqué, her mother makes sure to bring her back on track with the subtle, yet effective: “You’ve been living abroad for too long”.
Which living person do you most admire?Pina Bausch*, without a doubt. A professional dancer and later founder of the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, she used her art to see right through people's souls and could find beauty in every person. According to her, everyone is special. One only needs to be allowed to own one's own uniqueness, cherish it and allow for it to blossom. I grew up watching her performances and I've always admired her love for mankind.
What is your most treasured possession?My old ballet shoes and training clothes from when I used to be a dancer. I started dancing when I was three, and continued throughout my youth until I broke my knee at seventeen, which ended up being the life-altering event that put me on the path that lead me here. It was then that I had to look at the person I was outside being a dancer. There is no regret or remorse when I look back at that period or the choices that were made as a result, but I treasure these mementos as reminders of that time, in particular of the discipline I had with myself and for others.
Who are your favourite writers?First off: I don’t do contemporary literature. Not that I have anything against it, but I feel there are just so many masterpieces in classical literature, that that’s where I need to start. I just love being transported to another place, especially when it’s done with descriptions so vivid you can just see the scene taking place before you. Next to the use of language itself, I also just really love having an insight into other people’s psyche. A few of my favourite writers include:
- Thomas Mann for his complete mastering of the language and the deep human struggles he describes. Every book he ever wrote is a masterpiece, but my absolute favourite is Doctor Faustus.
- Alexandre Dumas immediately transports me to another world full of adventure and drama. I fly through his books. The best one is without a doubt The Count of Monte Cristo.
- Cesare Pavese’s description of women’s dreams and fears in Tra Donne Sole (Among Women Only) in a melancholic Turin at the turn of the century always stuck with me.
- My grandmother started writing as a young woman using a male pseudonym, and only much later owned up to her own writing. Her books, such as Venetian Triptych are extremely melancholic, as is she, but also have a lot of humour. She could always find something to laugh about, even in the darkest hours.
Despite having lived in the Netherlands for the last few years where the sheer unpredictability of the weather almost demands you dress for practicality, Valentina holds tightly to her Italian roots, believing that no matter whether it’s interior design or fashion we’re talking about, beauty always comes first. Currently mulling over: how to be less critical about oneself and those around you.
*Pina Bausch is technically no longer alive, having passed away in 2009, but was very much a living person throughout Valentina’s life.
Header image © Valentina Salmeri-Bijzet
Pina Bausch performance © Valentina Salmeri-Bijzet