You may wonder why this blog has such an unusual name. It’s not an Italian word we ever hear in the U.S., and it is hard to pronounce! However, this word surfaces constantly in Trieste. It is taped to the wall in the community mental health center. It comes up constantly in conversation. It is part of the mission of the Dipartimento di Salute Mentale. It is the topic of my very first blog in this website.
I chanced upon the Triestino celebration of International Women’s Day when I spent the month of March in Trieste (2019). I saw this sign in the crowd. There was that word again! So, part of my Italian journey was to learn to appreciate exactly what accoglienza means in Trieste. My sense is that it is one of the passwords that unlocks the mindset of why this place is so special.
From a political perspective, it comes up constantly in discussions about the Italian treatment of immigrants. The changing attitudes toward hospitality extended to stranieri (foreigners) is as much a concern in Italy as it is in the United States…and other countries, where a nationalistic ethos is taking root.
These are synonyms that the Italian to English dictionary suggests for accoglienza: reception, hosting, welcome, accommodation, receiving, welcoming, acceptance, hospitality, greeting, asylum, refuge. This is why I’ve been so intentional about exploring how a commitment to accoglienza – or radical hospitality – might transform our American mental health system. And – more importantly — this is how it is pronounced!