Italy is making waves by turning stereotypes on their head — and selling the world its more serious side.

A country of pizza makers? Look instead at Italy’s 1,000 major infrastructure projects in 90 countries, a new promotional video suggests. The land of Latin lovers? Don’t forget Italy’s huge trade surplus in manufactured goods. A nation of happy-go-lucky children? Think again, the advertisement says: Italy was the world’s third country to launch a satellite into orbit.

People here are reacting with surprise at the possibility that Italy may have finally figured out how to market itself abroad — by acknowledging stereotypes only to show a different “Made in Italy” that Italians can be proud of.

The ministry of economic development debuted the video “Italy, the Extraordinary Commonplace” at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last week. By Monday, it had garnered nearly 370,000 views on YouTube.

“A good promotional ad? By the Italian government? In English? There must be some mistake,” leading commentator Beppe Severgnini wrote in Corriere della Sera this weekend, giving the video an enthusiastic thumbs-up and noting it was the second most-watched video on the paper’s website.

The eurozone’s third-largest economy has more UNESCO world heritage sites than any other country and an artistic and culinary heritage that are the envy of any nation. Yet it has never managed to market itself effectively for tourism or investment, tarnished by political instability, bureaucratic hurdles, a slow justice system and inflexible labor laws.

But there are signs Italy is starting to do things differently. Recently, the culture ministry posted wanted ads for directors for 20 of its top museums, hoping to bring in foreign know-how (and potentially private funding) for its cultural treasures.

The economic development ministry says the aim of the clip was to “generate new understanding about our country, its excellence and its real place in the world, to stimulate growth overseas in the “Made in Italy” brand and increase foreign investments at home.”


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Photo Credit: A clip from the Italian Ministry of Economic Development's new ad. Ministero Sviluppo Economico / YouTube