Food spells love in Rome

The Citizen (KZN) - - World - Rome

– Dino Im­pagli­azzo dices onions like a mas­ter chef and makes a mean veg­etable soup, but most of his loyal “cus­tomers” can’t af­ford to buy even a bread stick.

Sprightly de­spite his 90 years, Im­pagli­azzo is known as Rome’s “chef of the poor”. Three days a week, he and other vol­un­teers of the RomA­moR (RomeLove) as­so­ci­a­tion he founded make the rounds of food mar­kets and bak­eries for con­tri­bu­tions from re­tail­ers who help him live out his dream of feed­ing the home­less.

It all be­gan 15 years ago when a home­less man at a Rome train sta­tion asked him for money to buy a sand­wich. “I re­alised that per­haps in­stead of buy­ing one sand­wich, mak­ing some sand­wiches for him and for the friends who were there would be bet­ter, and thus be­gan our ad­ven­ture,” he said.

Now the RomA­moR vol­un­teers cook the food on the other four days of the week and serve it in var­i­ous places in the city, mostly near train sta­tions.

“We try to in­volve more and more peo­ple so that Rome be­comes a city where peo­ple can love each other, you know?” he said. “It’s sol­i­dar­ity.”

On Satur­day nights, they set up un­der a por­tico out­side St Pe­ter’s Square to feed the grow­ing num­ber of home­less who sleep in the area, where Pope Fran­cis has also opened med­i­cal and bathing fa­cil­i­ties for them.

Im­pagli­azzo, who once worked for Italy’s so­cial se­cu­rity depart­ment, launched his mis­sion to feed the needy with a hand­ful of fel­low pen­sion­ers.

They quickly grad­u­ated from mak­ing sand­wiches to cook­ing hot meals, first at home and then in a con­vent, and the group now num­bers 300 vol­un­teers, both young and old, and uses its own fully equipped kitchen.

Im­pagli­azzo, who re­ceived a hon­orific award from Ital­ian Pres­i­dent Ser­gio Mattarella recog­nis­ing him as a “hero of our times”, never dreamed his ini­tia­tive would be so suc­cess­ful. –

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