What were your first career aspirations?
To be a writer and a columnist. Never an editor. Too many meetings. I don’t do meetings. I don’t do weddings, spirits, book prefaces, collections, chess, golf, parachuting or drugs, either. They take up too much time.
Where do you see journalism five years from now?
Right where it is now. I think what you write or say is – and will continue to be – important, as will how you write or say it. Not where. There’s so much news around nowadays it’s bewildering. I think people will always need someone to help them through the maze. Someone who can join the dots, and make a picture. Yes, from now on, if anyone asks me what I do, I’ll say: “I join dots.”
What is your favorite section of the NY Times?
The wedding announcements: they’re fantastic fun. Just joking: the op-ed page, of course.
What is your most treasured possession?
Antonio, aged 15. But I don’t think he’d appreciate being called a possession. Let’s say I and my wife Ortensia look after him. In return, he looks after our iPods and ubiquitous Macs.
Who inspires you the most?
People. People and places. Oslo Norway on a sunny afternoon. A stroll in St Stephen’s Green, Dublin. All those magical Italian “P-cities” on a summer night (Padua, Parma, Pavia, Pisa, Perugia). Georgetown (Washington DC) in May. Passengers on a German train, talking to each other.
What adjective would your friends use to describe you?
What would surprise people about you?
That I enjoy what I do. That I’m competitive. That I don’t care much about money or influence. That I have an opinion about most things. That I speak quite good English, although I was born in Crema, northern Italy, from Italian parents.
Where do you find your peace?
In writing. It relaxes me, and it clarifies my thoughts.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
You mean something that I can tell the “Times”? Well, chilled white wine from Friuli Venezia Giulia; and Sardinian “seadas” (cheesecakes with honey). Riding my 1954 Vespa around Crema, my hometown – not exactly an environment-friendly vehicle. Watching Inter Milan – Italy’s coolest soccer team – with my son. And skipping weddings, of course.
How do you get your news?
Like everybody else, from the Internet, mostly. But also papers, TV, radio, mobile phones and people who talk too loud.
What’s your perfect day?
Traveling with my family. And my laptop.
Topic you won’t bring up at parties?
None. Politics, health, race, sex, death, fat food – anything goes. I’m Italian. I can get away with anything, can’t I?
What is your biggest worry for the world?
Fanatics. They’re everywhere. We should find a nice little planet for them. We could provide them with air-conditioning and free cable TV. So long as they stay there. And we can get on with trying to sort out good old planet Earth.