On October 18, 2016, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted their fourteenth and final official state visit in honor of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy and his wife, Mrs. Agnese Landini. State dinners are beautiful expressions of friendship and diplomacy. President Obama wished to recognize the depth and breadth of America’s relationship with Italy.
Over 400 guests assembled under a grand tent in the garden of the White House. Among the guests were Robert Benigni and his wife Nicoletta Braschi, Paolo Sorrentino, Giorgio Armani, John Turturro, Bebe Vio, paralympics gold medal winner in fencing, and John Elkann, the president of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, plus many political figures from both countries.
Michelle was dressed in a pink and gold Versace gown and Agnese wore a silver lace gown by the Florentine Scervino. There were many other Italian touches throughout, including handmade glassware, neo-florentine charger plates, and music that included an opera excerpt from Puccini. Of course, the menu, with input from chef Mario Batali, included many Italian flavors: sweet potato agnolotti with butter and sage, warm butternut squash salad, beef braciole pinwheel with horseradish gremolata and broccoli rabe, and green apple crostata with thyme caramel and buttermilk gelato.
And there was good humor throughout. When Obama greeted Renzi (who was wearing an Armani smoking jacket) at the portico of the White House, he joked “Don’t worry about how you are dressed, everyone is only interested in the women’s dresses.” During the dinner, Obama assured the guests that “Benigni has promised not to jump on the tables.” And Renzi complimented the vegetables from Michelle’s garden and added “your last speech in support of Hillary Clinton was even better than your tomatoes.”
The heads of state also discussed serious matters. As the President said, “Italy is one of our closest allies. We cooperate on a range of shared interests, from addressing climate change and the global refugee crisis to promoting global security and inclusive economic growth.”