Shawn Malone Town Ambassador di Cineto Romano
Shawn Malone Town Ambassador  di Cineto Romano

Shawn Malone, from the Virgin Islands to Cineto Romano via Washington DC

From the Virgin Islands to Cineto Romano means going from the Caribbean Sea to the Apennine mountains of Rome, but for Shawn Malone this is natural. Two continents and two worlds enclosed within one person.

Shawn was chosen as Town Ambassador of Cineto Romano in this project to promote an Aniene Valley project that we are developing with the Metropolitan Area of Rome administration. So, I went to interview him.

I arrived at Shawn and Umberto Donnarumma's house on Corpus Christi Sunday while town folks were decorating the streets using flower petals. Shawn and Umberto live on a small square in the ancient village, which is one of the stations of traditional religious processions, and was forbidden to traffic on this day.

Umberto's smile opens up and he immediately offers me coffee and orange marmalade (I must get the recipe!) Shawn arrives shortly afterwards. He was still suffering from jetlag and appears to be crying: "You have to excuse me but I have problems with my eyes. A serious genetic disease that skips generations struck me and devastated my eyesight”.

It’s during medical visits to ophthalmologists that Shawn and Umberto met at a party in Los Angeles, California. After losing touch and meeting again, they eventually united in a civil ceremony and now live mainly in Italy, where Shawn is being treated by no less than the pope's ophthalmologist.



Shawn Malone and Joe  Biden

Shawn comes from a politically engaged family. His great-grandmother was among the founders of the Virgin Islands Democratic Party. He followed in her footsteps and became Senator. The Virgin Islands are officially a territory of the United States.

Their representative Senators are full participants in American politics, with the only limitation being that they do not vote in federal elections. But he knows everyone in Washington D.C., has met with President Joe Biden, and is still active as a strategic political consultant.

It was natural for him to take care of his community’s common good, having grown up with his grandmother who was a psychiatric nurse by profession but notably an active organizer of the food meals during electoral campaigns. Naturally, she introduced him to the world of politics.

In 2018, he ended his public role and came to live in Italy with Umberto, dividing his time between Cineto Romano and Puglia, but always continuing to work with the US.
“It will seem strange to you, but I immediately settled in Cineto Romano.

I lived here throughout the Covid lockdown and developed a deep connection with the community. There are at least three things that Cineto Romano and the Virgin Islands have in common: 1. Everybody knows everybody; 2. A community lifestyle, where people love to eat together; 3. The quality of the food”.

I'm not very familiar with Caribbean food and so Shawn gives me examples of dishes that are very close to Italian cuisine, perhaps due to the past colonial history that has seen many European countries take turns at the helm of these islands.

Italian panzerotti (small stuffed fried calzones for the Romans) are absolutely the same as one of our Virgin Islands Patè, only that we use cod or meat as a filling. We have the same tart as yours, but we make jam with coconut, pineapple, or guava berry, your ‘ciambellone’ is our plum cake, and we have rolls similar to involtini”.


Shawn Malone and Umberto Donnarumma

As we spoke, we could hear the songs of the procession that stoped in front of the house, so, we opened the shutters to let in the harmonious music of Latin songs. “This is another thing that unites us. I grew up in the Catholic Church and participated in many processions”.

I am happy with Mayor Massimiliano Liani's choice to give the Town Ambassador Award to Shawn Malone for the municipality of Cineto Romano, because this led me to meet two beautiful people and I feel they can do a lot for the splendid villages of the Aniene Valley.

Shawn’s joyous demeanour is so Italian, though his original perspective is so distant from ours. What remains, is the serenity with which he talks about the village, and the joy that he conveys to me.

In fact, Shawn forgot to mention that Caribbeans and Italians have one more thing in common: they approach life with a smile. A smile that illuminates faces around dinner tables, and brightens them when lolling around in village and town squares.

Broadening one’s horizons through the Town Ambassador network can lead to incredible surprises. As recently happened in the town of Fiuggi, following a post by Oprah Winfrey viewed by 20 million people regarding a typical Ciociaria region loaf of bread, almost every American who come to Italy now goes to buy bread in small bakeries!

Written by:
Claudia Bettiol

Engineeer, futurist, joint founder of Energitismo and founder of Discoverplaces. Consultant for the development and promotion of the Touristic Development of Territories specialising in...

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