Exploring Business Culture in Italy: A Journey of Tradition, Passion, and Coffee

Written by Katherine May 27, 2015

Espresso samples at Hausbrandt

Passion for cooking in the gnocchi lesson in Fietta

Took a bit out of Cinque Terre this weekend

Cin cin Mr. Zangrando - cheers after the Theresianer tour

Elizabeth Chaney learning how to make gnocchi


In Italy this word is more than a feeling – it is an environment. There is an encompassing cultivation of desires and hard work all driven by a term that every Italian business is, well, passionate about. On the first day of class my Entrepreneurial Strategy teacher, who is from Italy, adamantly explained to us that in order to be successful in business you had to have a longing for knowledge in an area that you desired to work in. This craving for more is something that I have been able to visualize in class tours this week with an excitement that is unique to Italy.

My first tour was to GRI Sport in Castelcucco, about five minutes away from campus. We toured the facility that is one of the top five largest manufactures of outdoor footwear in Europe and we were able to see the production process of the shoes. GRI’s philosophy is to adapt, innovate and create tough products so that their customers can “walk the world.” Our guide described the designing, testing and manufacturing process and how competitive the world of fashion is. The company attends fairs around Europe to collaborate with companies and see what other innovators are doing. With the rise in foreign markets, GRI has to keep the utmost secrecy in its design process because other countries can mimic their work for a significant amount less, however, the quality and satisfaction in the product is only found through GRI. Our guide explained to us that she has been at the company for 13 years and wakes up with a smile on her face because she is going to see her family, her GRI coworkers. After a long day at work she said she leaves with that same smile that she did her best work in something that she is passionate about.

In my Global Consumer class, we toured Hausbrant and Birra Theresiana in Nervesa della Battaglia, Italy. These two companies were formed in the Italian tradition of passion through trade. The Hausbrant mission is to, “cultivate a history of passion and quality, to fill every single cup of coffee with enjoyment.” Their coffee blends are prepared by skilled barmen, trained and assisted with professional machines and a deep understanding of the right brew. Their coffee comes mostly from Brazil, Ethiopia, Vietnam and other regions in Latin America and Central Africa. Today, Hausbrandt coffee is available in more than 70 countries around the world, but it all started with a love of tradition and a carefully crafted cup of joe.

On that same visit we were able to experience the joy of having Mr. Tullio Zangrando give his final tour of the brewing side of the business. Mr. Zangrando is a master brewer and has contributed the majority of his life to producing quality brew at an affordable price and giving the consumer the experience that he takes great pride in. Birra Theresianer employs “a love of quality, history and knowledge, and a passion for tradition are the fundamental building blocks of Theresianer, a company that offers discerning consumers the fruit of the best master brewers’ wisdom,” as said on their mission statement. The brew has passed down from generation to generation with over two hundred years of authentic and excellent quality. Our guide, along with Mr. Zangrado, has worked in the company for more than a decade and talked about the joy of working and how fortunate they are to be in a place that continues to supply them with a great environment and opportunities for growth. In the United States businesses turnover employees every few years through vertical, horizontal or exiting shifts. Italy, however, works to retain employees by creating a field of passion in tradition and pride in their work.

Going on the tours this week has exposed me to a way of thinking that strives for dedication and engagement in the tasks at hand. Within the companies and on the production lines people were smiling, talking and enjoying every project that came their way. What would business in the United States look like if every employee were dedicated and passionate about their work and how it benefited society? It’s hard to imagine, but maybe we should take some notes from Italy, because they seem to be more than content in combining their love of tradition and their passion for trade in the business world.

Addio Miel Amici,