di Davide Marchetta
Washington, October 18 - Italian Premier Matteo Renzi on Tuesday geared for a State dinner at the White House, the last one to be offered by President Barack Obama. Renzi dined Monday night at Villa Firenze, the residence of Italian ambassador Aramando Varrichio, before spending the night at Blear House, the residence of American presidents' guests. Renzi said the fact that Italy was chosen for Obama's last State dinner shows the strength of the two countries' ties. "It's a symbolic fact, not a personal one; it's the recognition on the part of our beloved and principal ally of how strong a friendship, a relationship, can be," Renzi said at the government's General State of the Italian Language conference in Florence on Monday. In an interview on Radio 105, he said that Italy being chosen as the guest of honour was a "great gesture of friendship" on the part of the US president. "Obama will go down in history for having written some very important pages in good government," Renzi said. Joining Renzi, his wife Agnese, and the Italian delegation on the flight to Washington D.C. were actor Roberto Benigni and Paralympic wheelchair fencing champion Beatrice Vio. "It's wonderful that the Italian delegation isn't just institutional," Renzi said, adding that he had also invited CERN Director Fabiola Gianotti, Lampedusa Mayor Giusi Nicolini, and MoMA New York Senior Curator for Architecture and Design Paola Antonelli, in addition to Vio, whom he called "an example for the younger generations". "The many difficulties that have hit her and wounded her haven't ever stopped her. I'm really happy she's boarding the plane with us". The UK's Guardian newspaper said on Monday that the White House "will roll out the red carpet" for Renzi, calling the State Dinner "an important gesture in support of an embattled US ally". It noted that the US "has suggested that it supports Renzi and a yes vote in the 4 December referendum on constitutional reform" but said that polls are "looking tough", with Renzi having vowed to resign from politics if the 'no' vote wins. The Guardian also mentioned that the Washington Post's style section dubbed Renzi the "Justin Trudeau of Italy". The Washington Post article, from Sunday, called Renzi "charismatic, ambitious and a master of social media".