There was initial talk of a return due to “heath reasons”, which soon became “family reasons”, even though it seems more likely to be based on “diplomatic reasons”.
Regardless of what the real reason was, Gatti’s stint in Canberra has indeed ended, and in record time – that is, less than a year.
It was hoped that Gatti would be a special addition to the Italian Embassy, following the large part he played in the success of the Milan Expo.
He was appointed to Canberra last April with high hopes that Australia would assign the job of building its new wartime ships to Italian company Fincantieri, leading to the arrival of hundreds of Italian workers and their families, along with a strengthening of ties between Italy and Australia.
However, the frigate contract – which is worth more than $30 billion – was assigned to British company BAE Systems, seemingly due to political reasons rather than the quality of the final result.
While the Type 26 Global Combat Ship proposed by the shipbuilder was the most innovative design, it was also the least tested option, given it only exists on paper.
The design’s performance is based on projections that don’t offer any guarantees.
Italy made no effort to hide its disappointment in the Australian government’s decision over the contract, nor did Gatti personally mask his dismay.
In an interview with Il Globo last October, Gatti said Rome was disappointed with Australia’s seeming unawareness of Italy’s rich resources.
“It was a great disappointment, which showed us that there is still a long way to go until Australia understands at a political and institutional level what Italy is today and what it can offer,” he said.
It’s a notion he emphasised on various occasions during his time here, referring to the frigate contract as a “missed opportunity for Australia”.
Gatti is gone and, unfortunately, due to the circumstances he found himself in (Australia’s decision on the frigate contract and the subsequent cancellation of Italian President Sergio Mattarella’s visit Down Under), he was unable to even get close to the Italian community while he was here.
Interactions with the community were far and few and Gatti didn’t have the chance (or the desire, some argue) to create some sort of dialogue or relationship with the Italians of Australia.
Surprisingly, and for apparent “diplomatic reasons”, Gatti also declined an invitation to send a greeting to the community via our publication’s special edition for La Festa della Repubblica (Italian Republic Day).
Whether a case of extreme caution or overtly bitter disappointment at the failed contract, the ambassador tiptoes back to Italy.