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EXPERTISE
Adventure & Exploration
Author / Writer
Travel & Destinations
Wine & Spirits
World Affairs
PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE WITH:
BIOGRAPHY
Marco was born in Rome in 1959. He started traveling at fifteen with an Interrail trip to Scandinavia and never stopped. He started diving at sixteen.

He moved to the US at eighteen and graduated cum laude in international relations at the School of Foreign Service of Georgetown University in 1981. During that time he was an exchange student in Poland and was arrested for accidentally trespassing into a Warsaw Pact military base. This and other adventures in communist countries are narrated in "Beyond the Wall: Adventures of a yellow Volkswagen Beetle on the other side of the Iron Curtain".

He earned a Ph.D. in defense policy and history at M.I.T. in 1989, just when the end of the Cold War forced him to start all over again. He has talked widely and published books and essays on international politics and contributed to the Italian Encyclopaedia Treccani.

He learned to take photos with manual focus film cameras. He later became glider pilot and one fine day he decided to take his camera underwater. As he grew up he began to appreciate good wines – 1959 was a great vintage! He has fun in the kitchen and loves listening to Bach, Beethoven (with whom he shares his birthday!) and cool jazz.

In Brussels he worked as an international civil servant at NATO. He published a book on "The Control of NATO Nuclear Weapons in Europe".

Later he went on to travel almost full time. He is a certified underwater diver and photographer. He prefers the Asia/Pacific and the Maldives have a special place in his heart because it is there that he met his Chinese wife. He has written a book on the people and the natural treasures of those islands: "Journeys through the Maldives: unveiling the islands of an archipelago on the brink".

He now lives between London, where he became a wine sommelier, writing about wines as well as travels, and Brussels.

His PowerPoint talks include many of his own photographs, both underwater and topside.

He can deliver talks in Italian and French as well as English, though not quite yet in Chinese.





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PRESENTATIONS
SECRET MALDIVES - 3 TALKS (ASIA, INDIAN OCEAN)

The author has traveled extensively to the most remote islands, met the locals, visited the schools and markets. He spoke and played with the young Maldivians who long for progress in their small country threatened by climate change and uneven economic development. He has written a book on the Maldives: "Journeys through the Maldives".

Talk 1 – History of the Maldives: a small proud country in the Indian ocean
From pre-Islamic settlements to the collective conversion in the XII century. The fight against colonization and the establishment of the sultanate. Finally the founding of the republic, the first democratic elections and the threat of extremism. I will show photos of rare Buddhist artifacts that have since been destroyed during the riots of 2012.

Talk 2 – Daily life on twenty-two Maldivian atolls between tradition and modernity
The people, the environment, their religion and the economy of an archipelago. A look into the society and its secrets never seen from the posh resorts.

Talk 3 – Underwater wonders of the Maldives and environmental challenges
Diving is the main activity in the Maldives, this talk will show the unparalleled beauty of the deep sea, the mantas, the sharks big and small, the diverse life on the reef and the resilient corals that survive the rise in water temperature.



SINGAPORE - 1 TALK (ASIA)

Talk 1 – Size does NOT matter: the rise of Singapore
Sometimes defined as the “miracle” of East Asia, Singapore's success story has more to do with hard work and cultural tolerance. Only recently it was a malaria-infested, poor fishing village. After independence, it developed a dynamic manufacturing sector and it is now on top of the world’s rankings for its leading financial industry, multicultural society, and exciting cuisine. We will visit parks, religious landmarks and of course its famous food courts!



VENICE BEHIND THE SCENES - 2 TALKS (EUROPE)

Talk 1 - Glass making in Murano
Murano is a small cluster of islands in Venice’s lagoon which has hosted world-renown art glass-making workshops since the XIII century. Glass making evolved through the sometimes turbulent history of Venice but 700 years later Murano glass still tops the world rankings for the quality of its artistic glass. We will visit a workshop behind the scene where tourists are not normally allowed to see the artisans at work.

TTalk 2 - Building gondolas in a "squčro"
Gondolas are now a synonym of Venice for the millions of tourists that book a romantic ride every year. An ingenious and complicated piece of maritime engineering, gondolas in the past were used for transport by the Venetians. We will visit a squčro, the workshop where gondolas are still made today by masters who pass on their secrets from one generation to the next.



BRUSSELS - 1 TALK (EUROPE)

Talk 1 - Brussels Today: the rise of the "capital of Europe"
The capital of Belgium is best known today as the “capital of Europe”. This because it hosts most of the institutions of the European Union, as well as NATO and other international institutions and multinational corporations. In a few decades, a tranquil medieval town has become a cosmopolitan hub.



UNDERSEA AND OVERLAND WONDERS OF THE PACIFIC - 6 TALKS

Talk 1 – Bali, Komodo (Indonesia)
Bali is a majority Hindu island with a diverse immigrant population that is reflected in its wealth of art, architecture, and cuisine. We will visit temples, markets, and traditional cemeteries where the deceased are not buried but laid to rest exposed, above the ground. Komodo is a world-class nature reserve known for its diving and the scary Komodo dragons.

Talk 2 – Celebes/Sulawesi, Ternate, West Papua (Indonesia)
Indonesia is an underwater paradise and I have sailed around many of its diving destinations. I will share photos of animals ranging from critters smaller than one centimeter to whale sharks over 10 meters long. While island-hopping, I also visited local communities and will show their villages, temples and markets.

Talk 3 – Yap, Palau, and Peleliu (Micronesia, South Pacific)
The smallest islands of the South Pacific are home to incredible underwater life. Topside, ancient traditions mix with foreign influence, first German, then Japanese and finally American. My talk will also cover Operation Desecrate One, the American assault on Japanese military installations on Palau and neighboring Peleliu in 1944.

Talk 4 – Operation Hailstone and the wrecks of Chuuk (Micronesia, South Pacific)
This talk will focus on the role Chuuk (aka Truk) played during World War II. It was the “Japanese Pearl Harbor”: a large fleet at anchor was attacked by American carrier-based bombers in 1944 and still lies at the bottom of the lagoon. I photographed many of these wrecks and the artifacts they hide in their bowels.

Talk 5 – The Kingdom of Tonga
The only country in the Pacific never colonized by European powers. Today it thrives on tourism with visitors attracted by its blue seas, where I could swim with humpback whales, as well as its traditional culture. I have stayed in local homes, ate their food, and participated in their traditional "kava" drinking ceremony.

Talk 6 – Hidden French Polynesia
It was the destination of those who wanted to escape the world, from Paul Gaugin to Jacques Brel, whose tombs we will visit in the faraway Marquise islands. We will sleep and eat with local families on remote atolls. Today Polynesia is easily accessible and distinctly French. But efforts to rediscover its culture, that was almost obliterated by early colonialists, provide an ancestral fascination to the visitor.



HISTORY / CURRENT AFFAIRS - 10 TALKS (EUROPE, TRANSATLANTIC, WORLDWIDE)

Marco has a Ph.D. in international relations from MIT and worked at NATO Headquarters for many years. He wrote a book on nuclear weapons in Europe. He will address the role of the two main multilateral entities that play a role in European current affairs.

Talk 1 – Elusive "ever closer union": the European Union from the ashes of World War II to Brexit
The early fifties of the XX century was a rather dark age in Europe. Devastated by the war, the continent was split in half by the “Iron Curtain” and threatened with Soviet invasion. Six nations decided to pool some of their resources together, notably steel and coal, to avoid fighting over them yet again in the future. Since then, the European Union has grown into a complex organization of 28 member states.

Talk 2 – Transatlantic ties that bind: birth and growth of NATO after World War II
NATO was formed to defend democracy in Europe and did so without ever firing a shot, hence the "Cold War". As NATO’s first head put it in a paper that was declassified much later, it was meant to keep “the Americans in, the Russians out and the Germans down”.

Talk 3 – Alliance transformed: continuity and change after the fall of the Berlin Wall
NATO’s military only went into action after the USSR had faded into history. Unexpectedly, it was the USA, on 9/11, that first invoked Article 5, the mutual defense clause of the treaty. Today more and more countries have joined the club while many question the rationale for its continuing existence.

Talk 4 – The history of nuclear weapons: origins and strategy during the Cold War
Nuclear energy was discovered in the early XX century and it became apparent that while it could be harnessed for peaceful uses, it could produce explosions of immense destructive power. The US won the race to make the bomb and a nuclear arms race started with the USSR. I was fortunate to visit a Soviet nuclear airbase in Estonia and will show close-up pictures of strategic bombers from the cockpit!

Talk 5 – The history of nuclear weapons: “Haves” and “Have-nots" around the world
Besides the Americans and the Soviets/Russians, several other nations built or tried to build a nuclear weapon arsenal. France, the UK, and China built them in the 1960s. This talk will address the history of nuclear weapons in India, Pakistan, Israel, North Korea, and the former republics that constituted the Soviet Union. It will also discuss how many other countries either gave up their nuclear arsenal (South Africa) or decided never to build one in the first place.

Talk 6 – The Atlantic Arctic Convoys of World War II
Germany invaded the USSR in June 1941. Two months later the Allies sent the first convoy through the North Atlantic and the Arctic sea to supply the Red Army with fighter planes, tanks, ammunition, fuel, and food. This was a massive effort which, as part of the “Lend-Lease” program, would last until the end of the war. In total, some 1,400 merchant ships participated in 78 convoys, making an essential contribution to the Soviet war effort.

Talk 7 – Atlantic submarine warfare in World War I
When the thunder of the “Guns of August” began shattering Europe in 1914, another kind of conflict, silent and invisible, started in the Atlantic: the submarine warfare waged by Germany against the British fleet and Allied shipping. Over four years 4,000 Allied ships with 8 million tons of cargo were sunk at the cost of 178 German U-boots.

Talk 8 – Atlantic submarine warfare in World War II
In some ways, the Battle for the Atlantic in World War II was a re-run of World War I, and the result was the same. After some spectacular successes, the German U-boots suffered ever-increasing losses. Tens of thousands of sailors and merchant seamen died but most of the supplies reached Europe and helped decisively turn the war. Hear the story of a submarine that fought in both the German and the Royal navies!

Talk 9 – First on top of the world: Amundsen and the polar expedition of the Norge airship
Legendary Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen organized the first expedition credited with undisputedly reaching the geographical North Pole, in 1926. He used an Italian airship and American money to make history, side by side with his friend and competitor, aeronautical pioneer Umberto Nobile.

Talk 10 – Tragedy at the North Pole: Umberto Nobile and Italia airship expedition
Not content after his overflight of the North Pole on the Norge, in 1928 Nobile organized another expedition with ambitious goals in mind: map millions of square kilometers of the Arctic and land an Italian-only crew at the Pole, thus beating his now rival Amundsen. But after they reached the Pole disaster struck and the airship crashed. The race to save the men was a moving story of cooperation involving many countries, including the Soviet Union, and ended with the ultimate sacrifice of Amundsen himself.




SOUTH AFRICA - 3 TALKS (AFRICA)

Talk 1 – History of a multinational country
South Africa as we know it today is the result of massive migrations that took place over centuries. The original Bushmen population was overrun by Bantu from the north, then came the Caucasians from Europe and finally Indians from South Asia. Today it is the Chinese who are making their presence felt.

Talk 2 – Tribes and townships
I stayed a few days with Ndebele tribes in the north, I slept in their homes and ate their food in order to better appreciate their lifestyle and culture and will share that experience with you. I also visited several townships in the south of the country, around Cape Town and Knysna.

Talk 3 – Nature and wildlife of South Africa
I will look at some famous parks, like Kruger, as well as some smaller private ones and other natural treasures along the “Garden Route” that follows the southern coast of the continent around Cape of Good Hope.



GREAT RIVERS OF ASIA: YANGTZE, GANGES, MEKONG - 3 TALKS (ASIA)

Talk 1 – Chongqing and the Yangtze River: the eternal lifeline of China
The Yangtze has long been the main artery of China’s economy and trade. Chongqing is its main hub and is now a megalopolis of over 30 million people. The completion of the massive Three Gorges Dam has changed the river and its landscape forever. The river ends into the East China sea and it is not by chance that Shanghai lies by its mouth.

Talk 2 – the Ganges: the holy river of Hinduism
A few years ago I trekked to the sources of the Ganges in Uttarakhand and met pilgrims and villagers along the way. I then followed part of the great river's course toward the ocean, with stops at the Hindu holy cities of Prayagraj (Allahabad) and Varanasi (Benares).

Talk 3 – Along the Mekong: upstream in Cambodia and Laos
A few years ago I undertook a long trip on small ferries and slow boats from the famous ruins of Angkor in Cambodia to the vibrant capital Phnom Penh and on to Vientiane, the capital of Laos, and charming Luang Prabang. We will visit small peaceful villages and the death camps where genocide was perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. Finally, I will show some local markets and rain forest treks along the border with China.



CHINA - 6 TALKS (ASIA)

Talk 1 – Shanghai, Hangzhou, Suzhou and the rise of modern China
The province of Zhejiang is not a household name but Shanghai has been a synonym of economic growth and open doors to the world for a long time. Yet Shanghai is not all that makes Zhejiang a locomotive for China: Hangzhou, a short fast train ride to the south, is a modern city with a lingering traditional flavor while Suzhou, the silk capital of China, keeps its charming character of ancient times.

Talk 2 – China and the sea
China was traditionally a land-based power but its maritime dimension was remarkable as well. The Yellow sea is shared with Japan, Russia and Korea. We will visit the city of Dalian and its turbulent history. The East China Sea lies south of Japan, with the ports of Shanghai and Hong Kong. The South China sea stretches all the way to Malaysia. We will visit Hainan, China’s only tropical island.

Talk 3 – Yunnan: the most diverse province of China
Yunnan lies at the foot of the Himalaya but stretches all the way south to tropical Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam. It is widely considered the most fascinating province of China because of its natural treasures as well as its multicultural diversity: 52 ethnic minorities live in Yunnan. We will visit the capital Kunming as well as romantic Lijiang and drive all the way north to mythical Shangri-la.

Talk 4 – Hunan province
It is known because Mao Zedong was born there, and for its spicy food. Today it is a booming province, more populous than either France, Italy or the UK. We will visit the capital Changsha as well as smaller towns and old villages which have been preserved for future memory of what China once was. We will also hike through spectacular mountains and navigate quiet rivers.

Talk 5 – History of British Hong Kong
In the 1840s a relatively unknown island in southern China grabbed the headlines when imperial Britain snatched it from the crumbling Qing dynasty. Over the next century and a half, London would change the ways it runs the colony and when it's time to return it to China the world, China and Hong Kong have evolved. Hong Kong is now part of China under the "One country, two systems" formula.

Talk 6 – Hong Kong in the XXI century
Since 1997, Hong Kong is part of China under the "One country, two systems" formula. Gone is Her majesty’s governor but the former colony reminds the visitor of the British heritage, still visible next to the local he Cantonese identity, small pockets of ethnic minorities and larger number of mainland Chinese. “Asia’s World City” is a booming economic hub with a distinctive personality.



GODS AND GLACIERS OF THE HIMALAYAS - 5 TALKS (SOUTH ASIA)

Talk 1 – Ladakh, the land of a thousand mountain passes
We start in Leh, the pulsating capital at the heart of the western Indian Himalayas, it is part of the contested Jammu and Kashmir province. All around the valley, we visit secluded monasteries rich in ancient art and culture. We also camp near the mystic Tsomoriri lake, drive over the Khardung La, the highest motorable pass in the world, and meet wild Bactrian camels of the Nubra valley.

Talk 2 – Zanskar: the kingdom where Islam meets Tibet
Here the local communities have intermingled with immigrants from Tibet and Kashmir. I will show high-altitude treks, inaccessible monasteries, religious festivals, and eternal glaciers. I met the king and shared accommodation and food with the monks. I also participated in their elaborate annual holy ceremonies.

Talk 3 – Spiti and Kinnaur: Buddhist sacred mountains
The lesser-known provinces of the western Indian Himalaya, their majestic peaks and rich Buddhist history. The name Spiti means “middle land”, between India and Tibet.

Talk 4 – History and current affairs of Bhutan
A reclusive Himalayan kingdom opens its doors to the world but strictly limits tourism to preserve its identity. We will visit the capital Thimphu and the economic hub of Paro, whose airport is considered the most dangerous in the world by airline pilots.

Talk 5 – Villages and festivals of Bhutan
Unspoiled nature and ancient culture mix harmoniously in Bhutan, a country that measures its economy in terms of Gross National Happiness. My wife and I actually got married there during a local festival with a traditional Buddhist ceremony in a remote village and we wore real royal attire ...on loan!



WINE TALKS - 10+ TALKS

INTRODUCTION TO WINE TASTING - 3 TALKS (WORLDWIDE)

Talk 1 – Buying and storing wines: budgets and bargains
This talk will provide you with all you need to know to start or complete your wine cellars. I will cover where to buy wines. It will give you the tools to get the best quality for your money. Next, we will discuss how to organize them and store them, whether you have an ideal cellar in your basement, or have to make do with an apartment. I will recommend when to open your bottles and how to enjoy your nectars.

Talk 2 – Tasting wines: tools and rules
What are the features that make us like a particular wine, or not? Which of our senses are involved in consuming a drink that has captured the minds of most of mankind for millennia? What is a wine's color, aroma, flavor, aftertaste? How much is our judgement of a wine skewed by our previous knowledge of its provenance and price? (Spoiler: a lot!) Why is it that even the best professionals can get it wrong when they taste a wine blind? You bought a good wine, what tools do you need to enjoy at its best? What is the best glass for champagne?

Talk 3 – Pairing wines with the world’s cuisines
The ancient Romans, well-known wine connoisseurs, used to say: "De gustibus non est disputandum", that is, one does not argue over taste. Today, unless we are at a wine fair, we are likely to drink our wines during a meal. Therefore, pairing wine and food becomes a paramount decision for all wine lovers. It is a fundamentally personal decision, there are no wrong answers. However, being aware of some general pairing criteria that are widely accepted by sommelier the world over will help us better find what we really like and why, as well as spend our money more efficiently. 

HISTORY OF WINE - 4 TALKS

Talk 1 - Wine in ancient Greece
The Greeks were masters winemakers. They learned important skills from Egypt, whose Pharaohs and nobility had been drinking wine for centuries. In Greece wine consumption became widespread. They used herbs and resins to improve their wines’ flavor and always watered it down. And wine was, of course, a frequent actor in much of Greek mythology!

Talk 2 - Wine in ancient Rome
The Romans did not invent wine, they first learned how to make it from the Greeks, but they developed winemaking in the vineyard and in the cellar. It was in the Roman Empire that wine rose to the ubiquitous role on the dining table we know today. It also acquired an essential economic, religious and social role.

Talk 3 - The deep roots of French vines
This talk will explore the origins of winemaking in France from antiquity to the XIX century. The Greeks and the Romans were the first to produce wine in a systematic fashion in what is today’s France. The Romans found the best soils and gave the name of some of today’s best known French wines. In the early middle ages, the responsibility for producing wine was largely on the shoulders of the monks and the nobility, and they continued to play a major role until Napoleon expropriated their vineyards.

Talk 4 - The deep roots of Spanish vines
There are archeological indications that wine was made in the Iberian peninsula since the night of prehistory, but it was the Phoenicians who started organizing the production and trade of wine when they founded the city of Cadiz. The Carthaginians improved the quality when they took over and the Romans elevated wine in the province of Hispania to one of the most sought-after drinks in the Empire. The early middle ages saw a slump in production until the Arabs, despite the Quran’s prohibition, gave Spanish wine a new lease on life. After the Reconquista, the monarchy made it a priority to reach top ranks for both quality and quantity, especially in other parts of Spanish-ruled Europe. Their empire also established the roots of the great wine productions we see today in South America.

WINES OF THE WORLD - 6 TALKS

Below are sample talks I have already given on specific wines. I could also prepare presentations to the wines of specific cruise destinations, ie Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, etc.

Talk 1 - From myth to the table: legendary wines of Sicily (EUROPE, MEDITERRANEAN)
History, economics and special features of the wines from the biggest Mediterranean island.
Wine has been made in Sicily since prehistoric times. It was the Phoenicians, and then the Greeks that developed wine as we know it and the Romans organized it on an imperial scale. The Normans and the Spanish perfected the art and economics of winemaking. Today, a focus on quality over quantity again puts Sicily at the top table of the world's winemaking regions.

Talk 2 - Icewines of Canada (TRANSATLANTIC, NORTH AMERICA)
Until recently Canada was not known for its good wines, and for a good reason: there weren't any!
Over the last thirty years however great products have appeared in Ontario and on the west coast. Icewine, made by pressing frozen grapes that yield no more than one drop of must per berry, has made Canada a world leader in winemaking.

Talk 3 - Beyond Trappist Beer: Wines of Belgium (EUROPE)
Belgium is known for its world-class beer, as well as chocolate. It also makes some great wines.
It was the Romans who first planted vineyards in the “Belgica” province, but after the fall of their empire, no more wine was produced for over a thousand years. Only after WW II, Belgian vineyards were back on the map, and today some excellent still whites and sparkling wines begin to compete with their big brothers in Burgundy and Champagne.

Talk 4 - Fortified wines 1: the story of Spain’s sherry
Wine was first made in the Cadiz region by the Phoenicians. Later on, the Arabs made it difficult to produce wine but, perhaps oddly, introduced the art of distillation, thus paving the way for fortified wine production. Then Sherry began to travel: Columbus carried it to America and Magellan spent more on wine than he did on guns as he prepared to circumnavigate the world. The English began to appreciate local wine, especially after Francis Drake sacked Cadiz and looted lots of bottles of sherry. London became a major export market, and many companies involved in production and export are actually British.

Talk 5 - Fortified wines 2: the story of Portugal’s port
As in many other parts of Europe, it was the Romans who firmly established the foundations of the wine industry in Portugal. But it was the special relationship with Britain, and her unquenchable wine markets, that made the fortune of wine produced along the River Douro and shipped out of the tranquil city of Porto. Adding cognac made port a coveted specialty in London and elsewhere. The spirit made port wine stable and predictable. Today port is the paramount fortified wine all over the world.

Talk 6 - Fortified wines 3: Atlantic nectar of Madeira
Origins and peculiarities of fortified wine in the middle of the Atlantic.
A relatively little known wine, undeservedly underrated, is made in a Portuguese outpost near the western coast of Africa. Its origins are owed to the fact that it was difficult to transport wine from Madeira to the main markets in Europe and America. Its peculiar taste owes as much to added alcohol as to the strange effects of heat and oxygen.
CRUISE HISTORY / EXPERIENCE
I have already been auditioned and now I am scheduled to start with three cruises this year (2020) with Fred. Olsen, Celebrity and Marella.

I have a long experience of public speaking during my career as an academic and civil servant at NATO. I also worked as a speaker for "infotainment" cultural events for various travel clubs and associations.

Can deliver talks in English or Italian.