The Italian Almanac

Colin Firth

Italian News - June 28

He found fame playing a football obsessive, a brooding Mr Darcy in the television adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Renée Zellweger's love interest in the Bridget Jones films. Now an accolade of an entirely different sort has come the way of actor Colin Firth, who has been awarded one of the highest honours of the Italian state and one which highlights a different side to his character.

Firth has been made a Commander of the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity, a title originally created in 1947 to recognise those who helped rebuild post-war Italy. He has been thus honoured in recognition of his work promoting the image of Italy and for his involvement with the Italian Cultural Institute in London, where he has helped stage a number of literary events.

Firth, 44, has been married to Livia Giuggioli, an Italian documentary film producer, since1997 and the couple, who have two sons, spend a great deal of time there. He said recently: "Italy has become a big part of my life now. I love it. It's a huge blessing. I sort of married a whole family and a whole country. And learning Italian is a huge bonus that I didn't expect. I thought I was doomed to be unilingual for the rest of my life, like most Englishmen."

The award was presented to him at a ceremony at the Italian embassy. An embassy spokesman said yesterday: "This honour is given because of his significant contribution to the promotion of Italy's image in the United Kingdom.'' Firth has organised readings from Leonardo Sciascia, Primo Levi and other leading Italian writers and an evening dedicated to Tomasi di Lampedusa, author of The Leopard.