How Rehab Can Make Life…Tastier!

‘Mani in Pasta’, a training project developed in Palombara Community (Italy) in partnership with Associazione Raffaella D’Angelo and the Kahane Foundation


The project not only provides participants with valuable skills but it also promotes strong relationships with the local community – Note from web manager: seldom did a photo make me so hungry! Licence CC, photo: Dianova Italia

By Federica Bertacchini, inspired by Dianova Italia’s (version in Italian) – During the next six months, a series of workshops will accompany Dianova Italia’s residents in a trip through the world of pizza-making, while the beneficiaries of Associazione Raffaella d’Angelo will explore food tastes and learn basic cooking skills. Beyond the learning experience, the project investigates gastronomy, in general, and the Italian cooking tradition, in particular, as a mean to link accessibility with social and occupational integration.

In a space where Italian cooking tradition becomes a common denominator to foster dialogue, eleven differently-able persons in post-scholar age will receive weekly culinary training from Chef Nicola Ciammella and learn how to cook a full meal menu. At the same time, eight residents of Palombara’s therapeutic community will have a one-hundred-hours practical course on how to make pizza from Scuola Mani in Pasta’s Masters Fabio Sociani and Marco Palma.

Multiple goals

The project aims at accelerating the social integration of two vulnerable communities, a community of people overcoming addiction and a community of people living with disability, in their local context. The aim is three folded. On one side, the project wants to empower people living with disability to go through their lives with self-awareness and dignity, accessing skills that can highlight their talents, as well as their passions and interests.

The same chance is given to a second group of people which, due to living with addiction, are socially marginalized, sometimes affected by stigma and, as a result, lack self-confidence and find themselves either discriminated or simply disadvantaged towards accessing the job market.

Precisely to decrease the influence of stigma and intolerance, the project wants to open a communication channel with the local community, involving small businesses in a progressive dialogue and creating occasions for mutual exchange.

“Pedagogically” explains Ms. Elisa Riviezzo, the professional educator coordinating the project’s implementation at Associazione Raffael D’Angelo, “promoting a reflection on food and nutrition helps unveiling important educational implications”. Accompanying celebrations as well as moments of relaxations, food does not only nourish the body, it creates relationships.

“Becoming aware that emotions and shared social values directly condition individual and groups’ motivations, and that eating rituals are dense of symbolic value, helps to promote a healthy relationship beyond the individual self, with positive spill overs to her/his community” continues Riviezzo in her concept note to the project.

'Mani in Pasta' project

The beneficiaries of the ‘Mani in Pasta’ project in Palombara therapeutic community (Dianova Italy) – licence CC

A built know-how fostering social integration

With over thirty years of experience working with therapeutic communities focusing on de-addiction, rehabilitation and reintegration, Dianova Italia is not new to projects dedicated to pizza-making.


For example, a professional baking oven has been functional for about eight years in Cozzo’s community (Pavia), since when Fondazione Banca del Monte di Lombardia sponsored a baking workshop titled “Bread and roses”. A stone oven is currently active in Ortacensus’ community, near Cagliari, where Master Marco Mulas (Pizza Master Chef 2015) periodically runs pizza-making workshops for community residents.

Associazione Raffaella D’Angelo also has a history of successfully providing its beneficiaries with cooking workshops for self-sufficiency, through collaborations with the local hotel management institute and other schools in Palombara Sabina.

The link to the local community

“Mani in Pasta – Cooking hands-on” was initially planned to start in March 2020, but had to be postponed due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Now completely re-shaped to be implemented in line with safety protocols, the project is fully operational in the therapeutic community and due to kick-start on 3 November at Centro Diurno Raffaella D’Angelo.

The project not only wants to provide its beneficiaries with practical skills that can be valuable on the job market, but it also wants to foster lasting and strong relationships with the local community.

In fact, following established procedures for public events, the experience is expected to conclude with an open ceremony, where participants will meet local authorities and businesses. The event will present the project’s results and explore opportunities for collaborations, internships and employment reintegration for the course participants.

The main hope for the event is to raise interest from local business owners and authorities and positively influence the project, maybe even causing its scope and duration to widen beyond its so-far planned completion, making it self-sustainable for a longer period of time.

Wood-burning oven

A pizza that slowly cooks in a wood-burning oven… The very image of Italian gastronomic pleasure – photo: Dianova Italia

The Funding

“Mani in Pasta” is possible thanks to the generous contribution made by the Swiss-based Kahane Foundation, a private philanthropic organization that has been supporting Dianova International’s projects since 2018.

Focusing primarily on the themes of accessibility, integration of migrants and social mobility, the Kahane foundation supports many NGOs in Europe, Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa. In 2020, the Foundation has committed CHF 4 million to combat the impact of Covid-19 within its geographic regions of focus, beyond its regular funding activities.