Raised in Tehran, Lila moved to the U.S. at the age of sixteen to further her education. Based in New York, she spent the next two years studying and traveling, living briefly in London and Paris before ultimately choosing to attend university in Rome. Reflecting upon her decision, she recalls, “My parents were always interested in Europe, and as a child, we always spent our summers in Italy. But more than that, I always felt very much at home in Italy, and I’ve always felt that Italy and Iran share many cultural similarities; we both share very old civilizations, and a strong emphasis on family.”
Lila’s diplomatic schedule keeps her busy around the clock, but rather than feel burdened by the constant demands of a high-profile diplomatic lifestyle, she relishes her role as one of Washington’s most popular hostesses. “I was raised in a family that lived a similar life to the way that Giovanni and I live now, and many of the things I’m doing now, I learned from my mother: how to receive people, how to open my house. This is all part of my background from Iran. Persians are so hospitable and generous. They receive guests in such a gracious spirit, and they are willing to give their guests anything they have.” These early lessons have proven invaluable to Mrs. Castellaneta in her current role, where, in an average year, she will welcome more than 50,000 friends, and friends of Italy, to Villa Firenze.