Italian Reunion 2016 - 60 years and counting

Our annual international Rotary reunion of six clubs from the UK, Italy, France and Sweden took place in Alba, Northern Italy in September 2016

Welcome Dinner - on this table - Rotarians from the UK and Sweden enjoy each other's company

A Splendid Reunion

A small but illustrious delegation left for our Rotary Twinning visit to Alba Italy in the week of September 12, to celebrate Alba’s 60th. Anniversary and meet up again with our sister clubs of Ovada (Italy), Beausoleil (France) and Karlshamn (Sweden).  Malcolm, Sue, Vice-President Peter and Wendy leaving on Wednesday and staying in Turin overnight, while Keith, Gillian, Liz and President Mike left very early Thursday morning.

Arrival

Both groups hired cars for the visit spending the Thursday September 15 amongst the narrow streets of the mediaeval town of Alba.

Our hotel was the Hotel del Castello di Santa Vittoria d’Alba, perched on top of a hill with fantastic views over the beautiful valleys, vineyards and hills of the Langhe Region.

That evening was the first event of the visit when all the visitors, from France and Sweden, as well as our own party, assembled in the hotel lounge prior to dinner for a welcome and introduction by our hosts.  An opportunity to meet up with old acquaintances and introduce ourselves to new ones.

Circulating among us were the Italian President, Luca Zanvercelli, and the secretary Lorenzo Gallo, both of whom spoke very good English, and made us feel very welcome.

“A charm tour …. Discovering Barolo wine … between timeless castles and hills”

The programme for Friday was packed, and took us by coach to the castle of Grinzane Cavour. Our tour guide spoke very good English and provided a running commentary for most of the day, explaining who built what, and when. The castle contained a museum and a regional delicacies shop selling wines, hazelnut biscuits and nougat.

The forecast for the weather had not been encouraging but the cloud lifted, and the sun appeared in the afternoon to make it very pleasant. Following this visit we left for a Barolo winery for lunch venue, a tour of the winery and some education in the processes involved, and a tasting menu of food paired with the appropriate wine.  The presidents exchanged gifts and President Mike also presented Luca with our club photo, which had been taken before the previous Monday’s lunch meeting, explaining that those of our club who could not make the trip had wanted to be remembered to their friends in Alba.  Not to be outdone, President Mike's short speech in Italian went down very well to an audience largely consisting of French, Swedish and English diners who all seemed suitably impressed without having a clue what he was trying to say.

The programme ended with a walking tour of the hilltop village of La Morra, an old village of narrow lanes, old buildings and boasting a panoramic view of the surrounding area anda visit to the Wine Museum in Barolo – very unusual in concept.

Finally the day ended with small groups of mixed nationalities being hosted by Alba club members at local restaurants or in their homes.  A convivial and entertaining evening was had by all.

Turin

Saturday saw us leave early by coach (again) for Turin, and a visit to the Caffé Fiorio, a coffee house where intellectuals used to meet.  Our guide met us there and took us on foot tour of the Piazza di Castello, pointing out the major sights including a visit to the church where the Turin Shroud is usually stored, and to the Egyptian Museum where our guide gave us a most interesting tour.

Finally, we were taken to the Eataly Restaurant for lunch - a vast compound containing many different types of restaurants and food outlets of traditional Italian foods, before returning to the hotel in late afternoon.

Gala Celebration

That evening was the formal Gala Dinner, including a re-enactment of the inaugural meeting of the Alba Club which was performed by its Rotaract Club members, and also a speech from the very glamorous sequin covered District Governor, which sounded as inspiring as it looked.  140 Rotarians and guests celebrated this Twinning Reunion and the 60th Anniversary of Alba’s formation.

Sunday and a final meeting of presidents and farewells to friends, new and old with everyone looking forward to next year’s visit to UK.

There was the usual presidential tête à tête for a short while afterwards where everyone was anxious that next year should be as close to the same dates as possible as it fits nicely into the schedules. It was a positive end to a really enjoyable visit.

Palio di Asti

But it wasn’t over! Led by Alba Club Secretary Lorenzo, we drove to Asti for the “Palio di Asti” – a re-enactment in mediaeval dress with groups from 21 local villages which dates back to 1275 AD and commemorates the rivalry and battles between the villages in olden times.

First, groups vied with each other in their prowess and synchronised Flag waving, including tossing them high in the air, then a parade of 1200 – yes over a thousand participants - all in in period costume, some walking, some riding horses, some on carts, some carrying, waving and tossing their flags.  Finally the horse races as three sets of seven riders, one per group, competed in a bareback horse race round the principal square of Asti.  The speed of the horses, the prowess of the riders, the spectacle, the drama!  An event we will never forget.

When the excitement was over, we all stayed on for a further three days to enjoy Italy, albeit in different areas of the country.