Italy for a day

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 14, 2005

For one day, Suffolk became a makeshift Little Italy.

As more than 90 visitors from the city’s Italian sister city of Oderzo continued their five-day trip around town, hundreds gathered at Constant’s Wharf Saturday morning to welcome them and kick off the first

Festa Italiana celebration.

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&uot;Boungiorno!&uot; Mayor Bobby Ralph said, welcoming the crowd. &uot;What a wonderful day we have for the first of what I hope will be many annual (festivals) on the Nansemond River.&uot;

Decades ago, a young man named Amedeo Obici came from his hometown of Oderzo to Suffolk. Today, his legacy lives on in Planters Peanuts and the name of the city’s hospital, which he provided for in his will in the late 1940s.

&uot;One can only imagine how different Suffolk might be today had it not been for (Obici’s) legacy,&uot; Ralph said. &uot;Mr. Obici’s influence continues to be seen throughout the community and no more so than today as we celebrate the rich friendship that has flourished through the Sister Cities program with Mr. Obici’s ancestral home of Oderzo.

&uot;This festival celebrates the rich and vibrant Italian culture, as well as the strong bonds of friendship between your great cities and our two great countries,&uot; Ralph read in a statement from Sen. George Allen. &uot;As the great Virginian Thomas Jefferson once said, ‘Human nature is the same on every side of the Atlantic, and will be alike influenced by the same cause.’

&uot;It is my hope that the friendly spirit of this festival will last long after the food and music are gone.&uot;

Coro A.N.A., a group of alpine singers, sang the Italian national anthem, and Italian consul Vito Piriano discussed the relationship between Oderzo and Suffolk.

&uot;Two cities,&uot; he said. &uot;Two countries in mass celebration. We are celebrating the same sense of pride. Today is the perfect occasion to celebrate (Italian and American) culture. My thoughts are with Mr. Obici; he came from so far away, and he is someone who Suffolk and Italy can be very proud of.&uot;

&uot;We have the best sister city ever!&uot; said Sisters Cities chairman Mary Jane Naismith. Said. &uot;We have brought in so much talent that we had to have a festival.

&uot;Mr. Obici liked to have parties, and we think he would have liked this one.&uot;

Obici’s great niece, Jolyne Dalzell, felt the same way.

&uot;My uncle would be proud today of both his cities,&uot; she said.

After the tourists spent most of their first two days exploring Obici Hospital, Riddick’s Folly, Planters Peanuts and other locations, they ate at the Suffolk Conference Center Saturday night and took part in a wine-tasting.

&uot;I enjoyed everything,&uot; said tourist Tiziana Dall’Acqua. &uot;I came here two years ago, and it was a wonderful experience. I’ve seen all my old friends and made new ones.

&uot;We visited the Obici museum, and took a boat ride on the Nansemond River – it was wonderful to see so much green!&uot;