Italians bid farewell to Suffolk

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Marisa Forner spent most of Festa Italiana in the kitchen of the Hilton Garden Inn.

The second-generation Italian pastry chef – one of more 90 Italian visitors from Planters Peanut magnate Amedeo Obici’s hometown of Oderzo -spent the better part of two days preparing tiramisu for the 500 people who attended Saturday’s Italian banquet.

Festa Italiana, the city’s first all-day Italian festival at Constant’s Wharf, drew thousands of people from across Suffolk and Hampton Roads. The event was sponsored by the city and the Suffolk Sister City Commission, in honor of the visitors from Oderzo.

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&uot;It was a great success,&uot; said City Manager R. Steven Herbert.

It also drew rave reviews from the Oderzo delegation, which included city officials, performing artists and culinary experts who shared their talents with Suffolk.

&uot;It was funny and showed Suffolk’s links to Italy,&uot; said Beatrice Bernardi, 17, who came on the trip with her family. &uot;We have had good food…and a very good time.&uot;

The Italian guests had a packed agenda during their stay in Suffolk, including tours of Planters Peanuts, Obici Hospital, Riddick’s Folly and the Suffolk Train Station.

For Forner, the most touching part of the trip was visiting the Obici House on Monday.

&uot;Somebody from the same town as I did so many things and made so many contributions to the world,&uot; Forner said. &uot;It makes us feel that we are important.&uot;

Although some of the delegation headed back to Italy Monday, many are continuing their vacations in other parts of the United States: Boston, Las Vegas, Washington D.C. and the like.

But, said Guido Drusian, a business student from Oderzo, Suffolk will be the highlight of everyone’s trip.

&uot;The best part of the trip is surely Suffolk,&uot; Drusian said. &uot;It was great spending time with families…and meeting the important people of Suffolk.&uot;

The Italians would love the opportunity to return the hospitality, he added.

&uot;I hope the families that hosted us can come to Italy and see our beautiful city,&uot; he said.

If groups from Suffolk and Oderzo continue their traditions of visiting on alternating years, Festa Italiana may become a biannual event, he added.