Italians explore city

Published 8:18 pm Saturday, August 18, 2012

Italian couple Nicoletta Dalla Pozza, left, and Dino Brugnera, right, are staying in the home of Frank, center, and Sally Rawls. They are two of a 19-person delegation visiting from the Suffolk Sister City of Oderzo.

The Visitor Center pavilion echoed with voices in English and Italian during a picnic on Friday evening.

Some conversations were being held in one language or the other. Some were in both languages and assisted by human translators. Others took advantage of smartphone apps to bridge the communications gap.

A delegation of 19 Italians from Suffolk’s sister city, Oderzo, was welcomed to Virginia with a picnic reception at the pavilion. The visitors and their hosts had spent the day touring Planters Peanuts, visiting the Obici Fountain and Character Corner, where a statue of Mr. Peanut stands, having lunch at the Obici Healthcare Foundation and walking around downtown.

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The leading official in the delegation, Oderzo assistant mayor Ermes Campigotto, said through translator Joe Alvarez that he is enjoying learning more about Amedeo Obici, who hails from Oderzo and founded Planters Peanuts and Obici Hospital here.

“It brings good memories to him,” Alvarez said, translating for Campigotto.

This is the first time in America for English teacher Nicolette Dalla Pozza. She takes her students to England every summer, but she hasn’t made it across the Atlantic until now.

“It was my dream, and now it is real,” she said. “I think America is great. The people are exceptional.”

She said the biggest difference she has noticed is that the houses are bigger than in Italy.

Student Edoardo Miotto has been in Suffolk for a month already. He is interested in health care, so he has been observing at various sites, including the hospital and Western Tidewater Free Clinic.

“Working in the hospital is very interesting,” he said. “It’s a very different approach to health care.”

He said the most striking difference is that in America, a patient is more likely to suggest a medication to a doctor, rather than a doctor demanding a patient takes a certain medication.

“I think it’s a very important experience, because the countries have differences,” he said. “It’s a different reality. Americans are more easy people than you expect. You are not so formal as we are.”

On Saturday, the delegation was set to visit the Nansemond Indian Tribe powwow, head to Norfolk for the American Rover Harbor Cruise and have dinner at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts. Today, they are expected at the newly restored Obici House for a reception hosted by Mayor Linda T. Johnson.

On Monday, they will depart for Charlottesville and tour Monticello and the Barboursville Winery. They then will head for Washington, D.C., take in an evening tour of the monuments and take a driving tour the next morning before getting on a train to Pennsylvania, where Obici lived after emigrating from Italy and before moving to Suffolk.

They are scheduled to depart for home from Pennsylvania on Aug. 24.