Twinning Association

Twinning Trip to Pizzoferrato September 2014

The visit of the Talgarth delegation to Pizzoferrato September 2014

Jane Green, Siobhan and myself met with Eugenio at Stansted on the outward journey to Pizzoferrato. Eugenio had booked a hire car at Pescara airport where we landed.

The drive to Pizzoferrato took about 45 minutes and we arrived  at about 11:30 pm local time and were met by the Mayor Palmerino Fagnilli and a small delegation. He was very pleased to see us and said he thought that “this would never happen”. Eugenio had to translate as Palmerino’s English is as good as my Italian. Eugenio then took us to the B&B where we were staying. It was up a very steep road practically to the top of the mountain. The B&B was run by Paulo and was his fathers house. It is also the oldest building in Pizzoferrato, built 1583, and in the medieval part of the Town. It was a lovely building and very clean and tidy and I suspect that there hadn’t been that many guest since its completion as a B&B and us arriving.  Pizzoferrato means iron peak and the iron refers to the gate that was part of the fortification against brigands. The residents of Pizzoferrato are Catholic.

In the morning we looked out at the window and to say that the view was breathtaking is an understatement. You could see the Adriatic which was 60 kilometres away. We met Eugenio in the Plaza and had a look at the street market. There were a few stalls selling mainly household goods and fresh vegetables. The Town has a few shops and bar restaurants, probably around as many as Talgarth. It appears to be smaller than Talgarth in total and it has around 1200 inhabitants. The political structure is that the Mayor is elected for a five year term but his six councillors are appointed by the Arbruzzo regional government. The councillors are responsible for implementing things like building regulations but planning is by the Arbuzzo National Park.

We were invited to Pizzoferrato for the Monday and Tuesday as a religous festival celebrating the Madonna took place on these two days. The festival began by a procession of women in traditional dress walking up the road to the Church, Santa Maria del Girone, at the top of the mountain. The women each carried on their heads a large copper pot, called a Conca, filled with local produce and flowers and they were quite heavy. Originally the Conca were used to fetch water. There were two Conca decorated especially for Siobhan and Jane. Fortunately they didn’t have carry them. The road up to the church is very steep and most of the towns residents, including some very elderly people, made the assent. We were invited to join the ceremony in the very small church and a bench “banco”  was reserved for us. When we reached the church it was so packed that we couldn’t get in and eventually manged to stand at the very back. It was a really interesting service and the singing was accompanied by a guitar playing in the gallery. When the service ended we waited outside for the statue of the Madonna to appear. The procession led by the Conca then wound its way down the hill to the town. The Madonna followed the Conca and the Mayor followed behind the Madonna. We were invited to join the procession alongside the Mayor, Policeman and Carabineri. Many of the residents along the route had prepared their own shrine to the Madonna. The statue was carried for the main part by the women of the town as this festival is focussed primarily on the women of the Town. The procession wound its way around most of the Town. Some of the more elderly people who could no longer take part were visibly moved by it all. The Madonna was then taken into the church in the centre of town on the Plaza, La nuova Chiesa Parrocchiale, (new Parochial church?) where another short service was conducted. After the services ended were were invited to lunch with the priests, about ten of them together with the Mayor two councillors and the carabineri.  The lunch was around seven courses. After wards we then went back to curch in the center of town for a book signing which lasted about an hour and a half. Palmerino took the oppertunity to remind the people there that the Twinning ceromony would be taking place the folowing evening at 17:00. During the day there had been many appearances of the Town band. I gave the band leader the music for the Welsh national anthem and they said they try to play it.

Later in the evening we, along with Eugenio, were invited to an evening meal with the ex Deputy Mayor, Daniellea, and her family. Eugenio said the band were finding it a little difficult to play the Welsh anthem. Over the meal we had a lot of discussions regarding the challenges faced by both communities. In the main both communities have exactly the same problems, contraction of the economy, retaining young people and providing proper work. They used to have a potato festival, a major crop in the region, but this did not happen this year.

The following morning we went to the local school for a tour and to discuss future Twinning events involving the two primary schools. It was decide that we could begin with a letter exchange between the pupils and build up the relationship incrementally. We then attended a meeting upstairs between the parents and the “president” (head teacher) of the three local schools. The schools formed a cluster of the local villages and there were plans to combine the headship and administration of the three to form one larger school, which sounds familiar. The Mayors of these villages were also in attendance. Palmerino took the opportunity to promote the Twinning project to the parents. I also addressed the meeting at Palmerinos invitation. We then went outside for a group photo.

The next engagement was back in the plaza where the Madonna was to return to the Church, Santa Maria del Girone, at the top of the mountain. Initially the procession was led by the Town Band. Next the Conca led the Madonna as the procession wound around the Town and up the hill. We accompanied the Mayor as before in the procession. It was quite an achievement for the Town band  to play up the steep parts of the streets. There was a short service in the church as the Madonna was reinstated in her normal place. We then went back down the hill to the plaza.

The procession was followed by the inevitable multi course lunch. Over the lunch we talked about the various events Talgarth puts on over the year such as the Walking festival and the Festival of the Black Mountains. Both of these events seemed to capture the attention of Palmerino and he seemed keen on learning more.

The final official engagement was the signing of the protocol at 17:00. We had to wait a little way off until the Band had played two tunes then we walked onto the Plaza to be met by the Mayor Palmerino. We then stood on the steps while the band played first the Welsh national anthem followed by Italian anthem. We then went into Town Hall and up to the committee room together with as many of the Town residents as could fit in. The ceremony was filmed by Arbruzzo regional TV.,2,16,0,10021  or google Arbruzzo TV and search for “Pizzoferrato: Gemellaggio con la citta di Talgarth”.

Its an 11 min video of the signing ceremony and well edited as Palmerino talked for quite some time. It is an internet service and Palmerino gave a speech that Eugenio tried to interpret but he couldn’t really keep up. By this time, although not actually unstanding it all we could follow the general drift. Italian could be quite straightforward to learn. Eugenio then gave an introduction to the Twinning  project and I gave my speech. I thanked them for their outstandingly warm welcome and hospitality. How much we had all been made to feel welcome. I thanked the band for their very impressive playing of the Welsh National Anthem. It was astoundingly good considering how little time they had to practicse it. I talked about the Twinning and how similar the communities actually were. I also talked about the future steps with regards to the schools children and invited them to visit Talgarth when the opportunity arose. I finished with a couple of lines in Italian that I had prepared with Eugenio. One of the councillors remarked that he understood my English better than my Italian.

We then signed the Protocol followed by the exchange of gifts. Firstly it was the flags, the Welsh flag is just the best, then he gave me a wood panel picture of Pizzoferrato, I gave him the embroidered logo. I then gave the books to one of the teachers and they gave two sets of books to Jane and Siobhan and I. I gave the leader of the band the CD of the Talgarth choir.  The two Concas that were prepared especially for Jane and Siobhan were presented to them. I am really glad we decided to do the embroidered Talgarth logo as it meant that we just about matched gift for gift. Palmerino was very pleased with his lapel badge which I gave as a personal gift from me to him. The plaque should be mounted in the Town Hall in easy view.

We then went outside to hear the national anthems played a second time. Afterward Palmerino and I went back inside to have a short interview with Arbruzzo TV, Eugenio translating. Oddly just before the visit I found on Wikipedia the story of Major Lionel Wigram who was killed in the second world war at Pizzoferrato leading a group of partisans. Eugenio and I talked about him on the journey from the airport. The second question the interviewer asked was about him. We left after this to have a quick break. The evening was spent with Eugenio and his family.

On the last morning we walked around the Town browsing the shops. They are spread out and as such there is no retail centre like Talgarth. We met the Mayor for a final time in Palmerinos office. I invited him to visit Talgarth in May during the Walking festival.

On the trip back to the airport we visited the English cemetery near Pescara. It really should be named the allied Cemetery as a great number of the graves are New Zealanders. The only possible Welsh connection were two graves I found of the Gurka Rifles. We weren’t there that long because of torrential rain.

Siobhan and I got home at around 4am Thursday morning.

I think that the trip went extremely well and we are particularly pleased with the school and the current plans are that this is where we will start building up the relationship between the two communities. The plan is start small and build up over the years rather than steam in with a full blown plan.

The current plans for the next 12 months are.

An Itallian day on the 25th of October to be held in the Tabernacle to raise funds. It will consist of a coffee morning, followed by a childrens afternoon making items to send to the school in Pizzoferrato. The evening will be a wine tasting. Eugenio will supply the wines (we will need to raise enough to pay him) and the food will be the salami, truffle oil and paste that was given to us in the Concas. We hope to recruit more “Friends” at this event. We will have a screen with all the photo’s we took on a slide show.

Next May we have invited a small delegation from Pizzoferrato to visit form the 29th of April to the 4th of May. This is the weekend of the Walking Festival. Palmerino was very interested in this event. Hopefully by then we will have the new signs at the entrance to the Town and we thought that he could unveil the “Twinned with Pizzoferrato” section of the sign. Palmerino does like a photo opportunity.

We are investigating  the possibility of inviting the Pizzoferrato Town Band over for the festival of the Black Mountains. They are good, they learnt the Welsh national anthem in a very short time and although a little slow it was very, very good.

We took hundreds of photo’s and a selection will be circulated at intervals over the next couple of weeks. Eugenio has set up a Facebook page for the Twinning. Jane will produce a press release for the B&R and we will try to get it into the Western Mail as well.

It was an extremely exhausting couple of days but very enjoyable. We were treated with the utmost hospitality and generosity.

Andy Lord 12th Sept 2014



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