Italian hospitality is always second to none

02:18 AM 17 Jul 2011 NZST
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According to the official program, the Gala event highlighting our trip starts this evening with a black tie affair on the Grand Canal in Venice, followed by a fireworks display billed as the best in the World. The Italians are proud of their heritage and independence; and assuredly they have much to be proud of.

Their's is a great culture; birthplace of the renaissance, fine wine and cuisine, to name just a few things. There is much more to them, including their hospitality and genuine caring for their friends.

In Venice, there is the century old tradition of glass manufacturing handed down as an art and not taught in any school or University. A master craftsman at this art is Giancarlo Moretti in whose family has existed the Murano glass manufacturing tradition for five centuries.

On Thursday evening, Giancarlo treated the American and Canadian drivers Joe Faraldo and Sherwin Edwards to dinner at the most famous ristaurante in Venice. On Saturday, he provided a trip to see first hand the art of glass blowing at his factory. There, each of the forty or so witnesses to the art watched as an elegant sculptured glass horse, still quite warm, was crafted for everyone as a unique gift.

Then, twelve glass museum pieces were presented to NAADA President Joe Faraldo from a private collection kept by Mr. Moretti and never offered for sale anywhere but made and preserved for the family. According to Moretti, that was because they were made from, and were part of, the family's heart. The pieces were made in or about 1850 and had remained in the family enclave until the presentation on Saturday.

This marvelous experience was followed by a luncheon hosted by Paolo Borin of Scuderia (stable) Borin at his training center and farm. There, he showed off his prize three-year-old, Super Gil, like a proud papa. Returning to the hotel, one found an assortment of delicacies to wane away the afternoon before the cruise. These were greetings from the president of the Veneto Gentleman Driving Club, Raffaello Ruffato. Raffaello, like most presidents, is the worker bee. He is always there, tending to everyone's needs.

Italy hosts the richest amateur race in the world for a total prize of 100,000 euros (close to 150,000 US).Last evening, three 15 horse fields vied for the top three spots to compete in a nine horse final next week for the 45,000 euro.National president of all the Italian clubs Cesare Mele made the final once again. Compliment Cesare.

The cruise started at 7pm. Starting at the Grand Canal, it stopped off at the Isola di San Servolo which is now only accessible by very influential citizens of Italy or ranking government officials. Two hundred people attented, including officials from the USTA equivalent, Unire. Italy is now in a struggle to maintain its position in the sport of harness racing on the continent; a struggle it must and will win.

After the festivities officially recognized the sports amateur achievers, the Federnat President of thirty years Cesare Mele walked the assembled to the fireworks display that marked the celebration of the Independence of Italy. The Italians certainly know how to throw a party and their hospitality is typical of that throughout Europe. Sunday concludes the program with the USA and Canada driving horses not in the first four selections. Currently Canada leads the competition followed by Italy and the USA.

Chris E WITTSTRUCK

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