Americans living in the Vicenza Military Community took a one-of-a-kind tour of Nove Sept. 14 as special guests of the town elders.
The small city north of Vicenza has been famous for making ceramic items for nearly 300 years and celebrates its traditional handicrafts with an annual ceramics festival. The theme of this year's festivities, the 16th annual edition, was "Portoni Aperti," which means "open doors." And open their doors to the American visitors they did, in a heartwarming and caring gesture of friendship.
Nearly 40 members of the VMC were greeted by Sindaco (Mayor of Nove) Manuele Bozzetto and members of the city council. Speaking to his guests through a translator, just days after the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and commemorative ceremonies around the world, Bozzetto said Italians also paid remembrance to the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
"We hope today is only the beginning of a series of events that can help bring our two communities closer. Remember also that Nove welcomes you with hospitality and friendship, not only today but every day of the year," Bozzetto said. He presented the group with a ceramic key of the town as a token of hospitality and friendship.
"It is a great pleasure to have you here as our guests and I welcome your visit because it gives us the opportunity to show our hospitality," said Claudio Gheller, city assessor responsible for tourism, culture and economic activities. "I want you know that you should really feel at home here because Nove loves you all."
As a tangible example of how much Nove loves Americans, Gheller displayed an American inspired "I love Nove" T-shirt made especially for this year's festival.
The festival, which attracts ceramics artists from all over Europe, features behind-the-scenes visits to the ceramics factories that line the main street in town. While walking through the city streets to tour some of its outstanding factories, Mayor Bozzetto literally had traffic stopped for the visiting Americans.
The first stop on the tour was to two factories, one with a working water wheel, that employ traditional homemade kilns that burn wood to fire their clay productions.
The American guests also got to tour the Antonio Zen factory, which had never opened its doors publicly. Zen was there to greet the VMC visitors, greeting them in English as they walked inside.
The VMC visitors also toured the city's Museo della Ceramica, which showcases the rich history of the city's ceramics. It displays an enormous range of pieces dating as far back as the 1720s and includes a prized vase by Pablo Picasso.
The museum tour was led by a woman who has written books about flowers painted on ceramics, who pointed out there are more than 100 varieties of flowers painted on ceramics produced in Nove.
"My first visit to Nove was when we first got here, but this was my first visit to the festival," said family member Jennifer Horton. "I am so impressed with the skills that the Italian artisans have and wish I could make ceramics like them."
The VMC visit was organized by the Arts and Crafts Center. Supervisor Michelle Sterkowicz saw the trip as an opportunity to help the community get a better feel for life in Italy, and for potters in particular to explore a centuries old tradition that is very much alive to this day.
"I closed the center and took my whole staff up for the day so we could maybe learn some new techniques and things that people would like to do at the center," Sterkowicz said. "This was our first organized trip, but I'm hoping to do more in the future."
The Arts and Crafts Center has studio time available to experiment with ceramics. For more information, contact Sterkowicz at 0444-71-7074.