Colorful events mark Italian national day in Jeddah
JEDDAH — Few nations are able to convert their national day celebration into a folkloric show as entertaining and colorful as the Italians, who commemorated their 68th Republic Day at the cultural section of the Italian Consulate in Jeddah last Monday.
Celebrated yearly on June 2, the national day commemorates the institutional referendum in 1946 that led to the abolishment of the monarchy and the foundation of the Italian Republic.
The festivities included an impressive performance of folk music and dance in addition to the participation of numerous sponsors, including the Saudi franchisees of car giants Maserati and Lamborghini, luxury goods company Salvatore Ferragamo, and Saudi Arabian Airlines.
The celebration this year was marked by the upcoming Expo 2015, which will take place in Milan between May 1 and Oct. 31 under the slogan “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.”
“It will involve 147 countries, three international organizations, but also corporations, civil societies, NGOs etc.,” remarked Consul General Simone Petroni, who said his country is expecting some 20 million visitors to the event.
In his speech, the consul general also spoke of the boosted ties between Italy and the Kingdom since his arrival in Jeddah some four years ago.
The “strengthening of relations reached its peak last year with the celebration in Rome of 80 years of diplomatic and trade relations” as well as the “Italian business mission to Saudi Arabia aiming at establishing and tightening long-term business relations between Italian and Saudi companies,” he said, when suddenly all sound and lights were muted by a power outage.
Nearly 50 minutes later, the problem had been fixed and the slightly desperate consul general could resume his speech, thanking the attendants for their patience.
“Only because I have so many friends here and there is a strong connection between us [did] all of you stay tonight,” said Petroni, for whom this occasion was his last national day celebration while being in Jeddah.
During his post here, the Italian Consulate increased the number of visas issued fivefold, from a meager 5,000 in 2010 up to 25,000 today, Petroni said, while thanking his colleagues in the visa section for their work.
Other achievements during his stint here included the establishment of the Italian Business Group in July 2013 and improved relations between Italy and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), leading Petroni to being appointed last year as the Italian special envoy to the OIC by the then Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Emma Bonino.
Petroni also expressed hope that his successor would continue the cultural and religious dialogue between his country — not only a founding member of the European Union but also home to the Vatican, the capital of Christianity — and the Kingdom, organizing more and more initiatives “to encourage understanding and mutual respect between our people,” he said.
Following his speech and the traditional cutting of the cake with Saudi dignitaries, the consul general then awarded Italian businessman Fermo Maria Giuseppe Grigis with the “Ordine della Stella d’Italia,” or “Order of the Star of Italy,” for his contribution to commercial relations between his country and the Kingdom in addition to his commitment as the president of the Italian School in Jeddah.
The highlight of the evening was the “explosion of energy and rhythm” during the musical performance by Antonio Infantino and his “tarantolati di tricarico” of musicians and dancers.
Their show of traditional southern Italian music and dance is known as tarantella, which refers to an ancient legend that whoever is bitten by a black poisonous tarantula must dance the tarantella to rid themselves of the deadly poison.
Tarantella music is characterized by rhythmic drums and percussions and throaty vocals, while the dance induces a state of trance to bring about a “purification process.”