Breathing crisp mountain air in the Italian Alps, feeling warm sunshine strolling along Lake Como, coasting through the canals of Venice, and taking in the majestic landscape of the Lombardy region are just some of the adventures I enjoyed as a member of the South Jersey Group Study Exchange (GSE) team from New Jersey, USA, to northern Italy.
For a portion of my stay, I enjoyed the hospitality of Italian Rotarian Paolo Sanguettola, his wife Silvia Bernini; and their daughters Anna, Benedetta, and Federica. They were as gracious and kind as all the Rotarians we met during our month-long trip. We also attended the 50th anniversary mass commemorating the death of Pope John XXIII at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, presided over by Pope Francis.
I was extremely honored to have been recommended and selected by the Rotary Club of Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA, to take part in the five-member GSE team to the Lombardy region of Italy. Adventure, knowledge, culture, business, peace, service, and friendship are at the core of this unique and special journey thousands of young business professionals have taken part in around the world.
The GSE teams are made up of a Rotarian leader and four non-Rotarians between the ages of 25 and 40, and last between four to six weeks. Our team included leader Ken Landis, Anna Brudnicka, Nathaniel Young, Maria Pinardo, and myself, a journalist in the Philadelphia area. A team from Lombardy, Italy, visited District 7640 in New Jersey in April.
Fireworks, shoes, and coffee
Our trip began 11 May, where we stayed in Legnano, and were treated to a fantastic fireworks display, toured a local shoe factory, and tasted coffee made from a machine at the Giorgio Rancilio factory. We also attended an annual parade commemorating the Battle of Legnano in 1176. Hundreds of people dressed in medieval costumes, and I was invited into the press box of the stadium to cover the main event, a bareback horse race between several competing districts.
Our Rotarian hosts Gianluca Azario, GSE Chair for District 2040, Paola Taborelli, and Laura Barbera took us to beautiful Lake Como where we climbed to the top of Faro Voltiano di San Maurizio and to Lake Maggiore. We also visited Livigno in the Italian Alps; toured the valley with Rotarian Fabio Giacomelli; and dropped in on a local TV station where we taped a video segment about the GSE program. In Bormio, we indulged in rest and relaxation in famous Roman baths dating back to the first century B.C.
There were many more wonderful experiences than I could capture all here. During the trip, I had the opportunity to meet fellow journalists from several Italian news organizations and exchange ideas and information. While I enjoyed the educational component; it was the Rotarian’s time, energy, generosity, kindness, and ultimately the beauty of friendship — that I will remember forever.
Adapted with permission from an article Dudo wrote for CBS Philly. Dudo is an award-winning journalist covering everything from breaking news to red carpet celebrity interviews. Follow Dudo on Twitter @VeronicaDudo and visit her on Facebook