Italian culture in Cambridge

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Italian culture in Cambridge

For the school year 2012 – 2013 the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs appointed a new Italian teacher, Maria Carmen Triola, to deliver Italian language courses at St. Alban’s Primary School in Cambridge.

Ms. Triola worked very closely with Cambridge Italian Club (CIC) and Girotondo, two Cambridge-based not-for-profit organisations that have been actively promoting Italian culture for a number of years, targeting bilingual Italian families in the city. The two groups and Ms. Triola collaborated in the planning and implementation of a variety of initiatives and cultural events for children. All activities were designed not only for the promotion of the Italian language, but also to reinforce Italian traditions within the local community.

The events, comprising two theatre performances, a concert, a Christmas fair, Befana and Carnival parties and regular monthly story telling at Cambridge Central Library, were aimed not solely at entertaining the children, but also at promoting the Italian language and culture in a meaningful and communicative approach to the wider community in the East Anglian city.

The two theatre performances La gabbianella e il gatto by Luis Sepulveda and Battista e le streghe di Torno were linked with the reading and story-telling events held at the library with the twin objectives of encouraging children to read more in Italian - with adults or alone - and stimulate creative reading for children of all ages.

Ms. Triola, in conjunction with CIC and Girotondo, was also able to organise an organ recital of Italian music from various historical periods performed by the Italian Maestro Alessandra Mazzanti at the prestigious Gonville and Caius College in Cambridge. The beautiful musical event was also attended by the Educational Director Prof.ssa Mara Luongo - and her family - from London’s Italian Education Office.

The collaboration with Maestro Mazzanti also enabled the organisation of a unique musical workshop entitled La musica parla italiano, Il Carnevale degli Animali di Saint Saëns in all the primary schools where Ms. Triola delivered her courses. The workshop was very successful and extremely well-received with active participation and enthusiasm not only from all the children who took part, but also from parents and local teaching staff.

St Alban’s School also hosted the very first Italian evening to be organised by a primary school in Cambridge which saw the participation of all after-school Italian course pupils from a number of the city’s primary schools. The pupils sang in Italian a selection of well-known Italian children’s songs and nursery rhymes and an eight year old Italian girl sang a moving a cappella version of a famous traditional Italian piece.

On Sunday 12th May, another special activity saw the participation of over 30 pupils and parents from St Alban’s afternoon courses: a group visit to the British Museum to learn about the 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius which destroyed the Italian cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

The group was also accompanied by the archaeologist Francesca Fulminante who, after the museum visit, guided the children through a creative exercise which helped them discover elements of Roman life, from daily habits to clothing and furniture. It was a very educational and enjoyable trip.

St. Augustine’s School in Hoddesdon, also in the Cambridge/ Hertfordshire area, hosted an equally stimulating Italian Day organised by Ms. Triola jointly with the Italian teacher, Rosalba Faraci, also appointed by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Italian Day event entailed pasta-making, story-telling, learning about allergies and the history of Italian emigrants who travelled from small Sicilian villages in the ‘70s to the outskirts of London in search of a better future for their children and future generations. The pupils learnt the Italian national anthem Inno di Mameli which they sang at an assembly in front of the school’s governors and the entire teaching staff.

We wish to express our sincere gratitude to a small Sicilian company from Siracusa, Alfio Neri, which donated, to the entire school of St. Augustine’s, bookmarks featuring the lyrics of the Italian national anthem and the Italian flag and packets of delicious almonds dipped in Marsala wine - a typical Sicilian sweet wine, also to Cristina and Wainer Vicini , Daniela Cagnetti and Rosanna Bonafede, from Bologna.

The well-known Zecchino d’Oro children’s song Le tagliatelle di Nonna Pina inspired the 84 year-old grandmother of one St. Alban’s pupil, Nonna Teresa Rinaldi, to teach the Tuesday afternoon classes how to make tagliatelle pasta by hand and how to enjoy a good dish of pasta, honouring the Mediterranean diet and learning about the importance of healthy food and diet.

The Italian course at St Alban’s ended with a celebratory and scrumptious fruit salad prepared by the Wednesday afternoon pupils for their parents and siblings.

Throughout the school year all activities in the Cambridge area have seen the close cooperation of parents, children, and the British and Italian teaching staff, working together to establish a rich cross-cultural experience for all participants, from both a cultural and human perspective.

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