We started off with drinks at the poolside with a wonderful view over Rome with even the dome of St Peter visible in the distance. This was followed by a rich dinner. Those not accustomed to the Italian habit of eating two “primi” after the antipasti hardly made it to the roast piglet main course let alone the puddings, coffee and digestives at the end.
The following morning we visited Villa Chigi in Arricia. This 16th century villa belonged to the Chigi family who has produced two cardinals and one pope of the Catholic Church. Very special were the original leather wall coverings, portraits and pharmacy.
We then visited the Cooperative Cantina Gotto D'Oro of which Luigi Caporicci, last year's Rotary President is the Director. We were shown round the impressive winemaking and bottling plant and afterwards tasted some delicious prizewinning wine with a plate full of local specialties.
In the afternoon we strolled along the Tiber in Rome and learned about the history and biology of the river.
In the evening the splendid Twinning Dinner took place at the Club's seat, the Castel Gandolfo Country Club. With views over the golf course laid out inside a volcanic crater we enjoyed a superb meal interspersed with speeches and music. Most of the members of RC Castelli Romani as well as a representative of the Governor attended. There are now three Rotary Clubs from different countries which are twinned with each, and the French RC Sophia Antipolis is very interested to be part of this International Rotary Quartet.
Saturday was spent in Tivoli where we visited two villas. The first one Roman belonging to the 2nd Century Emperor Hadrian and the second the Villa d'Este of Cardinal d'Este, a 16th Century masterpiece known for its Italian gardens full of fountains, nymphs and caves fed hydraulically by the river Aniene without the use any electricity.
Lunch was at Hotel Torre S.Angelo housed in a beautiful old monastery.
Another delicious buffet dinner was held at Villa degli Angeli, overlooking Crater Lake Albano. We were just in time for a splendid sunset.
After the presentations we had time to discover Rome individually until it was time for the Concert organized by RC Castelli Romani at the Anglican Church S.Paulo entra le Mura. We heard beautiful music performed by two choirs and orchestra directed by Gianmario Cavallaro, honorary member of the Club. The concert was followed by a pizza meal with lots of extra specialties in the best Roman pizzeria.
As if the programme had not been amazing enough, we were granted special access to the papal gardens in Castel Gandolfo. These superb Italian style gardens built on the grounds of the former imperial villa of Domitian (1st C. BC) are something most people will never see unless they become Pope. We even visited the secret garden were a succession of popes come to pray for holy inspiration.A short walk then took us to the centre of Castel Gandolfo with its intimate piazza with a fountain designed by Bernini in front of the papal Summer Residence.
A last espresso and cappuccino before it was time to leave with the bus.
We cannot thank our hosts enough for their generous hospitality and the fantastic days they organized for us. Franco, used to be the commanding officer of a military airport near Rome, had arranged everything to perfection and dealt with every individual wish from 26 unruly Rotarians, keeping a cool head at all times. A remarkable achievement. We maintain fond memories of our friends in Rome, Breda and Antibes. We mixed and exchanged ideas quite naturally. It was an excellent opportunity to get to know each other better and to appreciate Italian culture.
We look forward to the next International Meeting which will be organized by our Dutch friends in Breda.