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Two and a bit hours from Bristol heading south and you're in Rome. Presuming you’re flying and not walking. For many years we chose not to link with western European countries but having discovered Italy through our links with Uherske Hradiste (who had links with the small town of Priverno) we remembered how lovely it was.

Rome is the ancient capital of Europe. When Europe was united by Pax Romanus. Combine the wonders of Ancient Rome, its Coliseum, Parthenon, the Centro Storico, with its religious heritage -the Vatican and the many spectacular chuches and put it all together in a modern Italian context – then add in the usually wonderful weather, and you've got the perfect tour destination.


Just south of the Italian capital is the province of Lazio - where you can find the region of Latina and the small mountain Town of Priverno. From this modest location you can explore an area close enough to the capital and yet rich enough in variety to get to know Italy, its history and its people in a short programmed stay. The Pontine Marshes, reclaimed by Mussolini in the 1930's, now provide arable farmland and the artificial dunes created long strands of empty beaches. Upon one is the Oasa di Kufra, a beach hotel next to the Town of Sabaudia, looking out across the Tyrhenean Sea with its magnificent sunsets.

To the North is the seaside port Town of Anzio – scene of the 1944 World War two landings and the the South the imposing heights of the Monte Cassino Monastery – another bloody encounter from the same War, fought over by troops of almost twenty nations until it was eventually the Polish who conquered its summit and where today their soldiers lay buried where they fell in an ornate and splendid cemetery.

Not far from Priverno is the mountain castle Town of Sermonetta, home of the Borgia family whilst a while further south you reach the regional centre of Naples with its famous volcano Vesuvius and the ruins of Pompeii.

Apart from Rome and the South we also include the remarkable Italian floating city of Venice in our programme – usually combined with a trip to Slovenia and the former Yugoslavia.

Bridgwater twins with Priverno

It had been several years in the making but finally it happened. Bridgwater's 5th town twinning was with the Italian town of Priverno. But the twinning trip was not without incident.....

It was only a couple of months before that Mayor Steve Austen had joined us on a preparatory trip and everything was set for a February twinning...but then Steve and Stella couldn't make it and nor could Deputy Mayor Leigh Redman.

So we dug into our resources and dragged out twice-former Mayor Commodore Bill Monteith, who brought along his Royal Marine marching sash and assumed the official role for the duration.


Somerset Singers Sing their way into Italian Hearts

The thing about Community Choirs is they’re a great way to bring people together and break down cultural barriers. Even better probably than the football trips we do where players of different nations kick seven shades of crap out of each other on the playing field or the rock tours where junior would-be-rock stars trash foreign bedrooms and each other. So we’ve done two choir trips this month –one to the South of France and now this one to Italy – and, unless I missed it, no-one trashed anybody.

The Voice of the People choir were formed in the Bridgwater Arts Centre a few years back by natural voice practitioner Yvette Staelens. Nowadays they come from all over Sedgemoor, West Somerset and Taunton Deane and every year they come somewhere interesting with Bridgwater International. A few years ago they visited Priverno in Italy only to find themselves singing on the steps of the town hall to a locked door and in a nearby town when no local choir turned up to meet them . Then last year the Mayor changed and suddenly the Bridgwater link has blossomed into overdrive.


Bridgwater and Priverno well on the way to a Full Twinning as Mayor drops in

Bridgwater’s link with Priverno is going from strength to strength and this week it was the turn of Mayor Steve Austen to pay his first visit to the hilltop Italian town with a small delegation to see what projects we could bring about for the benefit of both communities.

For the past few years we have taken students from Bridgwater college, footballers from Bridgwater and our Czech win town Uherske Hradiste, and the Voice of the People choir –who will shortly be returning for their second bite at the mozzarella.


Italian Twinning Backed by new Mayor as Bridgwater College students visit Priverno

February 2014 and Sedgemoor's floods are global news. Sitting on the plane heading from Bristol to Rome I spotted a copy of my neighbours 'Daily Mail'."Any news about the flooding?" I asked."Only more nonsense from that idiot MP" said the lady from Cheltenham. So Bridgwater was making it's mark again - well done Mr Liddell-Grainger. Not.

But as ILG was telling the world that there were apparently some intemperate, rude, name calling pseudo-dignatories in this part of Somerset, the Bridgwater College students, off to Italy on a study programme, made exactly the opposite impression. No less than 3 different people mentioned how polite, well behaved and cheerful the students were. First the bus driver, Augusto, was nervous when the singing at the back of his bus started, and had to be reassured that 'the wheels on the bus' didn't refer to a diversionary tactic to nick his hubcaps, then said he had never had such good natured students on board. Then it was Genny the manager of the aptly named San Francesco 'Charming' Hotel, the delightful wedding themed lagoon side accommodation where the students were staying. "It was lovely to have them, they were polite, tidy and looked after the rooms and each other".


All Change in Priverno - But Bridgwater Links to Continue

A few years back we made contact with the Italian town of Priverno in the Lazio region just South of Rome when we met their people in Uherske Hradiste, their and our Czech twin town. The Mayor Umberto Macci, had been a regular attender at the UH wine festival and during his time in office had clocked up over a dozen link towns around Europe. In May this year he went the way of many Berlusconi acolytes and the Left swept to power in Priverno suggesting that they would be doing away with most of Macci's international links. Bridgwater International administrator Brian Smedley hurried down there to put a word in for Somerset.



Bridgwater College Film and Media students have travelled with us in past to the Czech Republic - where they visited the vast Barrandov film studios and to the smaller VIBA studios in Slovenia. This year they opted for the gargantuan Cinecitta studios in Rome, Italy and walked amongst sets of Biblical proportions and imperial dimensions.

Flying from Bristol to Rome Fiumicino in a snowy early February, the fifty-four strong group were met at the airport by coach and transferred to the beach hotel of Oasa di Kufra in nearby Sabaudia which they shared with rowing teams from Russia, Austria, Belorus and the Ukraine - mainly half their age and twice their size.



Bridgwater's VOICE OF THE PEOPLE choir have just returned from a succesful four days tour of the Lazio region of Italy which included the town of Priverno - twinned with Uherske Hradiste, and where they sang on the steps of the Town Hall, Pontinia where they sung in the Fellini Theatre with the Pontinia Choir, the beach resort of Sabaudia where they sang in the sea and the city of Rome - where they probably sang in the Metro.

The choir, led by natural voice practitioner Yvette Staellens, based at Bridgwater Arts Centre, flew from Bristol to Rome forty-four strong and out again with a massive security presence (although this might have been due to Amanda Know flying out of the same airport at the same time...).



For the past two years Bridgwater travellers have met representatives from the Italian town of Priverno at the Uherske Hradiste wine festival. Priverno - a medieaval mountain town situated just south of Rome and midway between the Second World War battlefields of Anzio and Monte Cassino, is a twin town of Bridgwaters Czech twin town. If we can square the circle and make it a three-way link up the possibilities for European funding - not to mention an excellent new destination for twinners - the opportunities are endless.

A small Bridgwater delegation visited Priverno in mid October, flying from Bristol to Rome Ciampino by Easyjet. Staying at the beach hotel Oasa di Kufra in the specially built 'Fascist New Town' (Mussolinis idea back in the 20s) of Sabaudia, the group was joined by a coach party of thirty-eight Czechs travelling through the night from UH.