by ANTONY CLAY
IN the heart of South Yorkshire there is a part that is forever Italy!
Well, sort of.
In Tickhill, there is a society for people with a love of all things Italian and members meet up once a month to indulge their perfectly understandable passion.
What is there not to love about Italy? Sun, fashion style, fast cars, great films, wonderful buildings, wine, opera, the Renaissance and the Baroque… etc… etc… etc…
At their meetings in the Pavilion (il Padiglione?) in Tickhill, members hear lectures on Italian life, culture and history and those with a degree of ability in the language can have a discussion in the mother tongue.
It is all rather bellissimo but what is particularly stupendo is the fact that the Voglia d’Italia group – the Italian Society for South Yorkshire and North Notts – has recently marked its 20th anniversary and attracts members from across the county and beyond.
Molto bene, indeed!
But some may wonder how a society for Italy lovers would begin life in thoroughly English Tickhill?
Peter Ingham, the current president of Voglia d’Italia, said starting up there was “pure chance”.
He explained: “The society was initially kicked off by some people in Tickhill, particularly by Melanie Rees.
“She talked to people and they had the first event, an Italian cheese and wine evening, in the Tickhill Pavilion.
“Mel lived in Italy and she liked it and thought it would be a good idea to start the group. She knew a few people around Tickhill who were interested. Since then it has gone from strength to strength.
“It seemed to take off from the very beginning.
“There aren’t many societies like this. There is one in Harrogate and one in Nottingham. People travel from as far away as Lincoln to go to Voglia d’Italia meetings in Tickhill.”
Although there is no direct translation into English of the word voglia, it pretty much refers to having a love or desire for something, which are words that can certainly be applied to society members.
“Voglia d’Italia is for anyone who has a yearning for, and love of, Italy,” said Peter, who lives in Rotherham.
“Some have lived in Italy and returned. We have Italian members and people who teach Italian.
“But the society is not just for Italian speakers. You don’t have to speak Italian but after each meeting the Italian speakers have a conversation group session.
“It’s a useful way for people who want to learn Italian.”
Society member Margaret Young added: “It’s very sociable but I also think people come to learn something about a subject they don’t know about.”
Indeed, the talks at each meeting are wide-ranging and cover all aspects of Italy and Italian life, culture and history.
Recently, for instance, the group has a talk on the Italian diaspora – people who have travelled out across the world – which attracted 15 visitors as well as usual members.
“People come for a talk on a subject of interest to them,” said Margaret.
“We always get a lot of visitors for history and architecture talks. People are sharing experiences of Italy as well.”
There are around 70 members of Voglia d’Italia and it has seen the numbers of those attending meetings and joining up grow in recent years.
Members pay £15 a year to join – and even get a drink of wine (Italian obviously!) at meetings. Members range in age from their mid-thirties upwards.
A range of speakers are chosen to talk at meetings.
“We do try to be adventurous with our speakers,” said Peter.
Speakers are from “all over”, according to Margaret, and are certainly not all from academia.
“This year we have got someone from an Italian coffee company, and we have had speakers talking about ice cream and Italian bread,” Margaret said.
Past events have covered such wide-ranging subjects as architecture, art, literature, wine and food.
Fourth generation Yorkshire Italian businessman Michael Massarella has been supportive of the society and spoken to it on topics such as his family’s origins in the country, the success of his olive harvest and how an earthquake devastated his home.
So how did Peter and Margaret develop a love of Italy themselves?
Peter said: “I was an Alpine climber and used to do a lot of climbing in Italy. I have done a number of talks about it.”
Margaret said: “I like the fact that there is something for everyone in Italy. There are walks, art galleries, the scenery is amazing. I love everything about it.
“I think there is something to appeal in all parts of it.
“Italy is known for style and that percolates into all aspects of life.”
Margaret said that she felt it was important for people to appreciate and understand other countries, whether it be Italy or any other. Indeed, Tickhill also has a popular French society.
“If you do love Europe I think societies like Voglia d’Italia are important,” said Margaret.
She said that various cultural groups exist across the country, particularly in London, which focus on different countries.
Voglia d’Italia is also, ofcourse, a social group for people to get together and have a good time. The annual Christmas party always proves a hit, offering
“Italian style fun and food to celebrate the festive season”.
There is an annual photography competition for members and many opportunities for people to tell the stories of their own experiences, past and present, of Italy.
There is even a pantomime which has a rather distinctive look.
“We have this panto. The characters line up and there will be one English person and Italian speaker for the same part and each will speak the part,” said Peter.
It certainly sounds a fun event!
Voglia d’Italia is a society that is as vibrant and busy as the country its members adore, bringing the sunshine and vitality of the southern European land into our part of the world.
So whether you know Italy via Inspector Montalbano, the beautiful singing voices of Cecilia Bartoli or Luciano Pavarotti, Prosecco wine or the sporting achievements of Inter Milan – or perhaps you’ve even been lucky enough to visit the country – there is a place where you can indulge your passion here in the heart of South Yorkshire.
Voglia d’Italia’s programme of events 2020 –
February 7 – Sicily and Liguria, with Fabio Bezoari.
March 6 – Venice, Florence and Palermo: The Making of Italy, with Dr Cristina Figueredo of the University of York.
April 3 – A Passion for Coffee, with a representative from the Julius Meinl UK company.
May 1 – Music in the Art of Renaissance Italy, with Dr Tim Shephard of the University of Sheffield.
June 5 – Annual General Meeting, followed by a summer pizza party.
All meetings are at Tickhill Pavilion on Tithes Lane, Tickhill, beginning at 7.45pm.
Admission free to members or £3 non-members except December and June meetings when it is £5.
Contact president Peter Ingham on 01709 370895 or membership secretary Brenda Fedorenko on 01302 481597, or visit http://www.vogliaditaliatickhill.wordpress.com.