By the end of a multicourse meal, featuring piemontesi specialties, I had enough memories to last a lifetime.
The morning started out with a long ride from Torino to Frossasco. I had to arrive at the Museum of Immigration before 9 a.m. In the car with my cousins and Richard, I edited and rehearsed my speech of acceptance: I would be the main “Piemontesi Protagonisti” (of two) of 2009. Each year, the Museo d’Emigrazione (Museum of Immigration) chooses two piemontesi leaders outside of Italy who have given back in culture, literature, and/or patriotism.
I was chosen for writing a book, Alive on the Andrea Doria. It documents my immigration, vindicates the captain and his crew, and restores honor to the glorious Italian maritime industry. Both the English and Italian versions are now displayed in the museum of Frossasco (45 klm from Torino). The other awardee was Bruno Villarta of Québec, author of books written in our piemontese dialect.
When we arrived, I was approached by the president of the Museum, Michele Colombino. The diminutive, elderly gentleman of about 80, whose gate reflected that of a 16-year-old, expressed a warm welcome. Then he proceeded to introduce me to other honored guests: local and regional government officials, members of the Museum, the regional director of La Rai television station, and the president of Italian journalists. I could have never imagined being honored by such dignitaries!
Mr. Colombino then pulled me aside to honor the band as it performed traditional songs of our region. My favorite was “Piemontesina Bella” (Pretty Piemontese Lady), which my mother sings at the end of all our phone conversations. As I stood before 20 musicians, I felt like royalty.
Then, my friends and family, along with the dignitaries proceeded to the large conference room. After several speeches and congratulatory remarks from the dignitaries, it was my turn to speak. I explained why I wrote my book, and then thanked the Museum for the award. At the end of the ceremony, the director of the regional television station asked me for an interview. I later watched it with my friends in my town of Pranzalito; I was amazed to have received three to four minutes of coverage. My Italian seemed decent as I explained my personal experience of surviving the shipwreck.
The crowd then walked across the street to the beautiful “Museo del Gusto” (Museum of Tasting). There were famous regional wines and other culinary delights on display and for sale. Some of them were served to us in the dining hall.
I will never forget the flavors and aromas enjoyed by everyone, especially Richard, my town folk, and family in attendance.