The sun shone down on Piazza Italia (Argyle Square) and Lygon Street as many Italo-Australians and members of the wider community united for a celebration of all things Italian.
The 12-hour festivities saw Lygon Street closed to traffic as people, young and old, participated in all the activities on offer.
“It’s just like old times when we came to the festival and everyone in the suburb was involved,” was one of the most common comments made by participants.
Piazza Italia came alive with stands offering the best food from different Italian regions, cooking demonstrations and children’s activities, including a soccer field organised in collaboration with Western United FC.
On the Lygon Street side of the piazza, visitors could find the stands of institutions such as CO.AS.IT., the Italian Cultural Institute (IIC) and Rete Italia, where many listeners stopped in to chat with Tony Tardio and Daniele Magarelli, who ran a radio marathon from the morning until late afternoon.
Many stopped to admire the display of classic Italian cars, including the 40 vehicles that participated in this year’s Targa Florio Australian Tribute, which ended on Sunday with the announcement of the winners: Angelo Pizzuto and Caterina Vagliani.
This year’s festival also featured an excellent line-up of artists and performers, who each took their turn on the stage.
The day began with a performance by the Veneto Club Melbourne Choir, followed by singer Stephanie Angelini, who sang some Italian classics along with several of her own unreleased tracks.
“It was a dream come true for me to get up on that stage,” Angelini said.
“I had so much fun and I hope the crowd did, too.”
Festivalgoers enjoyed the performance by Italian tenor Giuseppe Cacciapaglia, who moved the crowd with some of the most famous operatic arias and his rendition of the Italian anthem.
Then there were the official speeches of the event organisers and guests of honour, starting with the president of the festival, Tony De Domenico, who thanked the committee, sponsors and volunteers who’d dedicated their time to the initiative.
“Today we’re here thanks to the commitment of the community, and a big thanks to the Victorian government,” he said.
Guests of honours included The Hon. Richard Wynne, Minister for Multicultural Affairs, and The Hon. Lily D’Ambrosio, Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change.
“It’s an honour to be here with you today, for what was once the Carlton Italian Festa,” Wynne said.
“The decision to change the name from Carlton to Melbourne was made to honour the contribution of Italians not only in this suburb, but in the whole city and the state of Victoria.”
“I remember in the ‘80s when I participated in this festival and, even though it’s changed over the years, the values celebrated are still important to the Italian community and precious to all of us,” D’Ambrosio added.
“I want to emphasise how important it is to carry on these traditions.”
Mayor of Melbourne, Sally Capp, then spoke:
“It’s a great honour for me to take part in this celebration.
“The City of Melbourne recognises the importance of the Italian community and supports this festival which brings together a multitude of people in the suburb of Carlton, but above all, it’s a celebration of the contribution of Italians in Australia and how much this culture has integrated into today’s society.
“A thank-you to all the Italians who have generously shared their culture and traditions, all of whom play a fundamental role today.”
The microphone was then passed to the Consul General of Italy to Melbourne, Pierluigi Trombetta, who spoke of how Melbourne is one of the biggest “Italian” cities in the world, home to half a million people with Italian origins.
“Today’s festival celebrates all things Italian,” he said.
“Have fun everybody!”
The official part of the festival concluded with a speech by president of the Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI), Luca Scribani Rossi, who thanked all the sponsors and institutions which supported the important event.
The stage was then graced by the likes of Italian singer Lusya, DJ Mark Pellegrini, Angelo Magliocco, Siesta Cartel, Giuseppe the MC, Lorenzo Iannotto and the highly anticipated headline act, Sooshi Mango.
It’s safe to say the day was a great success, full of food, entertainment and frivolity.