WHILE Poprad might normally resemble the Alpine countryside with its setting at the foot of the High Tatras, it was more reminiscent of Italy on June 18-22 when the Viva Italia festival of Italian culture, gastronomy and tourism brought the Mediterranean country’s flair to landlocked Slovakia.

“Each year we try to offer an original programme to visitors,” Fabio Bortolini of the organising Pre Mesto (For the City) civic association said. He added that unlike last year, when the focus was on culture, this year, the festival was more about having fun.

Enogastronomy, a mini-course in pizza baking by the Scuola Italiana Pizzaioli, a café competition, a photo exhibition of Daniele Pellegrini’s work called The World Through the Eyes of an Italian, a 1980’s Italian-style disco and several concerts were all part of Viva Italia.

Why Italy? And why Poprad? It is no coincidence, Bortolini told the SITA newswire, as Poprad is home to the biggest community of Italian companies and expats in Slovakia.

“We lacked an activity that could integrate Italy and Slovakia,” he said. “This event is of interest also to tourists, who appreciated it, and it is also a good marketing step for the city of Poprad and the whole region,” Bortolini concluded.

In Poprad’s St Egidius Square, exhibitors from the regions of Tuscany, Veneto, Friuli, Campania and Marche lured visitors with their specialties.

Concerts included operatic works sung by the Babjak brothers, together with tenor Ondrej Šaling, mezzo-soprano Terézia Kružliaková and pianist Daniel Buranovský, and Italian guitarist Ruggero Robin, who joined forces with Slovak rock singer Peter Cmorík, and the premiere of an Italian-Slovak group called Salix Nel Granaio.

Legendary band Ricchi e Poveri made everybody in Aquacity dance at their Friday night show, Petra Vargová of the organisers told The Slovak Spectator. The trio seems to have avoided the pitfall of aging, and their performance confirmed their legendary status. The unique Prosecco Party, with a 1980s disco and a performance by folklore troupe Šumiac, rounded out the musical offers.

In the Tatra Gallery the Batistart 03 street-art live show presented the modern face of visual art.
The only two projects still running in Poprad are the photo exhibition in the local Tatra Gallery, until August 31, and the Espresso Italiano Poprad Award competition, in which coffee aficionados can cast their vote for their favourite café until September.

Thursday’ visit of President Andrej Kiska, who comes from Poprad, was the icing on the cake, Vargová opined.

“We are already preparing the fourth year,” Vargová summed up, “and looking forward to it, as almost all the exhibitors confirmed their participation for 2015, and even said they would bring more of their colle- agues.”