An Italian food cooking competition followed by music performances highlighted a festival organised to commemorate the national day of Italy in Multan.
A formal announcement of Multan and Rome being declared as sister cities was also made during the two-day event that concluded on Monday.
Italian government donated $10 million for the preservation of cultural and historical sites in the city.
Federico Bianchi, head of the economic and commercial office of the Italian embassy, said she had especially come from Islamabad to attend the festival. Bianchi, who is also a cultural attaché at the embassy, said that like Rome Multan was also an ancient city and was famous for its shrines.
Twenty five women competed in the cooking competition. Samreen Yousuf won the first prize for her panna cotta, an Italian sweet dish. Bianchi headed the board of judges.
Another contestant, Aasma Waseem, said it was the first time she had cooked Italian food. She said now that Multan and Rome were sister cities she would learn to cook more Italian dishes. She said such competitions should be held more regularly.
Another visitor at the festival, Mrs Muhammad Ali Rizvi, said she liked how friendly Italian people were at the festival. She said before coming to the festival she had thought that foreigners were very hostile and that they did not like Pakistanis very much, but she was returning with different opinions. She said she had learnt several things about Italian culture and cuisine.
The festival was organised by the Italian Embassy, Italian Pakistan Business Association and the Express Media Group. Ahsan Rasheed, the Italian Pakistan Business Association president, said the Italian government was very keen on developing strong ties with the people of Pakistan. He said it had taken a special interest in setting up the IPBA in this regard. He said more events like the festival would be held in future to ensure regular contact between Italians and Pakistanis.
He said he particularly likened the music performances because people from far-off areas of southern Punjab come forward and showed how talented they were. He said the festival would send a very positive signal at the international level.
Dr Javed Siddiqui, president of a beautification committee of Multan, said more such events would be held in future to promote ties between the people of Rome and Multan so that they could learn about one another’s cultures.
The national anthems of Pakistan and Italy were played at the end of the festival.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 9th, 2011.