A CIVIC reception at South Shields Town Hall was a real Italian job.
The Mayor and Mayoress of South Tyneside, Coun Ernest Gibson and Patricia Ridley, hosted the reception for a group of Italian students, who were visiting the region as part of a new European programme.
While in the borough, the students, from Amiata, Tuscany, sampled what South Tyneside and the region has to offer.
The students spent time with museum staff at Bede’s World, Jarrow, and gained an insight into the rich history of the North East.
This was followed by a trip to the Lindisfarne Gospels exhibition in Durham, and a walk along the Roman wall.
It is hoped the relationship between South Tyneside and southern Tuscany will blossom into a regular school exchange programme that will benefit both communities.
During the civic reception at South Shields Town Hall, the young Italian visitors enjoyed a guided tour of the building and its fine Edwardian architecture.
The students were also shown items from the council’s archive, plus mementoes visitors have gifted to the borough over the years.
In particular, the mayor showed the Italian guests a miniature statue of South Shields-born John Simpson Kirkpatrick and his trusted donkey, who became heroes of the Gallipoli campaign during the First World War.
Coun Gibson said: “It was our honour and privilege to show the young people around the town hall.
“They were very enthusiastic to learn about the history of South Tyneside and had a series of interesting questions to ask.”
The mayor has a particular interest in Italy, as he spent several happy years in the country in the late 1980s, as part of his training to join the priesthood.
He also visited the Vatican and had the opportunity to meet Pope John Paul II.
Coun Gibson added: “I believe that it’s important to inform people about our proud heritage, as South Tyneside has an impressive assortment of historic chapters that can hold their own in any conversation.
“The mayoress and I provide regular tours of the town hall for schools, colleges and groups who want to learn more about the borough.”