Alton Town Twinning Association (ATTA) has just celebrated the silver anniversary of the start of the twinning relationship between Alton and Montecchio Maggiore in the Veneto region of northern Italy.  

Twenty-five years on from their first meeting in October 1998, representatives of the two towns came together again in Alton – the first time a twinning visit had been made since the pandemic put a block on international travel in March 2020.

ATTA was pleased to welcome the small delegation from Montecchio who arrived in Hampshire on Thursday, October 12.

For the first two days of their visit the Italian guests met up privately with friends, old and new.

They also made a visit to Alton Library where they could see the Bisazza mosaic that they had given to the town in 2004.

Also on show was a display about Montecchio that had been set up by ATTA.

This time the gift from the Italians was a book about Montecchio which they donated to the library.

On the morning of Saturday, October 14, Alton town mayor Cllr Ben Hamlin officially received the guests, accompanied by ATTA members, at Alton Town Hall.

Cllr Hamlin gave a speech of welcome and the gift of a hand-written, framed quotation on hand-made paper, with calligraphy by Patric Hinde, from Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility: “It isn’t what we think or say that defines us, but what we do.”

The gift was presented by ‘Jane Austen’ – better known as Pat Lerew dressed in Regency costume.

This was followed by a speech from Montecchio mayor Gianfranco Trapula, who presented Cllr Hamlin with a lovely painting of the town hall in Montecchio and a book about the town in bygone days.

Afterwards the group proceeded to Jubilee Fields for the ceremonial planting of the ‘Silver Anniversary Tree’ by both mayors.

The tree, a Himalayan birch B.jacquemontii, is similar to a silver birch and was purchased by the twinning association, which is self-funded by its members. It was felt that the site of Jubilee Fields for the Silver Jubilee was very appropriate.

On the Saturday evening a dinner was held at the Rose and Crown in Farringdon for the ATTA members and their Italian friends.

ATTA welcomed everyone with a glass of prosecco or a non-alcoholic aperitif before they all sat down to an excellent three-course meal.

After dinner it was time for more presents: a book about bygone Montecchio for ATTA and silver-framed photographs of the wildlife of Kings Pond – with photos by John Williams – for the Italians, together with Pam Jones’ 2024 calendar of paintings of Alton, including the mill and Kings Pond. The evening finished with a rendition of Italian and English songs.

The Rose and Crown is believed to have been built in 1810 by Edward Knight, the brother of Jane Austen, and Kings Pond by William King, the owner of the paper mill in Alton, at the end of the 18th century, so the whole day was connected in one way or another.

ATTA is looking forward to its next visit to Montecchio Maggiore in the not-too-distant future.