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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 September 2006, 09:21 GMT 10:21 UK
Benvenuti to the Scots Parliament
Giancarlo Rinaldi
BBC Scotland news website
South of Scotland reporter

Nothing in Italy has ever been known to start on time.

So it was hardly a surprise that the delegation from Earlston's twin town of Cappella Maggiore arrived a little late for their Holyrood tour.

As soon as they came through the door, however, the whole atmosphere of its quiet halls was transformed.

There was as much gesticulation and animation as the most heated debate ever seen in the short history of Scotland's parliament.

Italian group
The Italians take a stop in the chambers at Holyrood
Cappella Maggiore from near Treviso in northern Italy has been officially twinned with the Scottish Borders town for three years.

In that time the bonds have grown from the purely formal to a real sense of friendship.

Deputy mayor Giorgio Da Ros said: "This is the third time we have been across, although it is the first time for me.

"We thought it was a good idea for the future of our children - they can learn English which is a worldwide language.

"We want to give our children the chance to feel European."

On the Borders front, Earlston Community Council chairman Harry Cummings, said the benefits were great.

"It is great for people to see how the Italians live - the European way of life," he said.

Harry Cummings
It is great for people to see how the Italians live - the European way of life
Harry Cummings
Earlston Community Council

"We get to see how they live, we stay with host families.

"And we actually get a lot of Italian tourists now."

About 30 Cappella Maggiore locals toured the parliament with south of Scotland SNP MSP Christine Grahame.

The building itself seemed to meet with the approval of the Italian sense of style.

However, the biggest cheer of the day was reserved for the announcement that it was time for lunch.

It was after the formal tour that, in more relaxed surroundings, Grant Murray from Earlston and Franco Garbelotto - both in their early 20s - explained what young people get out of the twinning link.

Italians in committee
Italian visitors sample the atmosphere of a committee room
"It is brilliant," said Grant. "You get to know people from different backgrounds and areas.

"I think we all have got a really good friendship."

There is a major difference, he admitted, when it comes to food.

"The time for eating is totally different," he said.

"We are used to eating at five while over there it is eight or nine o'clock at night.

"And everything is more traditional - we wouldn't tend to eat our traditional food all that often."

"We have got a great friendship," echoed Franco.

"I think the goal of twinning is that people come to visit with twinning and then build that up into friendship.

Italians at lunch
The Cappella Maggiore delegation took lunch at Holyrood

"There have started to be unofficial links - it is always difficult when it is official and everything is scheduled.

"After everything official is over - then come the good times!"

That is something Grant agreed with wholeheartedly.

"There are a lot of differences - but the drinking culture is pretty much the same," he joked.

As if to prove it, it was then time for everyone to raise a glass in toast to the Scottish-Italian link.

"Cheers", "Slainte" or "Salute" - the meaning is the same the world over.

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