South Charlotte

St. Matthews Catholic Church to host Ciao, Italia!

The Christopher Columbus Italian Club of Charlotte will hold its 15th annual Ciao, Italia! Festival 11 a.m.- 9 p.m. Oct. 15 at St. Matthews Catholic Church and School grounds.

The church is at 8015 Ballantyne Commons Parkway in Charlotte. Admission is $2 for adults and free for children 12 and younger.

Organizers moved the festival from downtown Charlotte for a larger venue and more free parking.

Since 1996, the Christopher Columbus Club of Charlotte has held the festival as a way to share Italy's culture, traditions, arts, wine and cuisine with Charlotte and the surrounding area.

Live entertainment will run all day. Among the performers will be Italian singing sensation Franco Corso from San Remo, Italy; Julliard-trained Gina Gutierrez; Opera Carolina Chorus; international pizza toss champions; Italian dancers and more.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be on hand to perform Italian ancestry searches. Local chefs will demonstrate how to make Italian dishes and you can also experience the art of making mozzarella.

There will be wine tastings, Italian chocolates, and a pizza eating contest for adults and children. Children can enjoy games and activities, including a trackless train ride and pony rides. A variety of Italian food also will on sale.

The Festival coincides with Columbus Day, officially observed Oct. 10, though tradition holds Columbus actually landed in America on Oct. 12, 1492.

Lou Carletto, the festival chairman, was born in Italy and came to the states with his family in 1950, when he was only 2 years old. Though he recalls little about his homeland, he says, the culture and traditions of Italy are worth remembering. He grew up in the Bronx in New York City and was steeped in Italian traditions. He knows many others in the area experienced those traditions as well.

"There's a lot of traditions that people, especially from up North and the Midwest, are familiar with, particularly when they were growing up. We're trying to continue the type of festival that they probably remember from when they were younger," Carletto said.