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The Long Bridge Association of Lucca-Massawa

It is not often to see groups of young Europeans travelling across Eritrea. We commonly see adults but not a whole group of youngsters. Thanks to a project of cultural exchange called Associazione Lucca-Massawa Un Lungo Ponte nine young students, mostly graduates, came to Eritrea for a 10-days long trip. The project translates beautifully into English as The Long Bridge Association of Lucca-Massawa, a childhood dream of Marcello Marchi came true!
I talked to them, last week, just before they packed to go back to Italy. The group of Italian tourists was composed of two mini groups. The first comprised 7 grown-up men and women while the second sub group most interestingly consisted of youngsters!!! Here follow impressions of the young students. My talk with the rest of the group will follow on the next issue.


  • MARCELLO MARCHI, Independent Geometer, President of Associazione Lucca-Massawa Un Lungo Ponte

I think of myself an Asmarino. I lived here from 1950 up to 1963 followed by an absence of 40 years. When occasion presented itself I returned in 2005. Since then, I have been coming regularly, first once and then twice a year. Life is full of dreams that one way or another we strive to realize. The project Lucca-Massawa Un Lungo Ponte is therefore my dream, which got concretized, thanks to the assistance of friends and interested person. The project aims to create friendly links between Italian and Eritrean schools. It is an imperative project because today people know about Eritrea’s real image. When these young students go back to Italy they will spread the word like stains of oil.


I have had the privilege of accompanying these young and brilliant students to Eritrea. They have been selected to take part in the project not only for their scholastic merits but also after a scrutiny to see whether they’d have interest in Eritrea or not. They have matched and exceeded our expectations, as they showed excessive attentiveness and passion in the 10 days we stayed in Eritrea. Last but not least as you understand from the students’ own words, it is the cultural aspects that impressed them most. They gained new perspective for their future educational and professional venture. Upon our return to school we will take on educational projects in experimenting things we learned about Eritrean agronomy.
I have been part of many scholastic projects in several parts of Europe and also Brazil. At first I was not sure, at least for the students. We conducted many meetings before deciding to accept the offer. We were not sure in terms of safety. But, if I may, my experience in Eritrea has been great! We have been out and about and felt safe and welcomed every step of our journey. And as we need to go back and keep on with our studies, being in Eritrea and learning about the country’s method for sustainable agriculture in a place mostly arid where there is small amount of water will be instrumental for our educational endeavor.


In the last month I got interested in a project concerning salt water distillation though solar energy. Mr. Pietro Marri and Mr. Fabio Malfatti are members of the concerned group and, so, here we are! My mother is Eritrean, so the opportunity to actually be involved in projects regarding Eritrea and work here makes the experience even more pleasant.
This visit has been important for me to trace back my previous childhood fragmented memories of Eritrea. I have to say that not only was it an experience which enabled me to gain professional tips but it also was very entertaining. I had fun discovering marvelous touristic sites. Living here gave us an insight into how deceitful the information we digest back in Europe is. A simple example is the incident of Tuesday 31st when the demonstration of a Muslim school took place in the center of Asmara. As far as we experienced it was a few minute’s demonstration dispersed by the police forces who put back everything to normal in a short amount of time. We got back to the hotel to watch that major European TV stations broadcast untruthful information. I am a witness. What impressed me the most in fact was the tranquility and the normality that dominated Asmara in the evening of the same day the demonstration happened. So I recommend that people come to Eritrea and experience the reality which is enormously different from what we hear in Europe. Just like I did.

  • GIULIO ACUNZO, senior student of the Istituto Tecnico Agrario BUSDRAGHI (I.TA. BUSDRAGHI)

I discovered Eritrea recently thanks to the efforts of our professors. It has certainly been an unforgettable experience that I hope will nurture more solidarity between schools of both countries. We arrived in Eritrea on the 26th of October and had the honor of visiting Keren, Asmara, Dogali and Massawa. What impressed me the most is the diversity of cultures within the Eritrean people and, also, the respect they have for their differences. They even respected us. That was admirable because you don’t get it just anywhere. And the villages and views are stunning.


I have known about Eritrea since a long time ago from my parents. But I took action to get firsthand knowledge only recently by joining the project Lucca-Massawa Un Lungo Ponte. It is my dear wish to move the project forward. I was touched by the respect we got from Eritrean people. They are friendly and curious about our own culture even. Most people come with pure desire to know who we are and where we’re from to eventually learn about us. For me the trip was mainly and definitely a chance for cultural exchange. I think we have a lot to learn from Eritrea and Eritreans.


I came to know about Eritrea not long ago, always thanks to the project. I was so happy and eager to travel to Eritrea because I thought the experience could be interesting and unforgettable. Now, 10 days after staying in Eritrea, I can assure you it certainly was beyond my expectations. In the future I hope the collaboration grows for more young Italian students to know about Eritrea.
The buildings in Asmara make Italians feel at home. Some buildings are very similar to what we see in old pictures. This peculiar aspect made my trip memorable. Like the buildings, the streets and the people make you feel so safe and at home. I have to mention that all the information we get in Europe is exaggerated. I did my research before coming here and I knew I had to be cautious. But, I tell you, I have been around with no sense of danger at all.

  • TIZIANA BINI, senior student I.TA. BUSDRAGHI

I did my research and learned about this country, last summer after being contacted by the vice president. I was happy to participate and get to know the Eritrean culture. My expectations have all been matched.
The thing that I will treasure the most is Eritrean children. Compared to what Italian children and European children have, what Eritrean children have is very little. However they are happy, healthy and they own the biggest and brightest smiles ever. It is like I go around, talk to some children, and when I return to my hotel I am as happy as they were. It shows that this is part of the culture. Learning to be happy with what you have. It is a tradition that is sinking in Europe. A hug, a kiss and a shake of hand means so much to Eritrean children. They return the love in ways I will never forget. I appreciate them so much.


I was involved in the project through Prof. Franco Grossi and Marcello Marchi, a family friend. I accepted the offer to join the project as I realized it could have been an experience through which I can grow and acquire knowledge. We visited many places and I think the country is rich in the touristic sense. I was mesmerized by the sites I visited.


I had the pleasure to know and be part of the Eritrean culture through the project. For me the past 10 days have been highly instrumental because I had a chance to compare the similarities and differences between the Italian and Eritrean cultures. Eritrea is a new world, and in terms of agronomy, I certainly learned a lot.
I was scared to come here at first, but I felt so safe afterwards. The thing that impressed me the most is the gratefulness Eritrean children have about life. That is something you don’t see in Europe. They are grateful for the little they have when compared to the European children.


Getting to know Eritrea through this project has, as you can see, opened the eyes of all the students who participated. I am extremely happy to be here and I hope to comeback soon. Eritrea is full of societal and touristic values that I feel people need to see and experience. I recommend that people come and see for themselves. All we read, hear and watch on the European media is far different from the reality. And the children… what a joy!

  • ROCCO SOLARI, senior student I.TA. BUSDRAGHI

I saw with my own eyes the Eritrean people and its culture. I learned a lot and I’ve also enjoyed my stay. I am glad I came because Eritrea is much different from what is told and written in social networks. I am happy I came here, and I will surely consider returning several times. What made me smile the most is the students we met in several schools and how we share our experiences.

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