Ardmore was an international destination this week as the Arbuckle Sunrise Rotary Club welcomed a group from Italy. Team leader Claudio Pezzi, along with Ester di Napoli, Jacopo Tilli, Vincenzo Zarone and Andrea Govoni have toured Oklahoma over the past several weeks. Wednesday afternoon, the group spoke at the Ardmore Rotary Club meeting. Each member of the exchange group talked about their background and discussed some of the things they have been studying during their time in Oklahoma.

Pezzi said he has visited the United States before, but it was his first time in Oklahoma. He said there were similarities between Oklahomans and Italians.

"The most pleasant thing is the warm hospitality, the people are warm and similar to the Italian people," he said.

One of the focuses for the group was studying Oklahoma's education system, which includes higher education and career education.

"We are trying to understand the educational system, which is very different from ours," di Napoli said.

The group also toured the Noble Foundation Wednesday morning, which left a positive impression.

"We were impressed," Pezzi said. "It was huge and advanced. It is the type of research we don't have because there are no tax exemptions for foundations in Italy."

Pezzi also noted the number of churches in Ardmore and the cultural role religion plays within the community. Other highlights during the visit were a visit to a gun show in Chickasha and an introduction to the Native American culture and its contribution to the state.

"We were interested in the issues that relate to the Native Americans and their culture," he said. "Frankly we have learned a lot. We have visited different places and talked to different people."

During the presentation, each member of the group talked about the cities they were from and the rich history of those places, dating back hundreds of years. Pezzi also discussed his Rotary chapter, titled RC Bologna Ovest. The club is very active with 95 members. Among its activities is a project in Tanzania, Africa and a sponsored school in Brazil. Pezzi also served as a district coordinator for rescue in the wake of a severe earthquake in Italy during 2012.

The team will remain in Ardmore until Saturday, when it is scheduled to fly back to Italy. The focus today will be on the oil and gas industry — complete with a geology tour. The day will start with breakfast with the Arbuckle Sunrise Rotary Club. Patti Green serves as president of the club.

Michael Pineda