The Ballo Nazionale has been running for 29 years and is held on and around 2 June to celebrate the founding of the Republic of Italy in 1945. The Wollongong celebration started out as a one-day event but has expanded to a week of festivities - Italian Week, which is now recognised by the Italian government as a major community event. The Ballo is held in the Fraternity Bowling and Recreation Club in a room decorated with balloons in the colours of the Italian flag - green white and red - and posters of Italy.
'I love it. It brings me back to my roots - my mother's land.
When we started the Ballo in 1974, we used to celebrate the Republic and our pride in being Italian. For us it was important because there had been political change in Italy - the old and the new Italy. It was important to have a function where all Italian groups came together. My wife and I go to the Ballo - never missed one.' Turo
'The women's committee used to make crostoli (sweet Italian fried pastry) for all the tables for dessert. They would also greet people at the door and escort them to their tables. The food was superb. The Italian national anthem was played, followed by the Australian national anthem. Madalena Cincotta sang it - she had a beautiful voice.' Lina
'At 7pm there's a sit-down dinner: always a five-course meal with Australian wine - it's the best. It used to be a gala night but now perhaps we can't afford to buy a new suit and tie for each Ballo. We used to wear evening dress, bow ties...' Turo
During Italian Week, in addition to the Ballo Nazionale, a disco called the Ballo Tricolore is held at night for secondary schools where Italian is taught.
The primary school Ballo is held at the Fraternity at lunchtime. There is usually pasta with three sauces (green - pesto, red - tomato, white - cream). This year over 400 children attended, singing Italian songs, dancing Italian dances like the tarantella and playing tombola (bingo) in Italian.
The band plays or ballroom dancers may have been organised, or Italian singers. We want to enjoy ourselves.' Turo