Italian royalty meets Ramona royalty
By Karen Brainard
An Italian prince spent a day in Ramona last week with the town’s royalty, learning the western-style of living, earning a belt buckle, and expressing a desire to come back for the rodeo.
“It has been an incredible day for me, something totally new,” Emanuele Filiberto di Savoia, Prince of Piedmonte and Venice, told a group of Ramonans at the end of a long day of filming Jan. 22.
Filiberto was participating in a documentary with 2014 Ramona Rodeo Queen Brittney Phillips, a 20-year-old from Ramona whose previous reigns were Junior Miss Rodeo Ramona 2010, Miss Rodeo Poway 2011 and 2012, and Junior Miss Rodeo Lakeside 2013.
Details about the film project could not be released at this time, said the production crew. Working with the crew were Ramona Rodeo Chairperson Joani Georgeson and her daughter, JoLinda, who serves as Rodeo Pageant director.
The 41-year-old grandson of Umberto II, the last king of Italy whose short reign ended in 1946, came from Los Angeles with a film crew Wednesday morning, stopping at the Ramona monument sign, trying on western wear in The Livery, sampling yogurt at Yogurt Barn, and learning rodeo events from Phillips and Ramonan Markie Battaglia, Miss Rodeo California 2010.
“He was so sweet and down to earth. Spending the day with him was a lot of fun,” said Phillips.
Filiberto, who lives in Rome, is married to French actress Clotilde Courou and has two young daughters. According to his biography, he won “Dancing with the Stars” in Italy in 2009 and has since made other television appearances.
Filiberto told the Sentinel he is familiar with New York and Los Angeles but there is a lot of land to experience between the two cities.
Rodeo and the western-style of living is an American tradition, he noted.
“Ramona was really a wonderful moment,” he said. “It was a great discovery for me, a new world, beautiful land with wonderful people.”
When Filiberto drove into Ramona in his Maserati and met Phillips, she said they compared their worlds and their horsepower. Their two personalities clicked, she added.
She and Battaglia taught him team roping at the Battaglia family’s Mountain Valley Ranch. Phillips instructed him on barrel racing by first using a stick horse. By the afternoon, he was racing around the barrels on Battaglia’s American Quarter Horse, Smoke, and onlookers commented on how well he rode.
“Brittney, I really love this. I could do it all day,” Filiberto told the rodeo queen after barrel racing as cameras rolled.
“You’re a natural,” she responded.
Later, referring to all the riding, he deadpanned, “I won’t be able to sit for 10 days.”
Phillips explained rodeo events and her role as rodeo queen to him, and said he wanted to know how to take care of the animals, which included mucking stalls. Phillips said he agreed to every activity they proposed and gave 120 percent.
“He was so ready to grab the bull by the horns, so to speak,” she said.
While at The Livery, Filiberto was fitted with a western denim shirt, jeans, cowboy boots, white cowboy hat and a belt.
Pointing to his attire, he enthusiastically said, “I am a cowboy.”
As he eyed the belt buckles in The Livery, Filiberto was told he needed to earn one.
Earning a buckle represents hard work and achievement, explained Phillips.
Filiberto’s hard work during the day paid off. That evening, during a barbecue at Mountain Valley Ranch, Phillips presented him with a cowboy buckle.
“You did earn your buckle,” she told him as he proudly attached the silver oval buckle with the Ramona Outdoor Community Center logo and the word “Champion” to his belt.
At the barbecue Ramonan Steve Tellam treated Filiberto to fried Rocky Mountain oysters, revealing afterward their main ingredient.
Filiberto told the assembled group, “You make me feel at home. You make me part of your family.”
“You also made me taste bull testicles,” he added to everyone’s amusement. “Something new for me.”
The group was delighted to hear he may attend the 34th Annual Ramona Rodeo May 16, 17 and 18.
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