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The Beginning

In 2015, Fredericksburg and Este, Italy became sister cities, after an inaugural delegation from Fredericksburg visited Este in November 2014, and the mayors of both cities exchanged letters of intent. The two cities have much in common, including proximity to major international cities (Este is 60 miles west of Venice) and location on major transportation corridors; rich history and heritage; active high quality arts and cultural life; nearby wineries and agricultural production; and numerous tourism and travel programs.

In June 2015, a delegation from Este visited Fredericksburg to explore cultural, artistic, educational, and economic possibilities for exchanges and mutual support. The Fredericksburg-Este Association is a membership-based non-profit organization; and offers regular meetings, numerous programs, and welcomes participation. 

The Timeline


Fredericksburg was invited by representatives of Este, Italy, to explore creating a sister city relationship with Este, a town in northeast Italy about an hour west of Venice. As Este and Fredericksburg have much in common, several members of the Fredericksburg Sister City Association (aligned with Fréjus, France), formed an exploratory committee to create a similar association with Este.

SPRING 2014:

The committee worked with Massimo Giordano, an Este native and military attaché to the Italian Embassy in Washington, DC, to plan for an exploratory visit to Este.

Fredericksburg Virginia


A delegation of five Fredericksburg folks spent a week in Este, meeting with business and civic leaders, sister city groups, local government officials, and arts and cultural organizations. Mutual interests offered promise of further beneficial exchange.

(Photo left)

In November 2014, a small delegation from Fredericksburg gave flags to Este and to Giancarlo Piva, Este’s Mayor.


The committee continued to work toward founding a non-profit organization. Interest sessions were held at private homes and at local restaurants, and more people expressed support. The committee began work on bylaws and articles of incorporation; nominated a slate of officers and board members; established the official founding date as March 15, 2015, and set March 18, 2015, as the date of the first membership meeting for the Fredericksburg-Este Association.

Our First Year

MARCH 18, 2015

Our first membership meeting saw 55 in attendance, and Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw spoke in support of the new sister city association, along with Bill Beck, former Mayor and current president of the Fredericksburg Sister City Association (Fréjus, France). Massimo Giordano, an Italian military attaché to the Embassy in Washington, explained how he and Donald Culp, a former Army officer and current military contractor, identified Fredericksburg as Este’s chosen sister city partner. With much in common, including rich history, location near major international cities, interest in arts and culture, and successful sister city associations, the two cities seemed ideal international partners. After a PowerPoint that highlighted the November 2015 delegation trip, a slate of board members was presented and elected, and the members expressed their ideas about the new organization’s programs and offerings.


On Italian Republic Day, several members of our organization were invited to the Italian Embassy in Washington, DC, as guests of Massimo Giordano. Italian fashion, automobiles, music antipasti, cheeses, sweets, and of course, wine, created a festive celebration of all things Italian.

JUNE 15-JUNE 22.
Este friends experienced Chatham with John Hennessey.
Nine Este visitors toured Fredericksburg, made friends with many in our association, and spent a day touring Washington, DC. That evening they were treated to a dinner and tour boat ride on the Potomac. They met with civic, cultural and business groups to discuss cooperative possibilities. They enjoyed a progressive dinner that began with a reception at the James Monroe Museum. This was followed by a dinner at Mercantile, prepared by owner and Top Chef Celebrity Joy Crump, and concluded with dessert at Whittingham’s Kitchen. The evening was co-hosted by the Fredericksburg Main Street Organization. Lots of dinners and fun with members at their homes, and visits to historic sites such as Belmont, Mary Washington House, and Chatham Manor, gave our Italian friends a taste of hospitality and a sense of our historic town.

Italian guests were:
Valeria Bello, hospitality industry
Giuseppe Magagna, antique dealer and marketer
Alessio Polinari, hospitality andtourism industry
Maria Ramazzotto, representative of Este businesses, expertise in water quality/recycling issues
Renato Ramazzotto and Lorena Benetazzo, business and
agricultural/farming interests; civic leadership
Leonardo Renesto, chief of the delegation and Este businessman of agricultural products


Our board held a retreat to consider programs, events, fundraising and goals. The session was informed by the feedback from the membership from focus groups and from member requests. Some of the guidelines that emerged were:

  • Arts and culture should play a major role in our exchange programs and planning.

  • Arts, culture, and young adult exchanges hold the highest potential for early organizational success.

  • Cooperation with the Fredericksburg Arts Commission and the Rappahannock Rotary Club should be integral in planning.

  • Financial assets and obligations, volunteer capacity, and member interests should be carefully considered in long-range planning.

  • Fundraising goals and program offerings should be closely aligned.

  • General membership meetings should be held three times yearly: fall, winter, and in March, the Annual Meeting.

  • The organization should endeavor to offer an activity at least bi-monthly.

  • Guidelines governing adult visits and youth exchanges should be established to follow a pattern of anticipated visits, numbers, duration, eligibility, and the like.

  • Organizational documents should reflect these principles in bylaws and articles of incorporation. These documents should also comply with tax guidelines governing non-profits.

  • The organization benefits from communication and coordination with fellow sister city organizations and with the City of Fredericksburg.

  • The organization should communicate regularly with our Este counterpart.

SEPTEMBER 17-20 Este Proclamation Signing and Visit
Association members traveled to Este for a brief but full visit, the highlight of which was the Proclamation signing ceremony, held in Este’s Renaissance city hall on September 19.
The signing was followed by a luncheon hosted at Collegio

Manfredini by its culinary students. In attendance were Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw; board members Kathryn Willis and Cathy Herndon; and Association members Bill and Susan Beck, Mandy Carr, Sara Fartro, Nathalie Bullock, Orazio Muzzolini, and Beverley Newton.

Dr. Marjorie Och, UMW Professor of Italian Renaissance Art, presented a lecture on Titian at St. George’s Church, Faulkner Hall. Attended by 57, the talk was free and open to the public, and brought many new faces to the Association.

Barboursville Vineyards A crisp fall day was perfect for a wine trip to Barboursville Vineyards, where Luca Paschina, the resident winemaker, annotated our wine tasting selections.
A casual lunch on picnic tables overlooking the rolling hills and vineyards rounded out an excellent day for our group of 22 travelers.

Michelangelo was the focus of Dr. Och’s second Renaissance art lecture, again held at St. George’s Faulkner Hall. The free event was open to the public. Again, members and newcomers alike gathered to explore mutual interest in all things Italian.

La Befana celebration dinner at La Rosetta Ristorante brought 25 Italian fans to the table, to enjoy wines and an Italian buffet, and to hear Dr. Ashley Anglin, Italian professor at Germanna Community College, talk about this Eve of Epiphany tradition. On January 5 La Befana, the old woman with a broom, comes down chimneys, awards candy to the good children, or coal or a stick to the bad ones. Then, she “sweeps away” the past year’s problems by sweeping the floor. Children leave a glass of wine and a few morsels of food for the good, kind visitor.
Mardi Gras celebration, sponsored by the Fréjus sister city group, also saw Este members attending dressed in costumes, echoing Venice’s famous Carnivale. A fun evening where all sister city groups mingled and shared their international interests. The Este display table promoted memberships and information about upcoming offerings

Dr. Rusty Neal presented a lecture on Dante’s Divine Comedy, and spoke to an audience of 60, again at St. George’s Faulkner Hall. These free, open-to-the-public lectures begin with light refreshment and conversation, and establish our Association as a rich source for cultural programming.

The Fredericksburg-Este Association realized several notable achievements, in addition to activities and events.

The Rappahannock Rotary Club welcomed Este friends in June 2015.
Affiliation was established with the Rappahannock Rotary Club, which donated $1000 to help with start up funds. In addition, a Rotary Club member is a representative on the Board. The Este Rotary Club is now partnered with the Rappahannock Club, and the Este Club has twice hosted a visiting Rotarian at its meeting. Finally, the two Rotary groups are discussing Rotary student exchanges and other projects.


Italian flags and flagpoles were purchased by the Association and given to the City of Fredericksburg so that the Italian flags may be flown downtown during special times when Italian-related festivities are happening, or when Italian visitors are here in Fredericksburg

Exploratory conversations have begun between the National Gallery of Art and Este’s Museo Nazionale Atestino, to look into a potential Washington, D.C., exhibit of Etruscan art. Dr. Eric Denker, Senior Lecturer at the Gallery, has visited Este twice to investigate its extensive pre-Roman art and archaeological treasurers.

Also of note is the hosting of three young women from Este, who visited Fredericksburg in July as guests of members who had been hosted in Este in November 2014. Although the visit was not officially an Association-sponsored event, Laura Isato, Lucia Cavallari, and Bianca Garbin, our young guests, saw much of the region and enjoyed a full and varied program. Tours of DC, lunch at the Italian embassy, swim and water playtime, and lots of visiting around Fredericksburg filled their week.

Fredericksburg Este Sister City Organization
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