By Karin J. Martinez, USAG Italy PAO, July 18, 2016
Full Article, https://bit.ly/2DzcDvL
VICENZA, Italy -- Italian/American partnerships are frequent here in a variety of ways: American school children visit Italian schools and vice versa, armies train side by side, Soldiers and families take part in community clean-up projects and much more.
Another way people and organizations are making that inter-country connection has taken place with the cities of Este, located in the province of Padova, and Fredericksburg, Va. Firmly solidifying stronger bonds with Italy and the U.S.A., the cities have established each other officially as "sister cities." Sister cities are a form of legal or social agreement between towns, cities, etc., to promote cultural and commercial ties.
Italian army Sgt. Maj. Massimo Giordano, an Este native who works in G-3 at U.S. Army SETAF on Caserma Ederle, got the idea to approach the Fredericksburg Sister City Association in Spring 2014 about Este. Giordano was working at the Italian Embassy in Washington at the time and had experience with the Sister City Association, as Este has a sister city in five European countries as well as one each in China and Palestine.
"It was a good match," Giordano said. "Este and Fredericksburg are similar in size, they each have their own identity but similar 'personalities,' and they each have a strong history."
Kathryn Willis, president of the Fredericksburg-Este Association, agrees. Willis was recently here to meet the new mayor of Este and Este Association members.
"Fredericksburg and Este are similar in size, are one hour from major cities, have strong economic ties to tourism and hospitality, have a strong sense of place, strong history, have approximately the same population-- the list goes on," she said.
"Once we identified the connection, it came down to people making it happen," Giordano said. In fact, after about two years in the making, the Este group traveled to Fredericksburg in April to sign a proclamation to officially declare the connection.
Sister cities decide their focus together, Willis said, and it is different for each one. This particular program is oriented towards Italian language, lectures and celebrations of Italian holidays. Eventually, Willis said she would like to get American and Italian schools involved with each other in some sort of student exchange.
Response in Fredericksburg, she added, has been "healthy" because many adults in her area are interested in Italian culture. Local colleges have begun hosting a series of free lectures and large celebrations to highlight Italian culture to generate more interest in the program.
Leonardo Renesto, Este-Fredericksburg Association president, said residents of Este are enthusiastic about the connection.
"Este is a small town that believes a lot in international friendship," said Renesto. "'Twinning' is the best way to know each other and learn from each other. [The cities] take the best of each other, and we grow together in culture.
"We are lucky to have this partnership. It is a good way, the best way, to know the U.S.A. It's important for our children to experience such things so they can get a better view of the world." Willis agreed, saying that international travel literacy is extremely important.
"When we learn how to travel early on, and we are comfortable with traveling internationally, it opens the world for us," she said. "This kind of partnership can only improve our relationships with the world."
Sister Cities International was formed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956. According to the organization website, Eisenhower envisioned "a network that would be a champion for peace and prosperity by fostering bonds between people from different communities around the world."
Eisenhower reasoned that people from a variety of cultures could build partnership and celebrate their differences, thus lessening the chance of new conflicts.
Giordano seems to feel the same. "I love Este and Fredericksburg," he said. "I want us all to grow up together. "This is an opportunity to share culture, tourism and friendship. This is a way to contribute to our communities."
For now, the associations in both cities are finding ways to spread the word and get their communities excited about the possibilities. The association members are hopeful they will be able to take the new mayor of Este to Fredericksburg in the fall to meet with the mayor there and embassy leaders.
Este is Frederickburg's third sister city. Other ties are established with Frejus, France in 1985, and Schwetzingen, Germany in 2010. There is also a committee working to create a Fredericksburgh-Kathmandu (Nepal) program.