Sister Cities in Our Own Backyards

Sister Cities, San Francisco, Assisi, Italian culture, Italian heritage, Italian american, Italian news, Italian traditions

The National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi in San Francisco today


Who says the world is shrinking?  Just about everyone!  However, a tape measured placed precisely at the equator would reveal that no actual shrinkage has occurred over the past thousand years.  
So, why is it that most of us “feel” in closer proximity to our colleagues across the globe? More than likely it is because of our amazing and ever-evolving technological devices.  We can easily connect with our paesani thousands of miles away.
In other words, our Italian sister cities are right in our own backyards, just one key stroke or dial tone away.
 San Francisco’s North Beach & Telegraph Hill. Photograph by Mario Savoia 

 San Francisco’s North Beach & Telegraph Hill. Photograph by Mario Savoia 

So what is a Sister City?  
Founded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956, Sister Cities International is a 501(c) (3) nonpartisan nonprofit serving as the national membership organization for individual sister cities, counties, and states across the United States.  The network has united more than 2,000 cities across the globe.  Eisenhower envisioned the organization as a champion for peace and prosperity by fostering bonds between different cultures. These partnerships have fostered grants, programs to expand trade and tourism and some economic analysts suggest the sister city model can invigorate urban economic development.
A sister city, county, or state relationship is a long-term partnership between two communities in two countries. A city may have any number of sister cities, with community involvement ranging from a half dozen to hundreds of volunteers. Sister city relationships offer the flexibility to form connections between communities that are mutually beneficial and which address issues that are most relevant for partners.
 Assisi, Italy. Photograph by Canadastock 

 Assisi, Italy. Photograph by Canadastock 

What is a Sister City Organization?
Each sister city organization is independent and pursues the activities and thematic areas that are relevant to them and their community, including municipal, business, trade, educational and cultural exchanges with their sister city and offers endless opportunities  ranging from cultural exchange programs to shared research and development projects between cities. Membership in Sister Cities International is open to all U.S. cities. 
The earliest known town twinning in Europe was between Paderborn, Germany, and Le Mans, France, in the year 836.   Currently, California leads all U.S. states with the largest number of sister cities at 368, followed by Florida with a distance 185.
Bay Area Sister Cities 
Of course one of San Francisco’s most treasured sister city relationships is with Assisi, Italy.  
Look at these two photographs of San Francisco’s North Beach and Telegraph Hill and that of Assisi Italy.  There really is a striking similarity between them, is there not?    
It’s no surprise that a city named after Italian born St. Francis would reach out to form a bond with San Francisco thousands of miles away.  That bond was officially established in 1969 with the small hill town of Assisi, home to Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, also known as Saint Francis, an Italian Catholic friar and founder of the Franciscan order.  Over the years San Franciscans have organized special programs and resources for the restoration of Assisi’s buildings which were damaged in recent years by an earthquake.  
In August 2008 San Francisco's link to its Italian sister city grew firmer when a replica of the shrine of the Saint Francis of Assisi, including eight frescoes was installed at the Saint Francis of Assisi church in North Beach. The original chapel was built 800 years ago in Assisi, in Italy's Umbria region.  St. Francis Church is designated San Francisco Landmark No. 5, and has stood in North Beach since the mid-1850s.
San Francisco sculptress Harriet Moore’s monumental bronze of St. Francis of Assisi was accepted for placement upon the Piazza Teatro Lyrick in Santa Maria degli Angeli, Italy by the mayor and municipal arts council of Assisi (Comune di Assisi). Moore’s creation depicts a modernistic St. Francis as a leaf dancing in the wind.  This statue was presented on behalf of the Sister City Association of the City of San Francisco and Artists´ Embassy International, and was dedicated October 4, 2001.
Probably lesser known is the partnership between Walnut Creek in Contra Costa County and none other than Noceto, Italy.  How cool is that twinning since “noce” is Italian for walnut!
In 1986 then Noceto Mayor Francesco Barocelli reached out to the City of Walnut Creek in order to explore a sister city relationship between the two communities whose link is the word walnut. The bond was solidified when a delegation of citizens from Walnut Creek’s Italian sister city of Noceto was welcomed by Walnut Creek Mayor Sue Rainey during an official visit at City Hall on April 13, 2007.  A group of 15 Noceto residents, led by Mayor Faio Fecci, were the guests of honor at a dinner where Mayor Fecci presented the City with a sculpture of a lyre as Noceto’s gift for the new downtown Walnut Creek Library.
Is your city on the list below?  If not make it happen!
In addition to San Francisco and Assisi, Walnut Creek and Noceto, other Bay Area cities have partnered with Italy including Oakland with Livorno, Vallejo with La Spezia, Sonoma with Greve, South San Francisco with Lucca, Cupertino with Copertino, and Santa Clara County with the Province of Florence.   
If you don’t see your city amongst those mentioned above, propose an Italian sister city for your town, county or state.  If you see your city listed above, take the opportunity to volunteer in the Sister City program. What better way to offer your “Italian-ness”! Membership in Sister Cities International is open to cities of all sizes, counties, states, international cities, and individuals.  For more information on forming a sister city or volunteering to assist with an ongoing “relationship” go to, e-mail info@sistercities. org, or phone 202-347-8630. 

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