At first glance, it may seem like North Carolina and northern Italy have little in common. We speak different languages, celebrate different holidays, and follow our own customs. However, this fall, Hendersonville and Pallanza-Verbania, Italy, will unite their similarities as they become official Sister Cities.
The Sister City program harkens back to the mid-1950s, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower pinpointed interpersonal diplomacy as a way to heal international wounds following World War II. Eisenhower hoped that knitting together cultural commonalities between everyday people would bolster the efforts of official diplomats.
Exposing people to food, music, and life experiences can unite far-flung communities, says Karen Hultin, president of the Hendersonville Sister Cities, Inc. She recently traveled to Pallanza-Verbania to suss out the possibility of establishing a Sister City program there.
Pallanza-Verbania will be Hendersonville’s second Sister City, following a successful relationship with Hendersonville’s first Sister City, Almuñécar, Spain. The partnership became official in 2010 and continues today.
This region of Italy is marked by mountains, vineyards, and tourism. The Swiss Alps are just a couple hours away by car, and people from throughout Europe visit Pallanza-Verbania for its beautiful scenery.
Hultin joined Hendersonville Sister Cities board members Bill O’Cain and Lucille Raftery to see Pallanza-Verbania first-hand and meet with Verbania’s Mayor Silvia Marchionini to make sure the relationship was a good fit for both cities.
Seeing the landscape in person revealed similarities between these two cities, says Hultin. The cities are more than 4,500 miles apart, but they share a common reliance on tourism, agriculture, and the beauty of the land.
“They’re surrounded by mountains like us,” says Hultin. “It was just a natural choice.”
Local Hendersonville residents are invited to visit Pallanza-Verbania on an upcoming trip sponsored by Hendersonville Sister Cities. Spots are limited for this ten-day trip.
But there are also opportunities to connect with Italy a bit closer to home. Two wine tastings will be held at Sage Gourmet in Hendersonville in early September. Again, space is limited, but everyone is invited to an upcoming library program that can accommodate 50-100 people.
Hultin notes the powerful connections that form when “people get to know people globally.” Forming friendships and establishing commonalities between different cultures binds people in a way that goes beyond geopolitical boundaries, she notes.
The “Wines of Italy” tasting happens September 10 at Sage Gourmet (416 N. Main St.) The formal signing of the Sister City agreement happens in Pallanza-Verbania, Italy, on September 23. See hendersonvillesistercities.com for more info.