Believe it or not, the city of Cleveland has a sister city. And not just any city in the world--an Italian city! Vicenza is located in the northeast region of Veneto and tends to be overshadowed by its better known neighbors Padova and Venezia to the east, and Verona to the west.
Although most Americans have never heard of Vicenza, any respectable architecture buff can tell you that American democratic iconography is infused with an architectural renaissance born in Vicenza thanks to the work of Andrea Palladio. Palladio's neoclassical revival of the dome, inspired by the more famous Pantheon in Rome impressed one of America's Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, so much that he once called Palladio his "Bible". Jefferson even incorporated Palladian techniques for Monticello, the Capital and the Rotunda at the University of Virginia. With his architectural style Palladio beautified not only Vicenza but the whole region of Veneto, from the villas in the countryside to churches in Venice.
In addition to being a world-renowned city of art and architecture, Vicenza is already home to an existing American military base called Caserma Ederle, which currently houses about 2,750 American military personnel. The soldiers stationed here have been important players in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The base sits just under 2 miles southeast of the town's center and since 1965 it has been the headquarters of the Southern European Task Force.
Furthermore, known as the "City of Gold", thanks to its prosperous international gold, silver and jewelry market, the northern city of Vicenza can now boast to be Cleveland's sister city. But how did a pairing like this come about?
It all started in 1932 when the city of Vicenza sent a large boulder carved from the side Monte Grappa to the Italian Cultural Garden as a war memorial honoring Italian-American soldiers of Ohio's 332nd infantry who fought on Monte Grappa during World War One. Since that moment, both cities bonded an imperishable friendship.
Yet it wasn't till May 11, 2009, when Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson traveled to Vicenza to meet Achille Variati, Mayor of Vicenza. Since that meeting, the two mayors officially established a friendship and worked together to officially pair the two cities.
Following many transatlantic efforts, on April 8, 2011, Mayor Jackson and City Councilman Jeff Johnson welcomed Mayor Variati and his delegation of city officials, to Cleveland in an official ceremony at the Italian Cultural Gardens, exactly at the Monte Grappa Memorial. During the course of an intense six-day schedule, Mayor Variati and his delegates met with multiple companies on different fronts from tourism and economics, to medicine and even rock-n-roll.
Although thousands of miles apart, the city of Vicenza feels a certain closeness and connection to Cleveland citizens. In fact, back in May 2011, when John Carroll University Professor, Giuseppina Mileti and her group of 40 trip participants, a trip sponsored by the Bishop Pilla in Italian American Studies, visited Vicenza, they were invited in City Hall by Mayor Variati. The Mayor was so pleased to have Clevelanders in the city, that he gave all 40 trip participants gifts from Vicenza and handed the keys to the city to Mileti--declaring that it was just the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Since the pairing of both cities, several businesses have come together. A more recent agreement occurred on May 22, 2013 when ASG, a division of Jergens, Inc. of Cleveland and Fiam Utensil Pneumatici SpA of Vicenza, announced a strategic partnership. ASG, manufacturer and distributor of torque control products and solutions for the assembly market, and Fiam, a premier Italian assembly tool manufacturer, named ASG as the exclusive master distributor for Fiam in North America. Fiam will partner with ASG to integrate its brand-name line of industrial air tools into the ASG product offering.
With a population of only 120,000 residents, Vicenza is one of Italy's wealthiest cities after Torino and Milan. The elegant historic center is not only full of ancient osterias, family-run trattorias, and historic cafés, but also cool lounge bars, innovative gourmet restaurants and designer boutiques. Northern Italy's hidden gem is rich of culture, history and art. Since it always stood in the shadow of its more popular neighbors, Venice and Verona, in most recent years, Vicenza is being rediscovered by tourists, especially architects and art lovers. Now with an American sister like Cleveland, the city of Vicenza is complete.