The word of the day is gemellaggio (jeh-mel-LAH-jo). From gemelli, meaning “twins,” gemellaggio is “twinning”—a term used mostly by Europeans to refer to the process of creating a confraternal relationship between cities or towns in different countries. In the U.S., such arrangements are more often known as “sister cities.” These partnerships are intended to promote dialogue between the cities’ leaders about municipal governance, social issues, and business development as well as to encourage tourism and interactions among schools and civic organizations.
There are numerous examples of twinned cities that share a wine heritage, and now two of the most prominent vinicultural towns in the United States and Italy have partnered in a match made in wine heaven. Montalcino, the source of Brunello di Montalcino, and Napa, the main city in California’s Napa Valley, are now gemellate. A celebratory ceremony was held in Napa on June 17, hosted by Napa mayor Scott Sedgley, California state senator Pat Dodd, and Visit Napa Valley. Italy was represented by Consul General Lorenzo Ortona from the Italian consulate in San Francisco, who originated and promoted the sister-city proposal. (Montalcino mayor Silvio Franceschelli was unable to attend due to covid travel restrictions, but no doubt delegations from one or both cities will visit the other before too long.)
Napa already had three twins (as oxymoronic as that sounds): Iwanuma, Japan, a city hard-hit by a major tsunami in 2011; Launceston, Tasmania, an up-and-coming wine area in Australia; and Casablanca. No, not the Rick-and-Ilsa one in Morocco, but rather the wine town near Santiago, Chile. Montalcino’s only previous sister city is Hautvillers—a commune in Champagne where a monk by the name of Pérignon worked at the local abbey for most of his life a few centuries ago.
Update, Sept. 7: As a somewhat anticlimactic postscript to this story, the twinning process is still not official—not that there is any doubt that it will be. Sometime around September 1, the Department of Regional Affairs and Autonomies approved the sister-city request for the Italian government. The decree now needs to be signed by the mayors of both cities, and then it will be official. After that, we will all be able to go about our business as usual.