Sister Cities of Rockford and Ferentino, Italy mark 15th anniversary
ROCKFORD –Its been 15 years since Rockford signed a Sister City agreement with Ferentino, Italy, but over 100 years of close ties have existed between the cities. This partnership celebrates the contributions of Italian Americans to Rockford and Ferentino’s importance in Rockford’s immigration history.
Rockford’s Italian Sister City program began with DeCastris and Giorgi family discussions here and abroad as a project of the Greater Rockford Italian American Association (GRIAA). In 2005, a committee formed and its many dedicated members met regularly to create and support a formal partnership. Mayors Larry Morrissey of Rockford and Piergianni Fiorletta of Ferentino, Italy signed a Sister City agreement at Rockford’s City Hall in May 2006. Nine public officials from Ferentino’s City Council and its Pro Loco Association (its arts, cultural and history organization) traveled here for the official ceremony and a week of official meetings and festivities.
Ferentino is an ancient, walled hill town of 21,000 people southeast of Rome. It has three distinct architectural periods, Roman ruins of markets and amphitheaters and elaborate stone gates. Its major industries are pharmaceuticals, soaps, textiles, clay bricks, electronics and foods. Saint Ambrogio, a fourth-century Roman army calvary centurion, tortured and executed for his Christian faith is highly revered and codified in its legal statutes. In 1918, immigrants from Ferentino formed Rockford’s St. Ambrogio Society, which is Rockford’s last remaining Italian social club of many that existed in south Rockford, historically a predominantly Italian American enclave of the city.
The Rockford Italian Sister Cities Alliance (RISCA) is the committee that has worked tirelessly for 15 years, sponsoring student and adult exchanges, student pen pal programs, an Italian floral garden and commemorative plaque at the Keeling-Puri Peace Plaza, cultural and educational displays and peace poles at Rockford’s and Ferentino’s City Halls and the St. Ambrogio Club. Rockford also hosted the State Sister Cities Association’s annual meeting one year and RISCA members have been involved in the Rockford Sister Cities Advisory Commission and Sister Cities International, created in 1956 by President Eisenhower.
Rockford’s Italian Sister City programs are for all citizens to participate in and benefit from, not for only those of Italian descent. All are needed and welcome! Many businesses, non-profit organizations, public officials and institutions have provided generous support over the years. RISCA’s main fundraiser is its very popular annual Taste of Italy in November.
Visit us on Facebook at Rockford Italian Sister Cities Alliance. Email us with your ideas at Risca2006@gmail.com and visit our website ourrisca.org. We would love you to join us! See also griaa.org, saintambrogio.com and proloco.ferentino.fr.it.
We are deeply appreciative of the support that our milestone anniversaries have received from businesses, public officials, individuals and organizations. Thanks to everyone for your hard work and contributions over the past 15 years. Bravo e Auguri!
(In Memory of Luigi Sonni of Ferentino, (1932-2021), renowned leader of the Ferentino Pro Loco Association for 45 years)
Valeri DeCastris is a member of the Rockford Italian Sister Cities Alliance (RISCA).