Exploring Carmel’s Newest Sister City: Cortona

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June 2022

You may have read that the City of Carmel recently announced a new Sister City relationship with the city of Cortona, Italy. This latest official foreign agreement makes the fourth international Sister City for the City of Carmel. Carmel’s other three Sister Cities are Jelgava, Latvia; Kawachinagano, Osaka, Japan and Xiangyang, Hubei, China.

We spoke with Mayor Jim Brainard about the purpose of Sister Cities, and he shared with us a little more about the ancient and beautiful town of Cortona.

What Are Sister Cities?

Since 1956, Sister Cities International has worked to create exchanges that create community impact and kindle lifelong friendships.

Sister Cities International was created at President Eisenhower’s 1956 White House conference on citizen diplomacy. Eisenhower envisioned an organization that could be the hub of peace and prosperity by creating bonds between people from different cities around the world. By forming these relationships, Eisenhower reasoned that people of different cultures could celebrate and appreciate their differences and build partnerships that would lessen the chance of new conflicts.

Sister Cities International has a variety of programs that highlight and support its members in promoting citizen diplomacy and international exchange. They serve a variety of demographics in communities all over the world and build bridges of understanding across borders.

According to Brainard, the City of Carmel—and any city or town that is a member of Sister Cities International—benefits from the promotion of international goodwill, the student educational exchanges and expanded business relationships between the Sister Cities and their respective nations.

Brainard views the recent agreement that he recently signed, along with Cortona Mayor Luciano Meoni in Italy, as an effort to “encourage global community.”

Carmel’s Sister City Cortona

“I think it’s tremendously important to cities across the country and across the world because people of all different backgrounds get to meet other people from different or similar backgrounds from other countries,” Brainard stated. “It also provides opportunities for students to travel and do exchanges and learn about different cultures and values.”

Brainard continued, “The Latin teachers at Carmel High School are excited about these opportunities. We’ve had a Sister School in Japan since before we had a Sister City [in Osaka] that goes back to the early 1990s, and we’ve had students go back and forth, spending a couple of weeks in each other’s countries and homes, which are tremendous opportunities. We’ve sent city employees and police officers to Japan, and they, in turn, have sent their employees here to see how things are done differently. Cortona is a very old town, and Carmel is a very new city. We can learn from each other.”

Additionally, Brainard mentioned that idea of sharing the arts and having opportunities to send musicians over to Cortona to play in their theater and vice versa.

“Cortona’s deputy mayor Francesco Attesti is a world-renowned concert pianist,” Brainard said. “It would be an incredible opportunity to have him to come [to Carmel] and perform with the Carmel Symphony Orchestra at some point.”

Attesti gave his first concert at age 11, and since 2019, he has been the deputy mayor and Counsellor of Culture and Tourism for the city of Cortona.

A City That Has Stood the Test of Time

Brainard shared that Cortona—a province of Arezzo—is a historic hilltop town in the Tuscany area of Italy that boasts picturesque landscapes of mountains and lakes. It is an area known for the art of fine food, wineries and beautiful art.

Carmel’s Sister City Cortona

Brainard added, “Cortona was an Etruscan city that goes back hundreds of years before it became part of the Roman Empire.”

Enclosed by stone walls that date back to Etruscan and Roman times, visitors of Cortona are able to see remnants of the walls and other ruins of the town’s medieval origins.

Carmel’s Sister City Cortona

The mayor of Cortona’s office is housed in a 13th-century building that also serves as a popular wedding venue. Cortona’s first-class beauty and hospitality has even attracted Hollywood types and served as one of the film locations for “Under the Tuscan Sun.”

There are several historical attractions throughout Cortona and the surrounding area. The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, built in 1456, is a popular attraction. Cortona is full of museums and artworks; the Museum of the Etruscan Academy houses historical artifacts, and the Diocesan Museum is equally remarkable. Cortona’s archaeological area, the Fortress of Girifalco and the Abbey of Farneta, are also popular landmarks. Visitors can also explore villas and gardens along the flower trails while taking in breathtaking views overlooking the province.

For more information on the City of Carmel’s Sister Cities, visit carmel.in.gov.