The Tuscan hill town of Montalcino, Italy, is Napa's newest and fourth sister city.
The partnership became official this month when Lorenzo Ortona, the consul general from the Italian consulate in San Francisco, came to Napa to receive the proclamation from Mayor Scott Sedgley.
The idea had originated with Ortona, who said he was perusing lists of California's sister cities one night and was surprised to learn that Napa, with its deep Italian roots, did not have a partnership with a city in Italy.
"I saw Chile, Japan, Australia," he said, "but no Italy?"
Napa's three other sister cities are Casablanca Valley, Chile, Iwanuma, Japan, and Launceston, Tasmania, Australia.
Ortona reached out to David Cilla, a Tuscan winemaker at Promontory Winery in Oakville, to ask if he thought Napa might be interested in a sister city relationship with a Tuscan town.
Cilla said yes because "the two regions have so much in common." He and another Tuscan living in Napa Valley, Flavia Martini, became instrumental in helping create the new relationship with Montalcino, Ortona said.
Montalcino, with a population of about 5,000, is in the Val d'Orcia Natural Park in the province of Siena in central Italy. Settlements on the hillside date back to Etruscan times, and historical records mention a church on the site in the 9th century.
In the 21st century, Montalcino is renowned world-wide for its red wine, Brunello di Montalcino, as well as its medieval streets and buildings. Montalcino is also known for its honey, Pecorino cheese, and Tuscan cured meats.
Ortona wrote a letter to Napa's office of the mayor, and Sedgley said he found it on his desk when he became mayor in December 2020.
"I decided I'd better follow up on this," said Sedgley, a Napa native, who listed the names of all the Italian families he'd grown up with. "I wondered why I wasn't Italian.
“Napa and Montalcino are both esteemed wine country destinations, surrounded by natural beauty," he said, "making the sisterhood is a natural fit."
Both Sedgley and Ortona acknowledged the help of California state Sen. Bill Dodd, who was on hand at a reception at Visit Napa Valley on June 17 to toast the new sister city with glasses of Brunello. Other prominent Italian Americans included Napa businessman George Altamura and Carmen Policy, the former owner of the San Francisco 49ers.
Sister-city partnerships foster technical, educational, economic, and cultural exchanges between governments, schools, and individuals.
Officials from Montalcino were unable to travel to Napa because of the ongoing pandemic, but Linsey Gallagher, president, and CEO of Visit Napa Valley, said she hoped the new sistership would help "accelerate economic recovery through the power of travel in both regions.”
“Italian-Americans were the first to discover the region’s potential for growing grapes and making wines in the mid-19th century, and their spirit of collaboration still runs strong in our vines,” Gallagher said.
Accepting Mayor Sedgley's proclamation was Ortona's last official act before he returns to Italy. He will be succeeded by Sergio Strozli, who also came to Napa for the occasion.
"Now I will look forward to welcoming all of you to Montalcino and sitting down to have a glass of Brunello together," Ortona said.