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MailTribune.com
  • Sister city opportunities missed but not lost

  • Medford and Alba, Italy, have been sister cities for more than 52 years. Over five decades we have had some marvelous experiences together and shared some great memories. Surprisingly, there are many wonderful opportunities that we may have missed. Here are just a few that we might consider for the second half-century of our "gemellaggio."
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  • Medford and Alba, Italy, have been sister cities for more than 52 years. Over five decades we have had some marvelous experiences together and shared some great memories. Surprisingly, there are many wonderful opportunities that we may have missed. Here are just a few that we might consider for the second half-century of our "gemellaggio."
    Alba has been at the heart of Italy's greatest wines for roughly two millennia, give or take a century. Southern Oregon is becoming a winemaking center and getting some recognition for quality wines and great experiences that go with visiting Oregon's most scenic wine region. If you don't count Peter Britt's pioneering winemaking efforts, we've been at it for just a few decades. Local winemakers are getting some name recognition but nothing compared to the giants of Alba and the Langhe. Names such as Conterno, Ratti, Mascarello, Ceretto and Gaja are legends of the wine world. We really ought to be having winemaking and viticulture exchanges. Alba is our sister city but, when it comes to wine, we are still the little sister.
    Italian is one of the most beautiful languages spoken. No, it is the most beautiful. For 52 years we have had really wonderful personal contact with some of the nicest people in the world and they all speak Italian. We have been all too willing to let them speak our language, which most of them do quite well. We have missed opportunities to connect verbally with an older generation that never needed to learn English and with some very modern Albesi who just choose not to.
    Our schools mostly ignore the language of Dante, Puccini and Fenoglio because there is no commercial advantage to speaking Italian. What they are missing is what the Italian language does for the soul. Words form our thoughts and Italian words evoke some very beautiful thoughts. Speaking Italian is transformative. While the wine may have a little to do with it, speaking Italian brings out the romantic in those who give it a try.
    Medford has some very creative and industrious people. Harry and David Holmes saw a market for Oregon fruit and their legacy is the corporation that now bears their names. E.M. Tucker grew up in Josephine County and created the ubiquitous Medford-made Sno-Cat that has been carrying explorers over the Earth's frozen frontiers for decades. These local entrepreneurs are Medford's past and there doesn't seem to be a new generation to replace them.
    Alba's industrial boom occurred right after World War II when small family businesses evolved into the likes of Ferrero, Miroglio and Mondo Rubber. While we're learning Italian, we ought to be learning how they grew a small confectioner's shop into the world's most reputable corporation (Ferrero) or how a company making rubber balls for an obscure local sport is now providing all the sports surfaces for the London Olympics (Mondo Rubber).
    The cuisine of Alba and the surrounding Langhe is indescribable. With its roots in peasant fare and the tables of Italian royalty, Piedmontese cooking to be found in and around Alba is unequaled. Alba has become a Mecca for foodie pilgrims from all over the planet.
    The cuisine of Alba is so much in demand that local entrepreneur Oscar Farinetti has created the Eataly food empire. Now gourmets in Tokyo, New York and other world cities can enjoy what our friends in Alba have been enjoying forever. If you ride the new Italo train, the "Ferrari train," you can enjoy Eataly's fine food as Italy passes by at 300 kilometers per hour.
    The restaurant Piazza Duomo in Alba's main square is rated among the top restaurants in the world. Our local chefs should take advantage of our connection with Alba and spend some time in their sister city. We might think about borrowing a few of theirs.
    Many American sister cities proudly advertise their sister city affiliations. It is not uncommon for cities and towns to add placards to their welcoming signs declaring their ties to their adopted foreign cities. Since we first connected with Alba, the small Italian city has become world renowned for its wine, food and culture. A-List celebrities have discovered Alba. Letting visitors to Medford know that we are paired with a "rock star" would certainly not hurt Medford's often maligned image.
    Opportunities missed are not necessarily opportunities lost. We just need to find more ways to enjoy having the greatest sister city in the world.
    Doug Snider is the son of Medford Mayor John Snider who helped bring Medford and Alba together in 1960. He maintains the website medford-alba.org.
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