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  • Our sister-city bragging rights

  • Most Medfordites would be amazed to learn they are connected to a Roman emperor, Italy's wealthiest person, a European republic that only lasted 23 days and a minor planet. Because Medford and Alba, Italy, are officially sister cities, we have some wonderful bragging rights.
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  • Most Medfordites would be amazed to learn they are connected to a Roman emperor, Italy's wealthiest person, a European republic that only lasted 23 days and a minor planet. Because Medford and Alba, Italy, are officially sister cities, we have some wonderful bragging rights.
    Alba began with a civilization that pre-dated the Roman Empire by thousands of years. Alba's first permanent residents were the Liguri Stazielli, Neolithic people who settled the fertile plain at the confluence of the Tanaro and Cherasca rivers more than 3,000 years before Christ.
    The Romans put Alba on the map, christening it "Alba Pompeia." Alba was then an outpost on the way to an untamed Europe. One native son overcame his rural roots to become Emperor Pertinax. Alba's Elvio Pertinace is likely the basis for the character of Maximus in the movie "Gladiator."
    Over two millennia, Alba was invaded by barbarians, European dynasties, Napoleon Bonaparte and the Third Reich. When Italy became the Republic of Italy, its first prime minister was Camillo Benso, mayor of neighboring Grinzane and the Count of Cavour.
    The proudest period of Alba's history lasted only 23 days. Seventy years ago this October, brave young partisans reclaimed Alba from Nazi occupiers and fascist oppressors. Proclaiming Alba to be the free Republic of Alba, they defended their city against a brutal siege until Alba finally fell.
    They paid for that short breath of freedom, spilling blood on ancient cobblestone streets. Months later, American soldiers marched those streets having finally liberated the city. For its heroism, Alba was awarded Italy's highest honor, the Gold Medal of Military Valor. In 2009, a minor planet was named "Città di Alba" recognizing Alba's valiant stand against tyranny.
    Harsh history has forged the traits that distinguish the people of Alba. Resilience, inventiveness and entrepreneurial genius are hallmarks of the Albesi. Family businesses became international corporations in the post-war economy. Pietro Ferrero turned a problem — no cacao to make his confections — into a hazelnut-based solution. We now know the Ferrero brand for products such as Nutella and TicTacs. Pietro's son, Michele, is now Italy's wealthiest person.
    One partisan defending Alba was Paolo Farinetti. He returned to the family pasta business and established a chain of markets. Farinetti turned the enterprise over to his son, Oscar, who grew the business and started several successful ventures. Farinetti's Eataly chain has stores in 27 cities around the world.
    Alba is the acknowledged food and wine capital of Piemeonte. Vineyards surrounding Alba produce the king of wines, Barolo, and its princely cousin, Barbaresco. Nebbiolo grapes for these wines were cultivated by the Romans.
    Another Roman treasure was the truffle. This subterranean fungus sells for several thousand dollars per pound. The premier truffle is the white truffle of Alba. In 1933, Giacomo Morra introduced the "King of Truffles" to the world and conceived the International Festival of the White Truffle of Alba that draws thousands each fall.
    Medford owns bragging rights to a great sister city and really should do a lot more bragging.
    Doug Snider lives in Medford.
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