Back in the 1860s hundreds of residents from the cities of Rose, Calabria, and Morra De Sanctis, Campania in Italy left their families and Italy's Great Depression at the time, and traveled to a new world to make a new life for themselves.
That new world was Greenwich—specifically the Chickahominy and Cos Cob neighborhoods of town—where the immigrants found work as masons and builders and gardeners on the town's great estates.
Now, nearly 150 years later, the descendants of those families have forged a new relationship to preserve the heritage they so richly share.
In a Town Hall ceremony Friday evening, the Town of Greenwich officially became a sister city of both Rose, Calabria, and Morra De Sanctis, Campania.
The mayors of each city and other officials made the trip and were honored in a ceremony organized by the town's cultural Ambassador Bea Crumbine. The trip coincided with the opening of a new exhibit at the Greenwich Historical Society, 'From Italy to America,' that will be on view through June.
About 200 Greenwich residents have loaned personal items and artifacts for the exhibit and another 45 gave videotaped interviews about their experiences, that are included in the exhibit, according to the historical society's Executive Director Debra Mecky.
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"I want this day to be a day of coronation of the relationship that started in 1860 ... a friendship created over 150 years," said Morra De Sanctis Mayor Gerardo Capozza through an interpreter.
"Every one of you represents the history of sacrifice and battles (of our ancestors)," said Rose Mayor Stefano Leone through an interpreter. "I feel I'm your mayor as well as the mayor of Rose," he said to applause.
There were exhanges of declarations of becoming sister cities with each mayor with First Selectman Peter Tesei, and state Representatives Fred Camillo of Old Greenwich and Carlo Leone of Stamford, presented proclamations from the Connecticut State Legislature.
Mayor Leone surprised Tesei with a presentation of historical family documents related to Tesei's great-grandparents who immigrated to Greenwich from Rose. (Please see video.)
Tesei told the crowd of more than 200 at the standing-room-only ceremony, "This is the time to solidify our relationship with our original country. Your presence here is monumental"
Following the nearly two-hour ceremony, there was a reception marking the 'From Italy to America' exhibit at the historical society on Strickland Road in Cos Cob.