Mayors to Meet June 21, 2019 to Sign Friendship Pact Between Hilton Head Island, SC, and Verona, Italy.

The Italian-American Club of Hilton Head (IACHH) announces the flagship trip to Verona, Italy, June 2019, where Hilton Head Island Mayor, John McCann, will meet with Verona Mayor, Federico Sboarina, to sign a Friendship agreement, which is the first step in the process towards a Sister-City pact. Also attending this historical event will be John DeCecco, President of the IACHH (sponsoring organization), Italian liaison, Richard Collins (Director of World Tours Studios), American liaison, Bob LeFavi (Dean of the University of South Carolina Beaufort Campus – USCB), Steve Riley, Hilton Head Town Manager, their families, as well as other visiting Italian dignitaries, and twenty-four members from the IACHH.

“Through this experience, we are looking forward to creating new opportunities and forging strong bonds with Verona, and its incredible people,” states Mayor McCann of Hilton Head.

Despite the relative age difference between the two municipalities (Verona dates back to the 1st century B.C., while Hilton Head Island wasn’t discovered by Europeans until 1663), and the language difference, there are many similarities that go unnoticed.

For example, Verona is the 4th most visited city in Italy, while Hilton Head has been voted “Best Island” in the continental U.S. by Travel and Leisure magazine. Verona hosts the renowned Annual CentoMiglia Sailing Regatta (since 1951) on vast, crystal clear Lake Garda, while Hilton Head Island is world famous for the PGA’s RBC Heritage Golf Tournament (since 1968). Both cities encourage the arts in their respective communities, rely on tourism economies, nurture educational opportunities, and are known for esteemed hospitality industries.

Most uniquely, each municipality is eco-friendly. Verona’s Mayor Sboarina, promotes a green bus program to reduce carbon emissions in his area, while Hilton Head’s building codes place the environment above all other considerations when development is considered. Cycling and pedestrian traffic are encouraged in both communities across the Atlantic.

“This project has been four years in the making, and would not have happened without forward-thinking officials on both sides,” says Bob LeFavi, who introduced the idea to John DeCecco, of the IACHH, who immediately seized on the prospect, and contacted Hilton Head’s Town Council. LeFavi, who had developed the sister-city proposal, presented it to the Council during the summer of 2017, which passed it unanimously. Ironically, the Mayors of each city who approved the agreement are no longer in office. Fortunately, that hasn’t stopped the current mayors from eagerly continuing the process.

Adds IACHH President, DeCecco, “Mayor McCann has the vision necessary to carry this forward, leaving behind a proud legacy.”

Sister-city agreements have grown in popularity around the world, as a way for cities from different countries to expand on both shared, and diverse, educational, cultural, and economic opportunities.

“This particular sister-city pact is a continued reinforcement of a bridge between Italy and the United States,” explains Richard Collins, who coordinated this arrangement closely with LeFavi over the years in his role as General Manager of InLingua Verona International. Both gentlemen traveled extensively to convince both towns to agree to the pact.

Known worldwide as the home of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, the city of Verona is also known for its educated, robust wine culture. Verona Mayor Sboarina and Richard Collins worked together arranging vineyard tours and events around the ceremonial signing, and exchange of gifts from each city. The itinerary includes a boat ride on Lake Garda, gala dinner, and walking excursion to little-known areas led by Collins, an expert on Verona history.

Verona boasts an outdoor arena (similar to Rome’s coliseum) built in 30 AD, still in use today for the city’s outdoor events. This is good news for the Hilton Head representatives, who will also be treated to the opening night of Verona’s opera festival season at the Arena Di Verona.

How will Hilton Head return such hospitality?

“October is Italian Heritage Month in South Carolina,” states DeCecco. “The IACHH is planning a number of events to celebrate, including our Tenth Annual Italian-Heritage Festival on October 26, 2019, which has grown enormously each year. With perfect temperatures, and great food, I’m sure we can tempt them to visit us in the fall.”

Rob Lembo