Texas in Italy, Italy in Texas: Irving’s Italian sister city

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1956

“… Ascanius then, / Now call’d Iulus, shall begin his reign. / He thirty rolling years the crown shall wear, / Then from Lavinium shall the seat transfer, / And, with hard labor, Alba Longa build” (Aeneid, Book One, vv. 267-271). 

Upon arriving in Irving, University of Dallas students receive an immediate orientation to the primacy of place. In their first semester, they grapple with Virgil’s epic “Aeneid,” in which they read of Ascanius, son of Aeneas and founder of Alba Longa. Beginning with Livy’s “History of Rome,” some have identified the area around Lago Albano — that “hill-embosomed lake” near Castel Gandolfo, as Mary Shelley called it in her short story “Sisters of Albano” — as the site of historical Alba Longa. 

There is no way to know with certainty where, or even whether, Alba Longa existed, but that takes nothing away from its very real literary existence, nor does it detract from the mythological strata accumulated in that place over time. 

Just down the way from Alba Longa and Lago Albano lies the University of Dallas Eugene Constantin Rome Campus, known colloquially as “Due Santi” for its location at an intersection said to have been traversed by both St. Paul and St. Peter. 

Of this place, UD alumnus Daniel Milligan has written that “places have an ability to draw people to them not only because of what may have happened there but also because what happened there is manifestly dependent on that place. Rome is such a place, and Due Santi is ideally positioned to reveal the truths and paradoxes of Rome.”

These two places, these two connections between the UD and the hills southeast of Rome known as the Colli Albani — the first reflecting the university’s dedication to the Western heritage of liberal education, the second exemplifying its fealty to the magisterium of the Church — do not exhaust the ties binding the university and the city of Irving with the Alban Hills.

Recently, at a gala dinner hosted by a new non-profit called DFW Italians — of which I am a founding member — Stefano Cecchi, the mayor of Marino, just outside of Rome in the aforementioned Colli Albani, contributed remarks to open the evening. 

In his video-greeting, Mayor Cecchi conveyed well-wishes to the organizers of the inaugural DFW Italian Festival for which the gala served as a kick-off. Why did the mayor of a small city in the Colli Albani celebrate the founding of a new Italian festival with Irvingites?

Thanks to UD and its Rome Campus, flanked by the cities of Albano Laziale and Marino, the latter is one of six sister-city partnerships with Irving. The city of Irving has had a sister-city relationship with its Italian counterpart for some 30 years and in his March 24 remarks Mayor Cecchi emphasized the special connection between UD and Marino, and between Marino and Irving, even evoking his visit to Irving back in 2009. 

Irving Sister Cities is a project of the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce and, among other goals, it aims to enhance the global reputation of Irving-Las Colinas, to increase opportunities for Irving residents to experience and explore other cultures through long-term community partnerships, and to attract international businesses, students and tourists to Irving. 

Currently there are more than 100 international companies with offices in Irving. On this last point, it is difficult to say with certainty the role that the ISC project has played in attracting Italian companies to the area. Nevertheless, according to the Italian Trade Agency, there are multiple dozens of Italian companies in DFW, and as of 2018 Irving could boast of Italian companies such as Panini America and Datalogic. And you thought the Venetian “gondole” traversing the canals of Las Colinas and a lake — Carolyn, not Albano — were the only tangible sign of an Italian presence in Irving? 

Irving’s International Affairs and Sister Cities Executive Director Joe Chapa has observed that the Sister Cities program “has brought so many jobs and so much money into Irving, the city is looking to add more partners.” The interest appears mutual. In 2018, the Italian journal Liberta reported in “Texas, new frontier full of promise for our businesses” on a meeting between Maurizio Gamberucci, Deputy Director of the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce of Texas, and Confindustria Piacenza, part of a trade group representing Italian manufacturing and service companies. 

The article commented favorably on the economic conditions in Texas and the complementarity of economic sectors in Italy and Texas, and noted that Texas features a “culture very favorable to business and remains a point of reference for many sectors [in which the Italian economy is strong] such as information technology, scientific research, aerospace, biomedical and life sciences, and oil and gas.” 

Today, manifestations of Italy in Texas, especially in DFW, abound in the many Italian restaurants, the cultural heirs of turn-of-the-century Italian grocers like the Amadeo family in Dallas; in Italian art — some produced in Texas, like the Art Deco works by Carlo Ciampaglia and Ettore Serbaroli at Fair Park, others part of permanent museum collections, such as works by Michelangelo, Bernini, Bellini, Caravaggio and Fra Angelico at the Kimbell — in architecture — Renzo Piano and the Nasher Sculpture Center — and even in business.

So why not Italy in Texas, in Dallas, in Irving? After all, with “hard labor,” Irvingites and UD can further promote the sister-city relationship between the two cities, thereby binding our place in Irving to our place in Rome.

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