SISTER CITIES: FLORENCE AND FIRENZE
Florence, Alabama, and Florence, Italy (Firenze, Italia) enjoy a sister-city relationship. It began informally with the 200-year-old oral tradition that Ferdinand Sannoner, the talented young surveyor who helped lay out our beautiful city, was allowed to name it in honor of his favorite Italian city, Firenze. In the early 1990's, this relationship was made official when the late Thelma and Aubrey Gaskins, owners of Stephano's Restaurant at the time, went to Firenze as Florence's official ambassadors of goodwill and, in return, Alberto Tirrelli, Vice-Mayor (Vice-Sindaco) of Firenze, and his wife Cristina came to Florence, Alabama. Then, in 2018, an entourage from Florence visited Firenze as part of our city's official Bicentennial celebration. It's a huge honor for our great town to be identified as a sister city with the beautiful Italian town where the rebirth of learning in a wide variety of disciplines began in the the historical period known as the Renaissance.
The word "renaissance" is an Italian word for "rebirth." In the 14th century in Florence, Italy (Firenze, Italia), a magnificent renaissance began as scholars began to study in-depth the Greek and Roman cultures. The result was an explosion of interest in many fields of endeavor: art, music, architecture, science, mathematics, philosophy, etc. Thus was born the well-known historical period known as the Renaissance. Such famous Florentine natives as daVinci, Michaelangelo, Machiavelli and Galileo became part of the everyday conversation throughout the city. Equally astounding, the population of Firenze was approximately 140,000 (roughly the current population of the Shoals area) at that time. Fast forward to Florence, Alabama, in 1987. Because the historical Renaissance had its roots in Firenze, Italia, which is located on the banks of the Arno River, it was a "no brainer" that Florence, named for Firenze and located on the banks of the beautiful Tennessee River, should become the home of Alabama's official Renaissance Faire. In 2011, Darlene and Rick Freemon led a group of 40 people as ambassadors of Florence and its Renaissance Faire on a grand tour of Firenze and other Italian cities. So, the honored Florence-Firenze relationship that began 200 years ago with Signor Ferdinand Sannoner continues to flourish.
--Billy Warren, City Historian