Paris and Rome pledged themselves to be “twin cities” 50 years ago. Like a long-standing marriage, they reconfirmed their vows this past Monday before the city council and later before an adoring crowd at a special reception.
First, the two mayors met in the private office of Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë before taking a ceremonious walk together through the long corridor in the Hôtel de Ville, lined by the Royal Guards, with swords at their shoulders, to enter the City Council Chamber. Council members, ministers and mayors were present. I sat among the Italian press in the upper balcony tinged with excitement to be witness to the special event, looking down on the scene, with the bright sun shining through the stained glass windows that overlook the Parvis de l’Hôtel de Ville.
First Mayor Delanoë then Mayor Walter Veltroni, delivered speeches that held their commitments to remain “twins” and inseparable compatriots with one another’s illustrious cities. Veltroni spoke in perfect French, with only a very slight Italian accent. They pledged that no other city could make the same claim — Paris and Rome would be forever united as both siblings and friends, sharing as much between them as any twins would.
Both cities occupy a unique place in European history. Both cities of science and culture share many artists who made their marks on society — Stendahl, Chateaubriand, Ingres, Degas, Modigliani and scores of others — and continue to jointly support cultural events such as La Nuit Blanche in Paris and La Notte Bianca in Rome. Both cities remain united in their goals against discrimination. Both cities agree to continue to explore new avenues of partnership. And they expressed their viewpoint that their cities are the two most beautiful in the world…a tough point to argue!
They each signed the proclamation, then showed it off to the audience and the cameras. It ended in a standing ovation and an exit by the two mayors as they shook hands and kissed cheeks along the way out of the chamber.
At 6:50 p.m. that evening, as only French master engineers can orchestrate, for about 15 minutes, images of Rome were displayed on the facade of the Hôtel de Ville. I snapped my digital camera every second second trying to capture the spectacular audio-visual presentation. In brilliant color, ancient artifacts of Rome were superimposed on the 19th-century sculpted stone facade…the sculpture of the female wolf, feeding the baby twins Romulus and Remus (the mythological twin sons fathered by the god of war who are considered the traditional founders of Rome)…the lion head symbol of Rome…the Coliseum…the Trevi Fountain…the words Paris-Rome, Roma-Parigi…
When the lights went down, the guests by invitation filed up the stairs and into the grand salons of the Hôtel de Ville to hear the mayors speak once again to confirm their vows before a crowd of French and Italian dignitaries. The elaborate crystal chandeliers were lit in bright colors creating a warm glow throughout the large room lined in mirrors. We listened to poetry and music, then toasted with champagne, munched on canapés and petit fours.
It was easy to recognize the Italians present — for their good looks, fashionable clothing, perfect coiffeurs, magnificent leather shoes and flailing hands
as they spoke to one another. And it was easy to see how Rome and Paris would feel so natural as part of the same family, to be even more than just sister-cities, but to be attached at the hip as twins would be.
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
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