In the Beginning

The Isola delle Femmine – Pittsburg connection goes back to the 1880’s when some of our great grandfather’s, grandfather’s and fathers came to this area invited as some of you know, by Pietro Aiello. Pittsburg and Isola delle Femmine are on the same parallel on the globe, similar climates, same abundance of fish for the fishermen.

Pittsburg was a fishing port during the Isola migration. The area was originally known as New York Landing, then Black Diamond before becoming Pittsburg. Growing up in the areas of Pittsburg and Monterey in the mid to late 40’s and hanging around the water front and wharfs where the Sicilian fisherman mending their nets, I spent my time listening to their stories and putting together the histories of our Sicilian families. This gave me an awareness of our connections to the “old country” and from this I always knew that something official needed to be done eventually.

Consequently, in 1990 we visited Isola delle Femmine to celebrate my God Parents, Mario and Kay Lucido’s 50th wedding anniversary and the renewing of their wedding vows at the local church, in Isola. On this trip, my Godfather Mario introduced me to Tonino Scala and Vincenzo Di Maggio, the Mayor of Isola at that time. It turned out that the Mayor and I are cousin’s. We discussed the possibility of some kind of connection between the new and the “Old World”. It was Tonino that proposed the idea of a “Sister City” relationship.

I promised Tonino that upon returning home I would see what I could do. I met Frank Bruno and it all began….

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In 1991 Vince and I met at an Italian-American Club fund raiser at the old Pittsburg Elks Lodge. Vince informed me of his discussion with Tonino Scala and the mayor of Isola and he asked me if it would be possible to form a sister city with Isola. I loved the idea and I was baffled by the thought that this had not been done already. As the President/Chairman of the Pittsburg Chamber of Commerce at the time I immediately approached Chamber Executive Director, Brad Nail-who was in attendance that evening-about the idea and he liked it. Brad asked me to talk to then Mayor Joe Canciamilla who was also in attendance. I went over to Joe and after I explained the idea he said why not-let’s do it! and the rest is history.

I immediately contacted Mary Coniglio and Vince “Rabbit” Coniglio to help form a committee. We enlisted Rocco Battaglia, Sal Caccaroni, Mike Troia, John Buffo and our committee was up and running. In October 1992, the first delegation arrived in Pittsburg made up of Mayor Guiseppi Mannino and wife Rosa, Vice Mayor Stefano Bologna, Councilman Tonino Scala, Councilwoman Yolanda Bruno, Councilman Cosimo Pagano, and Councilman Gianni Impastato.

While they were here in Pittsburg we showed them our city, state capital, Monterey, and San Francisco. When they saw Pittsburg artist Frank Vitale’s Fisherman Statue at the end of Railroad Ave. they expressed their desire for Isola to have the same statue in their marina. They had a place in Isola in front of the city hall and overlooking the harbor and the Mediterranean Sea. They called it Piazza di Pittsburg in dedication to our sister city relationship. In turn our city council re-named part of Third St, from Marina Boulevard to Railroad Ave ending at the Statue to Isola delle Femmine Boulevard.

So our committee went to work and raised the funds needed to have an exact copy of the statue built. Pittsburg Artist Frank Vitale graciously donated his time and the only remaining mold of the original statue and worked on putting the sculpture together again, for the cause. We shipped the completed statue to Isola in 1994 just before our first Sister City Community trip to Isola for the dedication ceremony.

During our Inauguration trip in 1994 for the dedication of the statue and Piazza our committee were joined by 100 people from our community mostly descendants from Isola, who had never traveled to Italy before. We all witnessed the beautiful heart felt reception and dedication of the fisherman statue in Piazza di Pittsburg which is now the symbol of our sister city hood. It was a historic, beautiful, and very emotional experience for everyone. Those that attended both the 1994, 1997, 2002, 2006, 2010, Sister City trips to Isola can attest to the overwhelming & emotional experience.

Now fast-forwarding to 2017 we are celebrating our two cities 25th Anniversary Celebration of Sister City Hood. The Friends of Isola delle Femmine Committee and the City of Pittsburg are extremely thankful and excited you are here in support of this union.

Sister City

The Pittsburg-Isola delle Femmine Sister City Committee was created in 1992 by Vincent S. DiMaggio and Frank B. Bruno. By gathering the generations of Pittsburg community leaders who were descendants from Isola delle Femmine. They created a working group of citizens who were dedicated to the creation of a Sister City relationship between the City of Pittsburg and Isola delle Femmine, in Sicily.

It is extremely gratifying to our long standing committee members to see that the City of Pittsburg has continued to honor this relationship.

Our committee members are our Isola family, here in America. We have been very active for the last 28 years. First by establishing the official Sister City relationship between both cities, entertaining and hosting official dignitaries on each of their visits to Pittsburg, creating Italian events for our citizens of Pittsburg to reconnect, to their ancestors and culture.

We have also hosted Isola’s exchange students and gathered Pittsburg High School students to visit Isola in return. Along with hosting and coordinating some of Isola’s young professionals by placing them in some exchange work experience programs.

Most of all we are very proud of our very first project in 1994. The creation and transportation of an exact copy of Pittsburg’s Fisherman’s statue that we sent to Isola delle Femmine and which now stands in “Piazza de Pittsburg”, in Isola’s harbor. We are very thankful to Artist, Frank Vitale, who worked closely with us to make this a reality.

Recently, in 2017, we hosted and providing exchange visits, meals, transportation and events for the Mayor of Isola and council members and their spouses, who came to visit Pittsburg and help us celebrate our 25th Anniversary of Sisterhood.

We have also escorted over 650 local citizens to visit Isola and rediscover their roots on several of our Sister City Trips. 2018 we returned to Isola, bringing 30 travelers with us, to join in the first Immigrants Celebration, honoring all of the people who had the courage and strength to leave their homes and families behind and create a new life, in America.

We are proud to be descended from Isola delle Femmine. We have worked hard to promote our Italian heritage and will continue to work as we always have to raise funds for our future projects and celebrations. We encourage any Italian descendants to join in celebrating with us and preserve our culture for future generations.

1992 Sister City Committee

Sal Caccaroni, John Buffo, Vince DiMaggio, Frank Vitale, Frank Bruno, Mary Coniglio, Rocco Battaglia, Vince Coniglio.

2017 Sister City Committee

Back Row Left to right Vince DiMaggio, Frank Bruno, Sal Coniglio, Mary Coniglio, Vince Ferrante, Midge DiMaggio, Front Row Nolan Evola and Joan Evola (Jess Leber – not pictured).