Celebrating 15 Years of Portland-Bologna Sisterhood

On October 2, 2002, a contingent consisting of Jim Francesconi, George Passadore, Joe D’Alessandro and Andrea Bartoloni, presented a letter from Mayor Vera Katz to Bologna Mayor Giorgio Guazzaloca proposing a sister city relationship between our two cities. On March 19th, 2003, the Portland City Council passed resolution 177339, approving the by-laws and directors for the Portland Bologna Sister City Association. Shortly after, the first Official Bologna Delegation arrived in Portland to sign the initial accord, “Document of Friendship” that transitions into a Sister City relationship. In October of 2003, the Official Portland Delegation, headed by Mayor Katz, arrived in Bologna, to celebrate and cement this burgeoning coalition. In less than a year, on April 27th, 2004 the sister city status was formalized, with a signing ceremony at Portland State University.
— Phil describes the formation of PBSCA

March 2018 - Phil Potestio, Board President

My family’s involvement with this partnership goes back to its inception. My wife Sally, our kids and I had been living in Bologna since 1998. We had absolutely fallen in love with the city and its people and often hosted friends and relatives, many from Portland, sharing with them the wonders of one of Italy’s truly overlooked (by Americans, at least) cities and regions.

Portland, not having a European Sister City, was actively pursuing one. Commissioner Jim Francesconi had been pushing for an Italian Sister City, owing not only to his heritage, but also to the fact that there were approximately 40,000 citizens with Italian backgrounds in the Portland area. However Italians (and even Italian Americans), have the propensity for “regional affiliation”. Talk to any Italian and one of the first things discussed is where in Italy their family is from and how it is, inevitably, the best area in the country. That of course led to disagreement as to what Italian city Portland would approach as a potential sister. The players could not seem to agree, each pulling for their particular neck of the woods.

Luckily, my cousin Rick Potestio became involved in the discussion. He had just returned from an extended stay, sleeping on our couch, and was hot for Bologna. Our family’s region is not Bologna or even Emilia Romagna. Rick just saw the synergies between Portland and Bologna – the similar size, the big universities, the political bent, the environmental focus, and the food and wine fascination – and suggested, by way of compromise, that Bologna be the choice. Once the other founders thought about and researched Bologna, it became more than just a neutral spot that could be agreed upon, it became an obviously great fit.

One of the first people contacted by the initial visiting group was Sally Hudson. As
she accompanied the Portland group around Bologna, we had no idea that we would be moving back to Portland, after almost 30 years away (in the Bay Area and in Bologna) and would be bringing so much of our beloved Italian city back with us. Our connections and involvement with Bologna continue to this day, through the sister city relationship, through our many friends there and as of last year, the fact that our daughter has retaken up residence there.

If you have an experience with Bologna, Italy or the Portland Bologna Sister City
Association and would like to share it in this forum, please write and submit to