Nanjing was the capital of the early Ming Dynasty and here Zheng He weighed anchor to the West. It was the starting point of the maritime Silk Road of the Ming Dynasty, and the destination of his great voyages was Italy.
Thousands of years ago, on the silk road thanks to Zheng He, the two cities encountered for the very first time.
Friendships are not chosen by chance, but according to the passions that dominate us. (Alberto Moravia, Italian writer)
In 1980, Nanjing and Florence became sister cities thanks to the efforts of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries and former ambassador to Italy Mr. Zhang Yue.
It was the first pair of friendly cities between Jiangsu Province and Europe, and since then, it created a new chapter of Jiangsu's exchanges with Europe.
Over the past 40 years, no matter how international situation changes, the friendly and cooperative relations between the two cities have been developing steadily in culture, education, and sports as well as in industries and technology.
The mayor of Florence visited Nanjing many times, also attending the Expo of famous historical and cultural cities and matchmaking meetings in Nanjing.
In response, Nanjing calligraphers and painters went to Florence to show the artistic style of Chinese ink painting and to set up a bridge in art fields. Xuanwu District of Nanjing city has carried out fruitful innovation cooperation with Italy.
Nanjing has established an Overseas Collaborative Innovation Center in Florence to bring up China-Europe relationship from the municipal level through people-to-people exchanges.
Under the old bridge of Ponte Vecchio in Florence flows the blue waves of the Arno River. Through the ancient city wall of Nanjing winds the majestic Yangtze River. As once had served as capitals, both cities bear a profound historical heritage.
2020, the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Italy and the 40th anniversary of the sister-city relations between Nanjing and Florence.
The commitment as friendly cities take us from the past Silk Road to the new Belt and Road. In the fight against COVID-19 pandemic, the sister cities showed great love to stand up for each other.
Clouds don't always cloud the sky. Sometimes they light it up. (Li Rihua, writer in the Ming Dynasty, to Italian missionary Matteo Ricci)
Even the COVID-19 pandemic strength an ever-lasting friendship between the two cities.
At the critical moment of China's fight against the pandemic, the mayor of Florence launched the "embrace the Chinese" initiative on social media, which not only showed support to China, but also warmed the hearts of more than one billion Chinese people.
Then, in late February 2020, the pandemic spread in Italy and the mayor of Nanjing sent a warm letter to the mayor of Florence.
For centuries, on March 25th, citizens of Florence wear traditional costumes and hold parades, food and music performances to celebrate the Florence’s traditional New Year and the arrival of spring. But in 2020, Florence was shrouded in the shadow of the pandemic and became an empty city.
At the critical moment, Nanjing donated 150,000 disposable medical masks to the city, interpreting the old saying "thousands of miles of friendship is stronger than metal and stone".
The mayor of Florence not only expressed his gratitude on social media and sent us a letter of thanks, but also repeatedly expressed his willingness to come to Nanjing to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the sister city twinning.
During the pandemic, Nanjing also actively facilitated the resumption of business operations for the Italian companies and played an important role as a bridge in Sino-Italian exchanges.
Italian ambassador to China Luca Ferrari fully appreciated Nanjing's donation and hoped to further promote the cooperation between Nanjing and Italy.
Nanjing as a model in urban diplomacy
Great efforts should be made to develop China's international sister cities, promote exchanges between Chinese and foreign local governments, and boost resource sharing, complementary advantages, and win-win cooperation. --Xi Jinping, President of China
Han liming, secretary of the Nanjing Party Committee, said that Nanjing is the strategic hub for smooth domestic and international dual circulations and the city strive to serve the country in fostering a new development paradigm.
Nanjing and Florence cooperation is a new pattern of opening to the world at a high level, creating new channels for the Foreign Affairs Resources. We can call it an innovative model of urban diplomacy and Nanjing really is an innovative famous city and beautiful ancient capital with high-quality development.
For Ms Han liming, the challenge is an innovation driven development boosted by exchanges and cooperation to speed up the construction of healthy, digital and green silk road.
The fight against COVID-19 will bring deeper cooperation with other countries that can help country's overall diplomacy.
The 40th Anniversary of Twinning Between Nanjing and Florence & Culture Week kicks off with several events include a China-Italy food festival, fashion show and music performances so that the citizens of Nanjing can feel Italian culture by themselves. A number of domestic and foreign mainstream media widely reported the events.
During the opening ceremony, Nanjing and Florence signed the Agreement on Further Friendly Cooperation via video and thanks to technical means, the hosts of both sides could show “hand in hand” the friendship between the two cities.
At the same time, we also made abundant use of emerging and cloud media to tell the Nanjing story in a livelier way on a wider range of people.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of PRC and the Consulate General in Florence have paid great attention to the events and provided persistent guidance and strong support all the way.
Ambassador Li Junhua and Consul General Wang Wengang also sent videos to express their appreciation for the ever-lasting friendship between the two cities and their vision for cooperation between Nanjing and Florence.