Can you name any of Houston's official sister cities? There are 18, added little-by-little since Taipei became the first in 1961, five years after Dwight Eisenhower introduced the concept to allow for exchange of ideas and goods between the U.S. and other nations. Our eclectic lot ranges from big cities like Istanbul, Perth and Nice, to lesser-known locales including Tyumen, Russia and Luanda, Angola. (You probably already guessed that those last two are notably oil-rich.)
I couldn't tell you about our relationships with most of those places, but I can tell you all about an unofficial sister city, Gagliato, in Italy's southernmost region of Calabria. I was charmed by the roughly 500-strong town in the hills in the province of Catanzaro this summer when I visited with a handful of Houston medical professionals for NanoGagliato, the nanomedical conference that has granted the tiny town the official title, "Paese delle NanoScienze."
Mauro Ferrari, the president and CEO of the Houston Methodist Research Institute, and executive vice president of the Houston Methodist Hospital System, runs the conference and is honorary president of the Accademia di Gagliato, which educates local children about nanoscience. But his wife, Paola Ferrari, is the tie that truly binds the two cities.
Paola Ferrari began raising money for Gagliato's newly minted world of science with a jewelry company called Nano Shapes, which debuted in 2016. The collection features stark, but earthy designs based on the forms of nanoparticles, crafted in reclaimed metal. This year, her efforts extend from something wonderful to put on your body to things to put in it. The first of four seasonal deliveries will start this month of the Gagliato Box.
Ferrari, in fact, is in Gagliato right now, collecting the products that will be featured this time around, all of which are organic and farmed within 30 kilometers of the tiny city. The December box will include a bottle of extra virgin olive oil, fresh hazelnuts, cheese, honey, berry jam and oregano, Ferrari says. Each box costs €100, with discounts for each additional box. For example, pre-ordering a whole year of four boxes costs €320. Deliveries make it from Gagliato to Houston in five to seven business days, so products will still be exceedingly fresh when they arrive.
To order your boxes, write to Ferrari at firstname.lastname@example.org and indicate how many boxes (and which ones: December, March, June, September) and the addresses to which you want them shipped. To pay, use this Paypal link. You may not be able to make it to Gagliato yourself this year, but for far, far less, you can taste it at home. And with five percent from every box going directly to educating the kids of Accademia di Gagliato, the pleasure goes both ways.