Fort Lauderdale, which bills itself as the Venice of America, sealed a long-sought deal in May with the other Venice to become sister cities.
"It opens the diplomatic door to all kinds of programs," said Nuccia McCormick, chair emeritus of Greater Fort Lauderdale Sister Cities International, who led the mission to Venice to secure the official declaration.
Fort Lauderdale has 14 other sister cities, including Rimini, also in Italy.
Mayor Massimo Cacciari of Venice signed the proclamation in Venice May 18. Mayor Jim Naugle of Fort Lauderdale signed his own declaration, but the city made no formal announcement about the sister cities link.
McCormick said Fort Lauderdale first tried to establish the relationship 16 years ago. The city has faced competition from many other that wanted to develop the same connection to Venice, including San Francisco and Atlanta. It was South Florida's marine industry that finally won Venice over, she said.
The sister city designation will foster cultural as well as economic development exchanges, she said. Fort Lauderdale city lifeguards have trained counterparts in the sister city of Quepos, Costa Rica and the city sent wheelchairs to another sister city, Mar De Plata, Argentina.
Sister Cities International will hold its annual conference starting July 18 in Fort Lauderdale at the Broward Convention Center. An estimated 700 people representing 35 countries are expected to attend.