A picturesque sight in Assisi. Province of Perugia, Umbria, cent

Our committee works hard to bring interesting and engaging programs to the citizens of Grand Rapids. Ongoing programs include:


Founded by the Perugia Committee in partnership with the University for Foreigners (UNISTRA) in Perugia, two scholarships are awarded annually to Grand Rapids area residents or students. Recipients spend one month studying the Italian language and culture. Each scholarship consists of a one-month tuition-free Italian course at the University for Foreigners (world famous for teaching Italian language and culture), a modest living stipend offered by UNISTRA, and an additional $2,000 cash award from the GRSCI Perugia Committee to assist with airfare and additional living expenses.

In the past, this opportunity was only available to Grand Rapids area students. The GRSCI Perugia Committee is pleased to announce the opening of the scholarship to ALL Grand Rapids area residents, regardless of age and status!

Recipients of the scholarship have described the experience as “life-changing.” It has offered them the opportunity not only to immerse themselves in Italian language, history and lifestyle, but also to travel around Italy and network with other language students from around the world.

Applicants for the scholarship must complete an application, two letters of recommendation and two essays. Each year, the call for applicants begins in January. The deadline for submission is March 15. Download an application online or e-mail to request an application.


Each year, scholarships are awarded to students from the University of Perugia who are in Grand Rapids attending college through an exchange program with the GVSU Political Science Department.


Begun in 2007 with groups of third graders at Thornapple Elementary School and Maria Montessori School in Perugia, this program has continued to grow to now include St. Paul of the Apostle School in Grand Rapids. Letters and photographs are exchanged during the school year detailing activities and introducing the children on both sides of the Atlantic to simple words in the language of their friends. Visitors in Perugia should not be surprised to see children wearing Thornapple baseball caps and their pen pals here in Grand Rapids sporting griffin (the official symbol of Perugia) pins…concrete evidence that the world is, indeed, flat!

The Mayors of both cities have visited the schools, answering questions from the children about their respective countries and lifestyles. In 2008, thanks to a tech-savvy Italian dad and a similarly talented Thornapple staff member, the children came face-to-face for the first time and exchanged personal greetings via a web cam connection.


Last year a partnership with St. Cecilia Music Center sent three music students to the music school in Perugia for workshops and performances. A reciprocal trip to Grand Rapids will occur sometime in 2016-2017.


The city of Perugia invites its Sister Cities from around the world to participate in a market devoted to the promotion and sale of products from their respective areas. Our volunteers staff a booth at the market located in the historic center of Perugia. Over 50,000 visitors from Perugia and many European cities attend this International Marketplace. Products offered for sale include dried fruits and nuts from the Ferris Coffee and Nut Company and buttery caramel corn, a special favorite of our Italian customers, from Savory Foods. Sandmann’s Barbecue has established a name for itself with its barbecued pork ribs. In addition to showcasing these local products, the Market offers an exceptional opportunity to interface with people from many other countries and to promote the industries of Grand Rapids and the city as a tourist destination.

“You really experience the similarities between people around the world during trips to Perugia. There are common desires for a high quality education, job opportunities, safe environments for our children and loving families. The marketplace allows you the chance to feel this first-hand. This brings me back year after year”—Rina Sala Baker


Since 2010, the Perugia committee has sponsored or co-sponsored a Perugian artist at ArtPrize, helping with cash stipends and finding venues and home stays.  The committee plans to continue this successful project. Past artists include:

Luigi Marzo – 2010

Nicola Renzi – 2011, 2016

Meri Tancredi – 2012

Rolf Jacobsen – 2012

Giuliano Giuman – 2013

Michele Ciribifera – 2014


Volunteers of the Perugia Committee facilitate monthly meetings of Club Italia for the promotion of our sister city language and culture. The Club meets the second Monday each month, 7:00pm at Schuller’s Bookstore on 28th Street, SE. For more information, email

Learn how to get involved with this sister city and/or make a donation to the Perugia project fund!