ROME - In an unusual call for love, the Italian birthplace of St. Valentine said on Friday it was looking for a U.S. suitor to become its "sister city".
The mayor of Terni in central Italy said he hoped to find a city in the United States committed to a "meaningful, longstanding bond" as part of a drive to promote its patron saint, the guardian of amorous couples.
"We're looking for an enduring relationship that will grow as the years pass, so that we can learn about American culture and share ideas," Mayor Leonardo Latini told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
St. Valentine is thought to have been a priest from Terni who was martyred on February 14 about AD 270 for defying the Roman emperor Claudius II.
Claudius had banned marriages, fearing husbands would stay at home with their wives rather than fight wars, but Valentine married young soldiers and their sweethearts in secret, until the emperor found out and had him beheaded.
The quest to find a perfect match for Terni opened on Friday with a call for applications that will be judged by a panel including Latini and Julie Hansen, the U.S. head of language-learning app Babbel, which helped organise the campaign.
"We're hoping to add even more love to the air this Valentine's Day, and play matchmaker on this grand scale," Hansen said in a statement.
The winner is to be announced on Valentine's Day next year.
The ideal candidate would have beautiful natural features and share Terni's romantic appeal, past career in the steal industry and love for animals and beekeeping, said an online announcement.
Located about 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of Rome near the spectacular Marmore Falls, the city developed a huge arms industry in the early 20th century, but was largely reduced to rubble by allied bombing raids during World War Two.
Terni already has three twin cities, all in Europe, but Latini was confident that would not be a problem. "There's enough love to go around," he said.