LIVORNO, Italy - The citizens of Pistoia Province continued an Italian-American friendship tradition here by donating a Christmas tree to Camp Darby for a lighting ceremony December 7.

Lt. Col. Steven Cade, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Livorno, said the gesture reinforces a special kinship felt by the two communities, especially during the holidays.

"Christmas time is a special time for all people," Cade said. "We are truly blessed to be part of the Italian community in this beautiful country, surrounded by our good friends and allies."

Col. Raffaele Iubini, the Italian base commander, agreed, adding: "This generous gift ... reflects the beautiful and natural resources of Pistoia, and is not only from the people, but from the land (as well)."

Pistoia is a mountainous area with some of the most acclaimed Christmas trees from the Tuscany region. The province began its annual donation to Camp Darby seven years ago.

Iubini noted the roots of the colorful lit tree "are old, like the legacy relationship between Americans and Italians in Tuscany ... our commitment to our friends and allies is a living relationship that grows strong like the trees in Pistoia."

Pistoia Province President Gianfranco Venturi, also expressed his appreciation of the bond between Italy and the Unites States that started after the liberation of his country following World War II.

"I am glad for the friendship between Camp Darby and Pistoia," Venturi said, adding that he encouraged "everyone to visit our beautiful town of Pistoia, where they will be warmly welcomed."

Other special visitors at the tree-lighting ceremony were Livorno Prefect Giancarlo Trevisone and a group of mentally challenged children and young adults from the Stella Maris Foundation, which has a hospital in Montalto di Fauglia, near Camp Darby. Doctor Maria Pilar Supervia-Gutierrez, the hospital's general director, presented Cade a clay Nativity scene made by the children.