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  • Italians: Pioneers, Yesterday and Today
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    Many Italians - from Galileo to Columbus - were pioneers, unafraid of the unknown, with open minds. We directly benefited from their courage and creativity. We had the Roman Empire and the Renaissance, gravity and the Americas, Armani and the Ferrari. Although today's Italian pioneers are not challenged by pope's driven by power or plagues that take out entire peoples, there are nay sayers and doubters - and still they march on.

    Young people in Italy - especially in the south - are victims of circumstance. They grow up in small towns where everyone knows each other. They witness crime and see that thieves get respect and money. And they get the wrong ideas about life. They think that they can get something for nothing. Some of them come from good families that fight against these societal norms. Their families teach them good values - to work hard, live an honest life, and to earn your own way. These Italians make a good path for themselves even as the thieves continue around them. They see ugly things but make their own beauty. They march on.

    I have been in Italy for the last week, and I've met an architect, an engineer, and computer expert. They live on Ischia, an island off the coast of Naples. They all lament about their situation - the limits of their career on a tiny island, how great it would be to live in a place like the United States, where anyone with an idea can make it a reality. Many of them continue to lament because they'd rather complain than change their situation. Others take off.

    We have friends who went to study in Australia to learn English and test themselves away from the small island. Others come home just for the holidays and live and work in bigger cities in Europe. Others, like my family, which is originally from Ischia, moved to America and never looked back. They run their own businesses, earned college degrees, and combined the traditions of their homeland with those of their new home. They march on.

    Some of today's Italians are paralyzed by their home life. Many live at home with their parents until they get married. Now that fewer Italians are marrying, more of them are staying at home well into their adult life. They never become independent, never worry about finances on their own, and never really have to grow up.

    Some of them like it that way. Others realize that there's no price for their independence. I met one young man in Ischia this week who lives by himself, cooks for himself, and goes to work as a salesperson everyday. He seems more like an American than anyone I've ever met here. The natives seem to feel sorry for him. They invite him over for Sunday lunch and whisper, not that he has no wife at 32, but that he has no mamma here. But there are some moms - few as they might be - who raise their children to be independent and to fly away at the right time. One of my friends is having a long-distance relationship with a young woman from Milan. They have to travel back and forth every couple of weeks to see each other. Eventually, they will have to choose somewhere to live. My friend has told me in the past that he would like to get off the island and see all the possibilities the world has to offer. They march on.

    The point is that being a pioneer is in Italian blood. From Columbus to today's youth, Italians, for the most part, have open minds and try to look beyond what is at their fingertips. That often takes them to great places they couldn't even imagine.

    Di Meglio is the guide to Newlyweds, for About.com.

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