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  • Why We Should Be Thankful for Our Italian Roots
    Find out 10 reasons - some funny, some serious - that your Italian heritage enriches your life.
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    10. A rich history - from the Roman Empire to the antics of Silvio Berlusconi - gives you plenty to contemplate and discuss. As an Italian, you probably like to debate the issues and philosophize about what the past and present mean for the future.

    9. A good excuse to visit Italy - As someone with an Italian heritage, you should visit the Motherland - especially the land of your ancestors be it Calabria or Milan, Bari or Torino. See the country for its beauty and history, but you should also try and get to know the people. If you have relatives there, you should make it a point to meet them. Even if you can talk to your distant cousins or throw pennies into the Trevi Fountain just once, you should do it. At least you'll be able to see that you saw the home of your ancestors and you now know from whence you came.

    8. Close family ties - Many Italian families are still very close to one another. Children often stay close to their parents (if not in the same house, which might be pushing it) after they get married and have children of their own. Everyone knows their cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents well. They really mean it when they say, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Everyone pitches in. Sure, it can be overbearing. But many people I know would be grateful for Italian families that could help them make ends meet when times are tough or help babysit the kids (for free mind you) when they have to work.

    7. Sage advice from relatives - When you have close family ties and everyone is helping each other, you're bound to offer each other tips and advice. You might not ask for it. You might not even want it. But you're going to get it. Lots of what your elders will tell you will actually be useful. For example, my uncle told me to make friends with people who had high aspirations and whom I could admire. My grandfather told me to save money for college. And the list goes on. Most of my Italian relatives also told me to never drink ice water because it will kill you, but I learned when to listen and when to ignore. Sooner or later, we all pick up that trick.

    6. You can blame everything on the malocchio (or evil eye) - This might be truer for southern Italians than those from the north. But it's still a reason for which I'm thankful for my Italian heritage. You're about to lose your job? Malocchio. Your boyfriend left you for another woman? Malocchio. You burned Thanksgiving dinner? Malocchio. It's the fault of the evil eye. Someone has cursed you. It's out of your hands.

    5. Your zia who will confirm that you indeed have the evil eye - You know you have an aunt or friend of the family (who you probably still call zia) who will perform some magic with oil and water and see the eyes staring back at you. A little more magic and the zia will remove the evil eye for you - and you can move on with your life. Suddenly, you'll get a new job, your new boyfriend will be hotter and faithful, and the next dinner you make will be perfectly delicious.

    4. You're not superficial but you believe in the bella figura - The Italian's belief in the bella figura, or making a good impression, especially when it comes to your appearance and attitude, has Italians a bit obsessed with judging a book by its cover. The good news for you is that when you are worrying about wearing that Armani outfit and having flawless skin and someone wants to accuse you of being superficial, you can just say that you're Italian and the bella figura is important to you. It sounds so much better than superficial, doesn't it?

    3. Your crazy relative - Every Italian family has one of these guys. He or she is not certifiable or anything. He or she just lives on the border of crazy town and usually provides tons of fodder for hilarious family stories. (I'll be honest. My family has more than one colorful relative, and I would have nothing to talk about if it weren't for these folks.) The jokes you get out of all family stories, but especially the ones featuring these crazy relatives, are superb and can help you meet people all over the globe.

    2. Hot soccer players, passionate singers, colorful politicians (including a porno star), and an entire country of people - Italians are simply cool. It's in the DNA, and they are beloved by people the world over.

    And the number one reason, I'm thankful to be Italian…

    1. The food - Let's face it, Italians know how to eat and cook. And my belly - and me - are grateful that we grew up eating everything from salami (my mom packed it for me for lunch throughout elementary school) to the meatball heroes I used to bring to work when I used to travel to work in Manhattan. Italian cuisine is the best in the world. Period.

    Di Meglio is the Guide to Newlyweds for About.com. You can read more about her life and work at theTwo Worlds Web site.


    Article Published 11/23/09

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