One foot in Italy One foot in America: I am an Italian American


As an Italian American do you feel that you have one foot in America and one in Italia?

The Italian American dilemma…

Street Parking!

When I tell people in Italy I am Italian American,  they seem  ‘surprised’ and not sure what that means.    I wonder if Italians really think Italian Americans are true  Italian?   Certainly not the same as a native Italian.

What about Italians who immigrated to the USA.   Did they consider themselves Italian Americans?Perhaps this is how an immigrant feels when they arrive at their new destination.  But when I arrive in Italy every year, I feel as if I have come Home to Italy.

Cafe in Piazza San Marco, Venice

I often wonder what traditions are the same in Italy that  families observed in America.   So I started to ask Italian Americans what traditions do they remember.

Did it matter where you lived in the USA?
     Were traditions practiced in the northeast differ from those in the Midwest or West coast? 

Where is your family from?
What impact did the region your family immigrated from have on  family traditions.   Did Venetians observe the same holidays as Sicilians?

Cloister in Capri

Since many first generations Italians are no longer with us I  have a sense of urgency to find the answers to these questions and many more.

So I am asking all my fellow Italian Americans to take a few minutes and tell me what  you remember about living as an Italian American?

   Topics can included of course food, holidays, did you speak Italian at home.   More interesting topics have been mentioned in the few interviews I have done:   making wine in the basement, the entire family meeting for Sunday dinner, at weddings the bride carried a bag for ‘donations’,  having a family garden,  viewings for funerals held at home, multi generational households.

 The list goes on and on.    And a few surprises popped up on my first few interviews:   relatives who had been ‘away at college’ really meant they had been incarcerated!

A memory I still have is of a  favorite aunt who had beautiful furniture covered with custom fitted plastic covers and how in the summer your legs stuck to the couch!        Italian may have  been spoken at home only among the adults almost as a secret language or when they wanted to swear in front of children.

View over Sorrento marina

Food was an ongoing theme.   And lots of food.   Holidays especially featured both Italian foods and an ‘American roast or turkey’.   There is an ongoing battle over if you called it sauce or gravy.      Parts of NYC insist it was ‘gravy’. But across the river in NJ it was always sauce. And I can remember my mother starting the sauce on Saturday and cooking it all day for Sunday’s dinner. 

Loyalty to the family and your family responsibilities came first.     Respect for your grandparents who were the head of the family.    Secrecy. …….

Field Trip

Tell me where your family immigrated from so we can compare practices.   I want to explore
superstitions, folk stories, religious practices, patron saints  and even games you played.  I remember visiting Pepe in Sorrento on his ‘naming day’.  I thought this was his birthday but it was explained that you have a patron saint that you were named for and celebrated that day.     During the short visit at his office  a number of friends came in to congratulate him on this day…..I thought I was part of a soprano episode.

Will anyone be able to tell me more about  the courageous Italians who helped allied soldiers who found themselves behind enemy lines.      Or the USA  Italian internment camps during WWII.

There is so much to learn and your comments will send me in search of answers.   I return to Italia in October and will search for some of the answers.

If you would like the complete survey when it is published, send me an email:   under comments

Published by Lee Laurino

A traveler not a tourist, searching for experiences not in travel books. Solo traveler who travels as long and far as possible sharing photos of the people and places I discover

2 thoughts on “One foot in Italy One foot in America: I am an Italian American

  1. My family comes from Calabria. We made homemade sausage and soprasatta every January and let it cure in my grandparents fruit cellar. Every Easter we made Easter pizza (sweet egg dough stuffed with Italian lunch meats, ricotta cheese, mozzarella, and hard boiled egg), every holiday had pasta served at it (even Thanksgiving), the Feast of the Seven Fish had different fish than my husband's family (who are from farther north), we ate our cooked meal for lunch on Sundays after Mass so we could visit our grandparents Sunday evenings, and family was PARAMOUNT. Oh, and we called it sauce.


  2. Grazie for participating! My family is South of Salerno and did NOT have the easter pizza or 7 fishes! I have met other Italian Americans who practice the 7 fishes.this encourages me to start posting and sending out my survey to hear from other areas in Italy. Can you tell me where in the USA you grew up? thank you for participating!


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