Friday, May 13, 2011

Where YOU from?

What is it with Italians? No sooner do they learn my last name, they ask me where my people are from.
"Umm...Canada?" Wrong answer.
"Oh! Scotland."
"Huh? Your name is Savino -  you're Italian. Napolitano?"

"No, I married an Italian." Blank look. 
"But, my children are Italian", I say engagingly. Big smile.

I was at a cocktail party last night, talking to a couple of Italian people. One of them had kept the original spelling of his name and was obviously Italian; the other had had his name anglicized at Ellis Island.

So, I started the conversation:  "So, you're Italian," I said. Where are you from?"

"Sicily!" the anglicized one said proudly.
"Whereabouts?"  I have learned it is best to pin Italians down.
"Canicatti! You know it?"

"No kidding! My husband's family is from Licata  - east of Agrigento." 

Swimming in the Meditrranean near Licata
After 25 years I have figured out how to interact with Buffalo Italians. Ninety percent of them can give you the name of their ancestral home. Luckily, I have a general idea of the layout of Sicily and can name most of the provinces of Italy. Bill has been a good teacher. Plus, we drove through Italy. Twice.  From Venice to Messina by car; across the Scylla and Charybdis by ferry; and on to Sicily. Great trip. I highly recommend it  - even if you're not lucky enough to be Italian. Although, I must admit Bill and I did almost divorce when we couldn't find our way out of Ravanusa. I swear we made the same left turn three times. And we just couldn't figure out where we were headed. Both of us, stubborn mules, refused to admit we had no idea where we were. Sparks were flying that day, I assure you! I am usually at the wheel when we drive. I need the control more than Bill - and he is a much better navigator. But, somehow, that day, our roles broke down and we turned into a couple of morons. I can't remember how we found our way out  - but it might have been one of the kids that figured it out.

Dinner al fresco at the Adoninnos

One of the best things about being married to an Italian and going to Italy is that, chances are, you have relatives living there. And, Bill has the absolute nicest bunch of people you ever want to meet. Generous, loving, welcoming - and that doesn't even cover it. The Adonninos of Licata are wonderful - I was so happy that we had the opportunity to meet them and live in their town for a while. They knew right away that I wasn't a real Italian. They kept asking me to sit down  - they thought I was sick because my skin tone was so pale.

After that trip, I was anxious to share my love of Italy with others. I turned into that person who asked "Italian? Where are you from" and I was proud to tell people that my kids were Italian.

1 comment:

  1. The differences between persons of Italian ancestry from Buffalo and similar people from Niagara Falls is something I have been trying to parse for some time now. It isn't that they are from different regions in Italy-- Sicilians from NF and Sicilians from Buffalo are as different from each other as Sicilian descended people are from people whose family came from, say, Calabria.