Let me introduce myself. I am a Sophomore student at the University of Alabama with a major in History and a special interest in the Roman Empire. The development of the Roman Empire fascinates me as it is the longest lasting civilization in recorded human history and I am proud to have come from those roots.

When I think of my Italian Heritage, I think of my grandparents. My grandpa was a strong and sturdy man with a voice as deep and booming as thunder. He was a man who emulated dignity and respect for himself and others. Pawpaw taught me the importance of working hard in life and how a man’s role was to support his family. He instilled in me a strong sense of pride in my Sicilian heritage. He also taught me the value of humor. On multiple occasions, he would send me into the kitchen, where all of the women were busy making Christmas cookies and taught me to quietly “borrow” some cuccidati for him to test!

My Nanna was a fun person to be around. She too taught me the importance of humor and was so happy to see me take an interest in my heritage. When I learned to sing the Italian song, “Che La Luna” in Italian, she was so proud of me and would often ask me to sing it for her. My Nanna taught me to simply enjoy life and to persevere even when times get tough. Even after 8 years after Pawpaw passed away, she kept her joyful spirit. She also taught me how to be a good host. Every Sunday, her home was opened to us as we enjoyed her delicious pasta with succa and meatballs. Today, I open my apartment for my friends to enjoy Nana’s same Sunday lunch recipe. I often recall the two fig trees in the backyard of my grandparent’s home and how during the hot summer months there was usually a bag of fresh figs that my Nana would give to everyone to bring home.

At the age of eight, I was fortunate to take my “prima viaggio” to Italy with my parents and godparents. We visited Rome including the Vatican, Venice, Florence, Orvieto, and Bologna. In Bologna, I had the opportunity to meet and stay with some of my relatives. I was most impressed by the grand cathedrals, especially il Vaticano, il Duomo in Florence and il Duomo of Orvieto. My latest visit to Italy was when was I was 12 years old. At the Vatican, we were fortunate to attend the General Audience of His Holiness, Pope Francis. In Bologna, I met my cousins Leonardo, Vittoria, and Beatrice. I still keep in contact with these cousins today through social media. This time the trip also included a visit to Sicily. I was simply stunned by the beautiful countryside and met multiple relatives during this experience. The way the sun illuminated the hillsides and cobble stone streets still dwells within my mind. In Bisacquino, where my ancestors are from, we had to stop and let a goat herder lead his goats through the narrow mountain road. I remember having the thought that he was living the same kind of life that my great-grandfather Cosimo left behind when he came to America. Also in Bisacquino, I tasted my first ice cream sandwich on Italian bread! What an experience! I look forward to visiting Italy once again.

My experiences specifically in Florence and Venice gave rise to my interest in the Italian Rennaisance. The stunning architecture, the art, and the total Italian culture is a monument to the will and determination of the Italian people. My gold medal that I wear today is from my dad who got it on his first trip to Italy. My chain belonged to my Pawpaw. I wear both proudly today along with my cornicello (Italian horn).

To sum it up, my italian heritage means to me to be a source of strength and support for those whom I love. I follow in the footsteps of my dad and Papa and all of those relatives who came before them. I am so proud to be a third generation Italian-American citizen.