By Gabe Spadaccini
Family. Respect. Beauty. Time. These are all core values in Italian culture. As a young Italian American who grew up in America, it can be easy to deviate from the values of our ancestors. However, certain ideologies move through our souls, constant and unyielding like the current of the oceans directing us where to go, shaping our minds and future generations of Italians.
Above all, la famiglia is regarded as the most important of Italian values. Family is the select few people we can confide in without fear of judgment, the one place we find solace if we ever feel lost. It means not having to carry the burdens of life on your own. Sharing heavy secrets, tremendous meals and uncontrollable laughs with relatives is of the highest importance in life. In America, where divorce is occurring more and more often, it is important for Italian-American families to stay devoted and loyal to each other.
Trust is also highly regarded in the Italian culture. Not to be confused with respect, trust is only given to a small number of people starting with family members. One can be respected but not necessarily trusted, like those in authority. A lot of Italians respect people with authority, but often do not trust those in positions of power. Only the closest of companions, those who have proved themselves through actions, good intentions and morals, can receive trust. To receive someone’s trust is a very lofty honor that should be received with pride and not taken lightly.
Another important value is beauty: finding beauty in nature, architecture, weather, sadness, everything, is the key to happiness. The world is a wonderful place, so to enjoy life one must be able to find beauty in even the simplest of things. Italians are very in touch with their senses and take in all that we can through our sensory neurons. Smells, tastes, sights and sounds have such a profound impact on our perceptions of the world. By overlooking the beauty of everything around us we are not living a fulfilled life.
Going hand-in-hand with beauty, Italians are very in touch with the notion of time. This is not to say that they are always punctual, because in some parts of Italy the concept of punctuality doesn’t exist as people go about their daily business with their own volition. But, the idea of time as a finite principle with a known destination resonates particularly with cultured Italians. Native Italians have a very good understanding that our time is limited, and therefore we must not waste it.