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This in an exciting year to have Italian roots. 

Italy designated 2024 as the year of Roots Tourism, a 20 million euro project, backed by the European Union called “Integrated Strategy for the Revival of the Tourism Sector in Post-COVID-19 Italy.” That’s a lot!

What does that mean to us here in the United States with Italian roots?

We’re among more than 80 million people worldwide whose ancestors left Southern Italy in the late 1800s as stone masons, tailors, bakers, and laborers for a better life in the new world. Their villages experienced poor economic conditions and in later years were damaged and many destroyed by World War II. Immigrants after 1960 consisted of young Italian entrepreneurs, many of whom kept their connections to Italy: University professors, scientists, researchers and computer technicians. Today there is a growing interest in Italy among the Italian-American communities in culture, design, food, sports, scientific research and cutting-edge technology. Recently, the actors Russell Crowe and Sylvester Stallone made news exploring their Italian roots. Students of all ages are learning the Italian language and traditions. Consulates around the world have seen an increase in applications for Italian dual citizenship.

What area of Italy does Roots Tourism cover?
Roots Tourism focuses on lesser-known rural villages and countryside areas of Southern Italy, allowing Roots Tourists to experience the “untouched” heritage of their ancestors. These regions include Abruzzo, Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Molise, and Sicily. Today’s worldwide interest in exploring ancestry and hometowns creates tourism economic growth opportunities for local Italian residents, especially in food and wine. Many of these regions offer homes for sale at prices as low as 1 Euro.

What is a Roots Tourist?
For many, it is an emotional journey back to their roots exploring the region their ancestors left behind for a new life in America, many never speaking a single word of English. With today’s technology, language is no longer a barrier. American-born Sonia Ceritano, with dual citizenship from her now “new hometown” in Castel Castagna, Italy, started Abruzzo Sister Tours to assist travelers wanting to explore the region of their ancestors. Roots Tourists want to experience local traditions, taste flavors and attend festivities of the medieval villages their ancestors left. Once visiting Italy as a Roots Tourist, many people become advocates for the regions connected to their family history. This allows the start of a new chain of connections with Italians in Italy.

The ‘roots’ of Italian-American Herald
Ten years ago the Delaware Valley Italian-American Herald came under Rob Martinelli’s leadership as chairman of Today Media and publisher of the newspaper. Martinelli’s grandparents Ricardo and Rose Madatto came from Mongrassano in Italy, in the province of Cosenza in the Calabria region. They brought with them their 4-year-old daughter Carol Madatto Martinelli (1925-2014), who would become Rob’s mother. Rob is part of a generation that has strengthened Italy’s reputation in the United States with careers in politics, economy, arts, cinema, science, research, and sports. He and his family have participated in student exchange programs with Italy.

My Roots journey since COVID
I first visited the Abruzzo village, Loreto Aprutino, of my grandmother Lucia Nobilio Acciavatti, in 1976. The years following COVID found me meeting people from around the world like never before – from Belgium, Ireland, England, Germany, Scotland, even Aston, Pa., and New York. They were buying a house, opening an Airbnb, renovating a castle or opening a restaurant. Living life among the local villagers, thanks to my Italian family, made me see my grandmother’s childhood hometown through her eyes until she left at 19 years old. It’s over 100 years now and my grandmother kept the “bridge” open between our relatives in Italy and the United States. With the passing of the last of her Italian-American children, my future includes keeping that bridge open for my nieces, nephews and their children on both sides of the ocean.

Want a deeper understanding of your past? Explore Roots Tourism. Give your family a new meaning to the present, and explore how Italy fits into your future. Think about your ties with Italy, and this movement will last well beyond 2024.

Barbara Ann Zippi

Associate Publisher

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