In recent years, following the forced shutdown of tourism industry, it’s again time to discuss about the identity tourism. This type of cultural tourism (also known as genealogical tourism) concerns a conspicuous part of the world population pairs to approximately 80 thousand people, whose ancestors had emigrated from their homeland (especially from Europe) towards new lands, basically for economic and political reasons: a difficult choice if we consider that several family units were definitively split. Since the second half of the XIX century up to 1985 emigrants from Italy were about 29 million, of which at least 18 million never came back being resident abroad.
The first wave of migration from Italy in the XX century took place between 1901 and 1920: it is considered the most representative migration of the last century with more than 5 million departures from Italy, of which 4 million emigrants moved to Nothern America (Usa and Canada) and 1 million to Argentina itself.
Extremely significant evidence is that 36% (more than 1 million) came from Sicily, 30% from Campania, followed by Calabria and Sardinia: it testifies that a large part of emigrants was from Southern Italy related to employment difficulties generated by the absence of factories and the agricultural crisis that spread since the end of the XIX century.
Over the next two decades (1921-1940), 1345000 Italians moved to Northern and Southern Americas (of which more than 54% of the arrivals in Argentina). Moving forward to the 1960’s, Italian immigrants all over the world still amount to a considerable number in Northern America (455.000) and in Argentina (little over 300.000). In the same period, since the Second World War, a conspicuous migration is stated to Australia with about 250.000 Italian immigrants coming from Veneto, Calabria and Sicily.
Italian immigrants: root travellers for the identity tourism
Nowadays in 2022 Italian immigrants living abroad are more than 5 million: they are mainly concentrated in Argentina, followed by Germany, Switzerland, Brasil, France, United Kingdom, Belgium, USA, Spain, Australia, Canada, Venezuela, Uruguay, Chile. Concurrently, the direct descendants of the Italian immigrants all over the worldare 80 million: these are sons, grandsons, great-grandsons and collateral relatives of those emigrants who left from Italy during the migratory waves of the last century. For some, Italy constitutes a distant memory, for others instead it is the homeland for establishing a relationship, a connection. That’s how today the descendants of the Italian immigrants, over a century far the first migration, decide to take a root travel,eager to discover the birthplace of their ancestors and to know their own identity and Italian origins.
Identity tourism is born as a branch of cultural tourism and (more specifically) of experience tourism, where to visit and see in person those locations known just in grandparents’ tales and memories. An experience in which own family is the destination, where an ordinary holiday turns into the discovery of own past.
Italian immigrants from Messina Sicily
Jill Tracy Jacobs Biden, USA President Joe Biden’s wife, has Italian origins. She is original from Messina Sicily. Her great-grandfather Placido Giacoppo left from the tiny village of Gesso in 1900 when Jill’s father Domenico was just 1 year old. Once arrived in the USA, Giacoppos changed the surname in Jacobs, to avoid mistakes. They moved to Hammonton (New Jersey) where Jill was born in 1951. Today, her eight-cousin Caterina Giacoppo lives in Gesso and invited Jill home to offer a delicious lunch: pasta ‘ncasciata, braciole (meat rolls), eggplants parmigiana and cannoli… and all typical recipes from Messina Sicily traditional cookery. It could be the occasion for the First Lady to practice identity tourism, taking a root travel to experience her places of origin and to meet her relatives for the first time. If you think you have Sicilian origins like Jill Biden, we are glad to invite you in Messina Sicily to experience your root travel.
Bartolo “Buddy” Valastro Jr., known as the Cake Boss, has Italian origins. His father, Bartolo Valastro Sr., was born in Lipari (his name stands for the Patron Saint of the Aeolian Islands, in the province of Messina Sicily): he moved to the States in New Jersey in 1953 when he was 15, in 1964 he bought Carlo’s Bakery, belonged to another Italian baker, Carlo Guastaferro, since 1910. The next year he married Maria “Mary” Tubito, Italian as well. She was from Altamura (Apulia), emigrated in the USA in 1954. Buddy was born on March 3rd 1977 in Hoboken (New Jersey), since 1994 he rules the bakery with his family made up of three older sisters. His wife, Elisabetta “Lisa” Belgiovine, is Italian-American from Molfetta (Apulia). Buddy and his large family have been in Italy twice: in 2011 in Lipari, and in 2016 in Apulia. A pure example of identity tourism: travelling to discover own origins. Since 2013 Buddy Valastro is honorary citizen of Lipari and Aeolian Islands.
Al Pacino (Alfredo James Pacino) was born in New York in 1940, in an Italian-American family: his father Salvatore Pacino and his mother Rose Gerardi were both descendants of Italian immigrants from Sicily. Paternal grandparents Alfio Pacino and Giuseppina Latteri emigrated to the USA in 1908 from San Fratello (province of Messina Sicily), instead Al Pacino’s maternal family was from Corleone (province of Palermo).
Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, Lady Gaga’s real name, has Italian origins from Sicily. In 1908 her paternal great-grandfather Antonino emigrated to the USA from Naso, a small town in the province of Messina Sicily. In 2018 the famous singer met her Sicilian relatives in Italy, during her concert in Milan.
Another singer with Italian origins from Messina Sicily is Natalie Jane Imbruglia: her father Elliot was born in Lipari and moved to Sydney, instead her mother Maxene Anderson is Australian with European origins.
Italian immigrants from The Vatican to Hollywood
Pope Francesco is the first American Pope. Born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Argentina, his parents were Italian immigrants from Northern Italy (Liguria and Piedmont): his father left Genoa in 1928 towards Buenos Aires.
Madonna (Louise Veronica Ciccone), internationally renowned singer, was born in Michigan in 1958 in a family coming from Abruzzo. Her grandfather Gaetano Ciccone left the province of L’Aquila in 1919. In 1987 she met her relatives from Pacentro, on the occasion of her first concert in Italy in Turin.
Francis Ford Coppola and Nicolas Cage (Nicolas Kim Coppola), uncle and nephew, have Italian origins: their ancestors were from the province of Matera and from Naples.
Leonardo di Caprio’s great-grandparents, Salvatore di Caprio and Rosina Casella, were from Campania (Naples and Caserta).
The Italian-American actor and film director Stanley Tucci has 100% Italian origins from Calabria. His paternal grandfather Stanislao was born in Marzi (Cosenza) and his grandmother was from Serra San Bruno (Vibo Valentia). His mother Joan Tropeano was from Cittanova (Reggio Calabria). Recently, he had conducted the TV programme “Searching for Italy”, based on the Italian cookery tradition: a form of unintentional root travel that took him back to his home country.
Ariana Grande, American singer, has Italian origins. Her parents Joan Grande and Edward Butera come from Molise and Sicily, respectively. The maternal great-grandparents Michele Antonio Grande and Filomena Iavenditti were Italian immigrants from Gildone (Molise) in 1912. Paternal ancestors were from Menfi (Sicily). Ariana loved her grandmother Marjorie M. Damico. She said that her Italian Nonna was used to prepare the traditional Italian dishes (biscuits like zeppole) and on Sundays she cooked tomato sauce.
We have known some famous Italian immigrants all over the world, but there are many more family stories expecting to be told and lived through the identity tourism.
Discover Messina Sicily personnel is glad to meet the several demands of those who want to discover and trace own Italian origins and to know their ancestors, practicing the identity tourism, through customized root travel itineraries based in Messina Sicily and all over the Sicilian territory.