Being descendants of Italian immigrants, we are blessed with a heritage that speaks boldly for itself. Our Italian Ancestors have been forerunners of art, history, food, wine, science, music and literature, to name a few.
That long, slim Italian boot, in the center of Europe, has been a prime source of the world’s growth of Western Civilization, for over two thousand years. Christianity’s roots were established in Rome, Italy. Jesus Christ appointed Peter, His apostle, to establish His church in that ancient city, over 2000 years ago.
To just name a little more than a few that have contributed not only to our Italian heritage but mostly to the world’s heritage and to the world’s growth in knowledge, science, geography, literature, and music; to just name a few.
I’m just going to go through the centuries past and single out a few of the many who made our heritage and world richer and wiser because they were here. They helped to make our world what it is today and our Italian legacy have a voice of its own.
In the beginning, there was Christopher Columbus born in Genua in 1451. He worked as a cartographer in Italy. This is a person who produces maps. He also was a businessman trading goods with other countries. He visited England, Ireland, Iceland, Spain, and Portugal and also traded along the Western African Coast.
Columbus completed four travels across the Atlantic Ocean. He was the first to reach the Americas, in his search of the passage to the Orient. He reached the Americas and went as far as Nicaragua and Honduras. He died in 1506.
Marco Polo came before Christopher Columbus born in 1254 and was an inspiration to Columbus to search for the passage to the Orient. He was the first European to reach Asia.
Leonardo daVinci born in 1452 and lived to 1519. He was a real genius. He was a painter, a sculptor, an architect, an engineer, and a botanist. His famous painting the “Mona Lisa” can be seen in the Louvre museum today in Paris, France. DaVinci also invented many things and explored new concepts, like the calculator, the helicopter, military tanks, and concentrated solar power.
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni was born in 1475 just known as Michelangelo and lived till 1564. He was a painter, sculptor, engineer, and architect. Michelangelo was very famous during his lifetime and today considered to be one of the most talented artists of all time.
He sculpted the famous statue of “David” which towers at 17 feet. I can attest to how overwhelming this statue is since I was fortunate to see and experience it myself in 2013. I also had the good fortune to see and experience the Pieta statue of Mary holding Jesus after being taken down from the Cross.
This statue is also in Saint Peter’s Basilica along with the Sistene Chapel. The Sistene Chapel ceiling is the depiction of the Last Judgement and when I was there in 2013 it had just been restored and the colors were so vivid and bright.
Galileo Galilei born in 1564 and lived till he was seventy-eight dying in 1642. He was a mathematician, astronomer, physicist, and engineer and sometimes described as a polymath. He was from Pisa, Italy.
Galileo has been called the”father of observational astronomy”, the “father of modern physics”, the “father of scientific method” and last “father of modern science”. He improved the telescope and studied the “Milky Way”. With his observation, he noted that the world circled the sun and not as it was believed the sun circled the earth. He also upgraded the military compass with all his findings.
Dante Alighieri, better known as just Dante, the author of “The Divine Comedy” born in 1265. He influenced generations of poets and authors. This has been translated into fifty-nine languages since the year 1400. It is written in a three-line rhyme scheme of his own invention. It tells the story of a man who endures the torment of Hell and Purgatory in his quest to reach paradise, Heaven.
Giuseppe Verdi was born in 1813. He was a composer of famous Italian operas. Aida, LaTraviata, and Rigoletto to name a few. He lived to 88, dying in 1901.
Giacomo Puccini born in 1858, he composed LaBoheme and Madame Butterfly. He is called “the greatest composer of Italian opera after Verdi.” He died in 1924.
Here are just a handful more scholars and inventors who have helped in such a large way of filling our world with knowledge and ingenuity; I will briefly go into what they are noted for.
Francesco Cirio developed the concept of preserving vegetables in cans in 1856.
Enzo Ferrari is known for being a race car driver and founder of Ferrari Automobiles.
Luigi Galvani was the leader and pioneer of bioelectromagnetics. His discoveries triggered the field of neurophysiology which in turn led to some of the greatest discoveries in neuroscience. Galvani also is known for the galvanic current which is used in skincare for anti-aging and also for a PH of skin to open pores and either extract comedones or to penetrate product into skin.
Salvino degli Armati was the inventor of the eyeglasses around 1284.
Guglielmo Marconi an Italian engineer was famous for his invention of the wireless telegraphy.
Another inventor who did not get recognition of his invention was Antonio Meucci invented the first telephone. Alexander Graham Bell was the first to patent the telephone.
Antonio Stradivari brought the violin to its highest level of perfection. Ascanio Sobrero was the inventor of nitroglycerine. He received the Nobel Prize not only for inventing dynamite but also for developing a stable application of it.
Alessandro Volta is known for having invented the electric battery. Maria Montessori was an Italian physician and educator known worldwide for the educational method that bears her name; the Montessori Schools.
Since we, as the Italy descendants of this great legacy, our forefathers endowed us with a humbled heritage to carry forward, into the future and teach others all that they have taught us. Each of us feels a more relevant and personal sense of pride from the struggles and accomplishments of our immigrant parents, grandparents and great grandparents.
Our grandparents had an overwhelming decision to pack themselves up and move over five thousand miles away, from the only life they ever knew. Just the fact of being on a ship for two solid weeks gave them trepidation. These ships were not the kind of cruise ships of today with restaurants, spas and ice cream parlors. And I’m sure their resting/bath quarters weren’t any great level of comfort if they even had any.
They were going to a place where people spoke another language and they had no job security. Everything in their daily world was going to be a challenge. All they had was the dream of a better life.
When they finally arrived they weren’t greeted with a welcome wagon, they were actually ostracized socially. They were forced to work in poor labor conditions and they worked hard to ultimately overcome prejudice, poverty, and illiteracy.
They raised good families. They taught their children respect for their elders, their teachers, and the law, as well as teaching them the importance of a strong work ethic. They had a devout Christian faith, that is still being instilled in their children’s children today.
These immigrants with their many traditions were amongst the most loyal and dedicated Americans. Showing love for their country, they enlisted in unprecedented numbers, to fight for America in both World War I and World War II. Our ancestors had little material wealth. They never complained about the plight of life because they believed their labor would provide a better life for their children.
Their strong faith in God carried them through possibly the hardest, most difficult and poorest times of their lives. But through it all, they persevered. They left us, their descendants, a legacy of love and wonderful customs.
“Pride and Passion of Italian Immigrants” Courtesy of MyMar Productions. Flashbacks of our Italian Childhood, as remembered today.