Growing up, I was often confused as to what it meant to be from Italy. I, myself was born in the United States, and as a third generation Italian, I had only heard stories about my native country. Growing up as an Italian in the United States was much different, in that people had their own preconceived notions about the country from which my grandparents came.
I heard a lot of jokes about wine, mafia, spaghetti, and so on, but none of them really bothered me. What did bother me was the rich culture that I never got the chance to experience growing up in the states, and that spans thousands of years, for better and worse.
What I learned
As I got older, I learned from my family that Italy is about family and bettering the world around us. We, as Catholics, believed that the bonds forged by family was more important than anything else, and that part of what made us so close was our Italian heritage. I learned that all of the jokes made about me at school were the same jokes made to my grandparents when they arrived, that things had not changed at all.
I learned to become proud of my heritage, one that shared a stage with some of the most powerful countries and empires in the history of the world. And now in our civilized society, Italy shines as bright as ever, giving the world a culture, food, and a way of living that any country would be envious of.