I’m 59-years old as of this writing and a few years from retirement from my university. What’s next? My wife and I have talked about living half the year in Italy and half in Mexico. My dream is to buy a house in Miglierina and a tiny farm like my cousin Gennaro. However, my heart also belongs to Florence where I have lived most summers learning Italian and conducting my research since 2004. Maybe we’ll buy one in each.

Globalization has brought Italy to me as I finish my last years at San Diego State. RAI Internazionale is part of my DISH Network satellite package. I watch Italian TV about two hours per day, depending on my schedule. I watch APPRESCINDERE, an Italian current events show, when I wake up at five o’clock. When I get home from school, I watch LA PROVA DE CUOCO, my favorite cooking show. I go on Antonella Clerici’s website and copy her recipes to put in my cooking notebook. I’m hoping to teach an advanced Italian course using Italian cooking as my theme. At night I watch ANNOZERO, a political show; and Serie A soccer on Sunday.

In class, I show my students TG1 news almost every morning or the latest issue of an Italian daily newspaper like La REPUBBLICA. My students also get rich cultural information from my Facebook site, YouTube, and the like. As part of their Italian language curriculum they sign up for Italian e-dating services, apply for internships in Italy, and acquire Italian pen pals on I literally can live in Italian 24 hours a day while remaining in Alpine, California. Globalization has replaced the Italian community  we lived in on the northwest side of Chicago.

My children are learning Italian at a lot earlier age than I did. Richard, my oldest (21 years old), is enrolled in his second Italian course. We often speak Italian to keep secrets from his brother and sister. He’s a unique linguist, majoring in Arabic. His French and Spanish are also remarkable. Besides visiting Italy and several European countries with me when he was ten, he attended school in Chile while I was teaching at the Universidad de Valparaiso. Richard considers himself 100% Italian American even though he’s seventy-five percent Irish, English, Dutch, and German.

Alex, 19, is talented in other things, but is starting to become interested in learning Italian. He was only eight when he visited his cousins in Miglierina. He wants to study for a semester in Italy before he finishes college. Alex considers himself fifty percent Italian American even though he’s twenty-five percent.

Rachel, 16, considers herself two percent Italian American. Although she’s a great French student, she feels closer to her Irish roots on her mother’s side. So we have fun together improving her French. Rachel was only five when we visited Miglierina but she wants to return to Europe, especially to see Ireland.

It’s ironic that an American like me would like to reverse the trend of emigration from Calabria to America. My family and paisani have been leaving Calabria in large numbers to find prosperity since the 1870s. Few ever return. Many Calabrese Americans have lost track of their family in Calabria and have moved on to better lives and new roots. They are not like salmon who return to their spawning site to die. I’m an exception. I’d like to return to the spawning site of my grandfather and grandmother, there to die, I hope many years from now.

To prepare for old age in Italy, I’m applying for dual citizenship. I thought I had all the documentation necessary to submit to the Italian consulate in Los Angeles, but consular officials want original documents. That means returning to Miglierina. There are worse things in life.

Why go back to a place where I’ve never lived to relatives who barely know me? Many miglierinesi just refer to me as that americano. First, there are the majestic views from almost everywhere in town, the sound of church bells tolling softly every hour from neighboring towns as well as the view of the Tyrrhenian Sea to your right and the Ionian Sea to your left.

Miglierinesi live a simple life as if immune from world affairs. Few worry about Italian political scandals, U.S. invasions or Ahmedinjad’s ravings in Iran. They enjoy the simple things: conversing after Mass, hanging out in the town square, celebrating the feast of Santa Lucia. Many are like my cousin Gennaro who work their garden, make wine, bake bread and live. . .

They seem to have plagiarized Suzuki’s famous philosophy of life: “I am an artist at living–my work of art is my life.”


About growingupcalabrese

Professor of French and Italian at San Diego State University
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