Proud to Be Second Generation Italian

 Cleveland photo by Carlos Javier (Flickr)

In celebration of Italian Heritage Month, I wrote a story about my maternal grandmother. It was published in the October issue of La Gazzetta Italiana, an Italian-American newspaper from Cleveland, Ohio. Since the digital version of the newspaper is available only by subscription, I am posting my story here on my blog. I hope you enjoy the story.


I was born in Cleveland, and so were my parents, but all four of my grandparents were born in Italy. So, I am second-generation Italian and proud of my Italian heritage.

My maternal grandparents are from Sicily, or Sicilia. They both were born in the small village of Cesarò, west of Mt. Etna, in the region of Messina. My paternal grandparents were born in the small village of Colle d’Anchise in the region of Molise.

I’m fortunate to have been able to travel to both of these regions and discover cousins I never knew I had, and stand in front of the Sicilian house where my grandfather was born. Just walking on the same cobble-stoned streets where they had walked, and seeing the church where they had been baptized, instantly made me feel at home. There was something magical about being there.

My grandfather, Pietro Luigi Savoca, emigrated to Cleveland in the early 20th century. Once he arrived, he worked as a laborer, having gained experience building the Simplon Tunnel, connecting Italy and Switzerland. Grandpa Savoca was one of the three founding fathers of an Italian-American lodge named  Società di Mutuo Soccorso Libertà e Progresso, Cesarò-San Teodoro. The lodge existed until only a few years ago.

I love the story of how my Grandpa Savoca met and married my Grandma Savoca, formerly Angelina Ragonese. Eighteen years her senior, Grandpa was already in Cleveland when he saw a picture of Angelina by a cousin from their same village in Sicily. She was the oldest of four children, two girls and two boys, and by the age of fourteen, she was largely responsible for caring for them, as they were orphaned. An aunt helped care for them, but Grandma had become a strong person as a survivor and caretaker at that tender young age. When she was 21, my grandfather got word to her through this matchmaker cousin that he’d like to marry her and wished to pay for her voyage to the United States.

It was Grandma’s decision, and she sent word back that her answer was yes, but only on the condition that he also pay for the travel of her three younger siblings.  She was not leaving them behind. I guess it was an offer he couldn’t refuse, and he agreed. In 1920 all four emigrated to the U.S. through Ellis Island in NYC, and then to Cleveland. Here is the official record and the Church record of their marriage in Cleveland, Ohio. I can’t help but smile at the errors in the spelling of their names as well as the errors of their ages.


My grandfather died when I was only five and I remember him as being very kind. I wish I had a photo of him to include here. I was fortunate enough to have my grandmother around long enough for her to see me graduate from college, get married, and have her first two great-grandchildren. She died when I was 27 years old.

Her strength and determination were two of the strongest influences throughout my life, and I am the person I am today, in large part from what I leaned from her. In a more practical sense, Grandma Savoca taught me how to make spaghetti sauce and meatballs. I still use the same recipe today, and when I cook, I feel like she is by my side. I’m so proud to be a second-generation Italian, and am so grateful for these strong personal ties I feel to my Italian ancestors.

I have been a contributing writer to La Gazzetta Italiana for many years. None of the writers are paid. they write because they share a passion for Italy, like I do. If you’d like to subscribe check out their webpage here.

Feature photo by Carlos Javier (Flickr)








22 Responses

  1. cperciaccanto

    What a beautiful story! My family is from Calabria.
    I too love to use the same recipes,and even pans, from my grandmother to keep their memory close.

    What a great tribute to your grandparents love and determination. I’m sure they are very proud of you!!

  2. Sarah

    So nice to find more english bloggers in Italy :). How is the bloggers community here? We just moved back after 5 years abroad, excited to be back 🙂

    • margieinitaly

      Thank you Sarah…Travel bloggers seem to be happy to help other travel bloggers and network on FB, Twitter and IG. Welcome back

    • margieinitaly

      Thanks so much, Dan…I appreciate your taking time and glad you enjoyed it

  3. stellalucentellc

    So nice to hear your story, Margie. I know you mention parts of your story as an Italian-American in search of your relatives in your books as well, and I think this is something that many Italian-Americans are in search of. And a part of why readers relate so well to your books. I just want to say that I have heard the words “strength and determination” over and over in the Italian story and am proud to be a part of this heritage. I hope we never forget what our ancestors did for their families!

    • margieinitaly

      Thank you Kathy…Yes we seem to share this trait and I know it has been taught by our families to us in their interactions with us….Thank you for all your support… Your Italian language books are invaluable to me as well during my travels

  4. Jack Erickson

    What a touching story Margie, your heritage is so much a part of you and your story telling. I could almost imagine a movie of your family’s story, you as a young girl, growing up, listening to stories of your grandmother, discovering Italia as a young woman, and becoming a writer because of your heritage. Proud of you.

    • margieinitaly

      Jack, thank you so much….I appreciate your comments more than you know. And best of luck with your newest book set in Napoli….Please keep me updated!!

  5. Katherine

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful story/tribute to your Italian heritage. The pics, certificates etc are a delight to look at as well. Reading your story reminds me of the book Non Soltanto Un Baule . This book is written in Italian and tells short stories of families emigrating to the U.S. ,
    South America, Australia etc… Wonderful lil read.

    • margieinitaly

      Thank you for sharing…That book seems like a treasure trove of memories. I am so happy you enjoyed my story, Katherine

  6. Tony

    Beautiful story, and I can definitely relate. My maternal side is also from Sicily and my paternal side from Umbria. I have been fortunate to meet relatives on my father’s side in both Roma and Costacciaro in Umbria. On my visit to Umbria I got to see the house where my great-grandfather was born (it’s still in the family). I know less about my Sicilian roots, but I am hoping to uncover them in a future visit to Sicilia and hopefully can discover where my mother’s family hails from. I am definitely proud of my Italian heritage and this month means a lot to me.

    • margieinitaly

      Thanks Tony…I’m so glad you’ve been able to travel there and know that you will make it to Sicily soon to continue exploring and experiencing your family history and the Italian culture in a personal way.

    • margieinitaly

      That is a great story, Dennis..So glad you were able to travel back to the land of your roots and meet your family members there…Glad to connect. Thanks so much for sharing

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