The True Essence of Italian-Canadian Identity

Not just your nonna’s tomato sauce

By Lucia Cesaroni

Ninalee Allen Craig, subject of Ruth Orkin’s iconic photograph “American Girl in Italy” once remarked: “Italy is a marvellous place that embraces equally the very old and the ultramodern.”

And what of us—the Italian-Canadian inheritors of these riches? Are we capable of referencing the contemporary or historical Italian experience, of relaying what being Italian really means, without using one of the following phrases?

The smell/taste of nonna’s pasta sauce
• Loving or driving an Italian car
• Wearing Italian brands from FF to GG
• Growing up in Woodbridge/Saint-Leonard/Rosemont

I’m not diminishing or ridiculing your lived experience; it’s mine too and I love Fendi. I am challenging all of us to be MORE. I am saying yes, POI?! Prosperous yet complacent are we, mining an intellectually lazy list of tropes to signal cultural affinity and membership. We have wealth, safety, cultural influence and choice by orders of magnitude greater than anything enjoyed by our immigrant nonni. We know their stories, but we have yet to write our own. We are resting on their laurels and so we do ourselves and our community a disservice. I’m an opera singer, and was recently invited to speak and sing at Fête Chinoise, Canada’s most fabulous Lunar New Year gala. The founder, friend Deborah Lau-Yu, has created a luxe and inspiring event to proudly celebrate an ancient culture, while galvanizing its contemporary leaders. I sang in Mandarin, Cantonese and Italian.

I thought: Where is our Fête Italienne? The median age was 35ish, with a split of immigrants and Canadian-born Chinese, who connected in a seamless mix of English, Mandarin and Cantonese.

In my velvet-curtained world of music, I am a proud ambassador for Italy’s artistic and historic traditions. Yet this beautiful, Chinese experience highlights a key issue in our own community: without learning Italian, Italian-Canadians cannot participate in, learn from and iterate contemporary Italian culture. Yes, travelling to Italy to immerse oneself in the language is expensive. Instead, consume your fill of inexpensive resources right here in Canada. The Italian Contemporary Film Festival and Lavazza present the IncluCity Festival, screening contemporary and classic Italian cinema in Toronto’s Distillery District runs from June 28 to July 21, 2024. We’re partnering to present Cowboys and Divas, bringing spaghetti westerns, country music and opera together joyfully, with sequins! Villa Charities hosts hundreds of events throughout the year. And they need volunteers. Come to Italian Singles events. Go to the opera. Learn Italian at the Italian Cultural Institute or bring your children to Centro Scuola on Saturdays at the Columbus Centre.


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Masters of Their Own Fate

Can Luciano Spalletti help score a repeat victory at EURO2024?

By Dante Di Iulio

If you’ve been watching Serie A over the past five years, there’s a great reason for optimism. The league is turning back into the exciting, competitive powerhouse that it was between the 1980s to early 2000s, brimming to bring a slew of European trophies along the way.

Competitive regional teams, dynamic tacticians and emerging youth players have finally given fans something to smile about again. It’s competitive too—a different winner for the past four seasons showcases a league that is never dull. Nevertheless, with little television money, no modern infrastructure, frugal owners and top young players leaving for bigger price tags abroad, the fundamentals are not where they should be.

The abolishment of the Growth Decree in January 2024 will also probably have a massive adverse effect on the power of the league in terms of attracting top talent.

The Growth Decree was a tax law voted into existence in 2019. The idea was to incentivize bright, talented people to settle in Italy, spending money and creating jobs. It also allowed players and coaches who haven’t worked in Italy for the previous two years, whether native Italians or not, to pay taxes on just 50% of their income rather than the usual 100%. With top-tier players qualifying for the highest tax rate of 43% percent, there were enormous financial benefits for both players and clubs.

Even with this recent change, the results over the past five years have shown that Italian football is on a growth trajectory. But will it translate to the National Team?

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A Natural Wonder in Our Own Backyard

The Mystic Beauty of our Canadian Falls

By Silvana Longo, Travel Editor

Although I have visited countless times, there is something about witnessing the sheer force of Niagara Falls that stops you in your tracks every time. The magnitude of it overtakes all five senses as you try to grasp the entirety of what you’re beholding.

I don’t remember my first visit there. Fortunately though, there are photos of two-year-old to six-year-old me in family albums with an unmistakable look of joy during summer picnics at the falls with extended family. Maybe that’s why I love accompanying people who have never been before just to see their stupor and ultimate joy from witnessing something so magnificent.

The excitement starts with the initial views from the car. As you approach them by foot, that inevitable mist that comes off of the thundering surge of water both welcomes and refreshes you on a hot summer day. (Okay, it makes
your hair frizzy too—but it is worth it!)

You draw closer to the crowds and to claim your spot at the railing to get the best vantage point; it’s the only barrier between you and this roaring sound of the crystal-clear water gushing into a whooshing vortex below. It is fascinating, hypnotic and terrifying all at the same time.

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Eggplant Rigatoni with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Ricotta

By Gabriel Riel-Salvatore, Managing Editor

How can one pass up a hot creamy plate of pasta? Loaded with veggies and cheese, this dish is an easy weeknight meal and a fantastic alternative to classic tomato sauce. The sautéed eggplant and sun-dried tomatoes coated with creamy ricotta melt into the tomato sauce with just the right balance of flavour and texture. Simplicity at its finest.

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Between Repentance and Communion

The Septennial Rites of Guardia Sanframondi

By Nick Sparano

Hooded men in white robes walk slowly, like ghosts. They flog themselves to secure their place in heaven, striking themselves until they bleed. Each drop represents a forgiven sin, a kept vow or a step towards the long-awaited eternal salvation.

The Septennial Rites in honour of the Madonna Assunta (Our Lady of Assumption) are a unique event, at times distressing, whose main “actors” are the so-called battenti a sangue (bleeding penitents)—extraordinary penitents who participate in a religious rite with pagan overtones that takes place every seven years, always in August.

In fact, the Septennial Rites have been held for centuries in the hamlet of Guardia Sanframondi, in the Sannio area, attracting crowds of worshippers from all over the world, including Canada.

Last time it was in 2017, while the next one will happen in August 2024.

From an act dating back to 1702 and kept in the diocesan curia, we learn that, “During the processions in honour of Our Lady of Assumption, the brothers of the Madonna del Pianto (Our Lady of Tears) wear hooded robes and beat or mortify their skin with a whip or a discipline. Over time, the latter, which began as a small scourge, has become a disc of cork inlaid with needles held together with a layer of wax.”