This October, mark Italian-American Heritage Month by recognizing the contributions and achievements of Italian-Americans. Over 26 million Americans of Italian descent currently reside in the U.S. — making up America’s seventh largest ethnic group. The heritage month is in October to coincide with Columbus Day — the national holiday celebrated on the second Monday of the month. Italian-American Heritage Month celebrates the distinguished cultural contributions of Americans with Italian lineage.
Italian-American Heritage Month timeline
A formal apology
President Clinton signed the Wartime Violation of Italian American Civil Liberties Act. This led to an official apology for the civil liberty violations Italian-Americans endured during World War II.
An Italian-American broke the gender barrier in U.S. politics
Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman on a major party ticket, running for vice president alongside presidential candidate Walter Mondale.
An Italian-American built a university.
Giovanni Nobili founded the Santa Clara College (now Santa Clara University).
The Marines played Italian-inspired music.
Thomas Jefferson recruited a group of musicians from Sicily to form a military band, later to become the nucleus of the U.S. Marine Band.
How to Observe Italian-American Heritage Month
Host an Italian potluck
Celebrate Italian heritage by getting together with friends and family and exploring the fine dining that Italy offers. Invite everyone to bring their favorite Italian dish, and discover the roots of Italian culture.
Enjoy the best Italian dessert
Cool your taste buds with the after-dinner treat gelato. Containing less sugar than ice cream, this Italian dessert offers a delicious alternative.
Try an aperitivo
An aperitivo is a pre-meal drink specifically meant to stimulate your appetite.
5 Ways Italians Changed American History
America’s name is Italian inspired
Amerigo Vespucci, who explored the east coast of South America between 1499 and 1502, is the source of the name "America."
An Italian explorer discovered the New World
Christopher Columbus landed on various Caribbean islands that are now the Bahamas as well as the island later called Hispaniola.
An Italian first mapped the East coast
Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano was the first European to map the Atlantic coast of today's United States.
The Declaration of Independence has Italian inspiration
Filippo Mazzei, a physician and promoter of liberty, was a close friend and confidant of Thomas Jefferson. He published a pamphlet containing the phrase "All men are by nature equally free and independent."
The pope helped Italian immigrants
To assist immigrants in the U.S., Pope Leo XIII dispatched a contingent of priests and nuns. Among them was Sister Francesca Cabrini, who founded schools, hospitals, and orphanages.
Why Italian-American Heritage Month is Important
The Italian food phenomenon
Big plates of spaghetti and meatballs, baked ziti, and chicken parmigiana are not common in Italy, but they reflect the unique Italian-American culture immigrants created.
Italian-American star power
Whether it’s the music of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, or the films of Martin Scorsese and Sofia Coppola, Italian-Americans have powerfully impacted the entertainment industry in America.
Italy's favorite pasta sauce is everywhere
Ragu alla Bolognese, also known simply as Bolognese, is recognized as the national dish of Italy, and it enjoys worldwide popularity.