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For Christmas last year I destroyed my family’s Italian heritage. My husband, Pete Giugni, grew up in a family that celebrated their Italian roots with gusto. Roman history and architecture were his father’s favoured topics of conversation. Great Italian composers echoed through the home, pasta was prepared. Cumulatively, hours were spent on the phone spelling out and correcting the pronunciation of “Giugni”, and when the first grandchildren arrived, Pete’s eldest brother went big on Italian names: Paulo, Luca and Hugo.
When December 25 rolled around last year, I was excited to present Pete with a DNA test. In exchange for a small test tube of saliva, it promised to reveal his exact genetic make-up. It took just six weeks to deliver the results and crush his family’s very fixed sense of identity.
How Italian was he? The survey said about two per cent. What was he mostly? Irish. About 80 per cent. The olive skin, dark curly hair and Roman nose were misleading – the Giugnis began as potato rather than pasta folk.
It’s easy to trace the clan back to Italy. The family tree places them in Florence in the 17th and 18th centuries, before they moved to Switzerland and, a couple of generations later, Australia. Before that, who knows? At some stage they had arrived in Italy and started to identify as Italian.
The test was an interesting reminder that for many of us the cultural practices we embrace aren’t necessarily our own but more a mash-up of the travels and traditions of those before us. And when it comes to Italy, it’s easy to imagine why you’d happily switch allegiances.
With that in mind, I hope there’s a little something for everyone in this issue: the real Italians, the fake Italians, the non-Italians and especially (with my apologies) all of the Giugnis.