On Sunday, Hofstra hosted their 24th annual Italian Experience Festival. The event had Italian poetry readings, music, food venders and the presence of cultural organizations. The music at the event included Italian opera and a mandolin and guitar orchestra. The one aspect of the festival that everyone seemed to love the most, besides the food, was the music.
One of the attendees, Angela Sclafani, is originally from Sicily, and since moving to Levittown, N.Y., she has come to the festival often. She and her husband could be seen dancing outside of Bits & Bytes to one of the music groups, The San Remo Dueto, during every song.
“We love the dancing and music,” she said.
They weren’t the only ones. Pat Joseph and her friend Juliet Fox came to the event for the first time this year. They saw an advertisement in the paper and decided to join in on the fun.
While some came to enjoy the music, others came to spread awareness to the Italian-American culture. Hofstra student Francesca Costi Tall is the president of the Cultural Italian American Organization, C.I.A.O., and is an international student from Emilia Romagna, Italy.
“The thing I love about the festival is that everyone can enjoy it,” she said. “Italian-Americans and those who are not Italian can celebrate the culture.”
C.I.A.O. is open to all students – those who are from Italian decent, as well as those who are interested in the culture. One thing that the organization wants to put a stop to is the stereotypes.
C.I.A.O. isn’t the only group who wants to change how Italians are seen. The Order Sons of Italy in America (OSIA) is the largest and oldest national organization of Italian men and women. Keith Wilson of North Massapequa, N.Y., a member of OSIA, is, like C.I.A.O., fed up with the stereotypes.
“We are here to promote Italian-American culture,” Wilson said. “Not this stuff you see on TV. It makes us look like crooks and hoodlums, and that isn’t what we are. We have a number of people in politics and entertainment … just doing good.”
If they weren’t dancing to the music or promoting the Italian-American culture, attendees could be seen lining up for all the different vendors. People, young and old, enjoyed the bounce house, zeppoles and gelato. Students like Joseph Bellina enjoyed the day with friends, taking in the experience and loving his culture.
“I like everything about being Italian,” Bellina said. “It is my identity. I see myself more as an Italian-American than just an American.”
His friend, Gab Wasserstein, isn’t Italian but she loves enjoying the culture.
“I appreciate the culture so much that I wish I were Italian,” she said.
The Italian Experience is just that – an experience. While walking around, you can hear the language, smell the delicious food and talk to those who call Italy home. It is a chance to dive into a culture without going to the country and, instead, Italy is brought to Hofstra.