My husband, Tony, is Italian. His family has lived in the United States for five generations, but once Italian, always Italian. In 2007 we found out about a law in Italy that allows descendants of Italian emigrants to come back and claim citizenship. All you need is a genealogical paper trail proving that you have a direct Italian line and nobody in it ever broke the line by renouncing their Italian citizenship (i.e. by being naturalised in a foreign country) before the next generation was born. So we spent many hours scouring discussion forums online and several months collecting birth, death, and marriage certificates for Tony and all his ancestors. We went all the way back to Great-great-grandfather Domenico Bodrero and his wife, Henriette Chatelain, who joined the Mormon Church in the mid-19th century, sailed to America, and then crossed the plains with the pioneers to settle in a little mountain valley in Utah.
Once we had all the documents, we were ready to make the move. It is possible to apply for recognition of Italian citizenship at a consulate in the United States, but it takes years, and we were impatient to be in Italy. So we bought one-way plane tickets, packed up our two toddlers and all our precious documents, and landed in Italy, speaking virtually no Italian. Seven gruelling months later, we had done enough convincing, waiting, begging, and praying for the paperwork to finally be completed, and we could even speak passable Italian.
Unfortunately, a few months later we had to return to the United States for economic reasons, and we have spent the intervening time working out our wanderlust and moving in and out of various different countries, including a short stint back in Italy in 2010. On the bright side, with Italian citizenship we can legally live and work in any country in the European Union. We are currently more or less settled in the picturesque (and very liveable) Dutch city of Amsterdam, where we’ve gone so native we can often be found biking through the pouring rain and eating raw herring (but not at the same time).
Even with all the moving around we’ve done, Italy keeps a special place in our hearts. We miss the gelato, the cheese, the beautiful countryside, the laid-back lifestyle, and all our wonderful Italian friends. We may not make it back permanently until we retire, but we love to visit, and whenever we go back it feels like home. Because once you’ve been to Italy, nowhere else in the world is really quite the same.
For more about the nitty-gritties of our journey to Italian citizenship (as well as my more recent steps toward Italian citizenship by marriage), click on Citizenship in the tag cloud on the right sidebar.