Celebrating Italian Heritage Month in Pennsylvania

Oct 11, 2020 1605

BY: Stephanie Longo

October is National Italian American Heritage Month in the United States. According to the United States Census, there are 17.8 million Americans who claim Italian origin, with 1.4 million of those living in Pennsylvania. According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties take up five spots among the top 20 “Most Italian” towns in the United States, with Dunmore ranking highest (12th place).

As a historian who has focused an entire career on preserving and promoting local Italian American heritage, I believe it is necessary to call readers’ attention to the vast array of opportunities to discover our area’s Italian culture.

Among these opportunities are, of course, the region’s Italian restaurants, many of which have been recognized nationally for their quality and authenticity. One just needs to visit any of the area’s Italian enclaves, such as Carbondale, Dunmore, Jessup, and the “Pizza Capital of the World” Old Forge to sample these delicacies. Or one could stop at any of our region’s Italian specialty stores to purchase authentic products.

For people interested in history and culture, one just needs to take a walk around downtown Scranton to see the works of world-renowned sculptor Frank Carlucci via his striking sculptures of Christopher Columbus and George Washington. Carlucci was known for creating Ellis Island Landing Station in New York Harbor, where many immigrants to our great nation made their first steps in America. Or one could stop by the The Ritz Theater & Performing Arts Center, which is one of only two theaters that remain in use that were originally founded by Sylvester Poli, an Italian immigrant without whom the modern cinema industry would not exist.

In Scranton’s West Side is the jewel that is the Church of St. Lucy, sculpted by Agostino Russo and where St. Francis Cabrini actually ministered during her life. A visit to St. Peter's Cathedral and the Rotunda at Marywood University would provide the opportunity to view the artwork of Gonippo Raggi, whose works have been catalogued by the Smithsonian. And a visit to Jessup’s Saint Ubaldo Cultural Society would make the perfect opportunity to discover more about La Corsa dei Ceri, widely considered to be the nation’s number-one representation of Central Italian American culture and history.

While it is vitally important to celebrate all of our region’s ethnicities, October gives Italian Americans the chance to celebrate that which makes us unique and the chance to invite anyone, no matter their ethnic background, to become a part of our extended famiglia.

You may be interested