We The Italians | An Italian American in Rome: Julia Sferlazza, Nurturing Italian American Heritage Through Tradition

An Italian American in Rome: Julia Sferlazza, Nurturing Italian American Heritage Through Tradition

An Italian American in Rome: Julia Sferlazza, Nurturing Italian American Heritage Through Tradition

  • WTI Magazine #170 Dec 18, 2023
  • 906

Born and raised in Norwalk, Connecticut, Julia Sferlazza embodies the rich tapestry of her Italian American heritage. A proud descendant of both Ischia, an island in the Gulf of Naples, and the towns of Lercara Friddi, Messina, and Potenza in Sicily and Basilicata, Julia's roots run deep into Italian culture and heritage.

Now residing in Rome, Italy and studying at Rome City Institute, Julia’s upbringing is a collection of family gatherings, traditional Sunday dinners, and the warmth of a close-knit community that has carefully created the threads of Italian tradition that blend into the fabric of her life.

Julia's journey begins with the stories of her family's origins. On her mother's side, the Piros, the ancestral ties come from Ischia, Italy, while her father's lineage, the Sferlazzas, originates from the towns of Lercara Friddi and Messina in Sicily, as well as Potenza in the region of Basilicata.

The heartbeat of Julia's Italian heritage resonates through her family's migration to the United States. Her paternal grandfather, John Sferlazza, first embarked on his journey in 1937 when he arrived in America at the tender age of six. On the other side of her family, Julia’s grandparents from her mother’s side, Crescenzo and Concetta Piro, embarked on their journey to the United States in 1962, creating a bridge between the old world and the new. The echoes of their courage and resilience continue to reverberate in Julia's appreciation for the opportunities and experiences she has been afforded as an Italian-American.

The culmination of these Italian travels through her parents' families eventually found a home in Norwalk, Connecticut in the North East of America, where Julia was raised.

Growing up on the same street as her maternal grandparents, Julia was immersed in the sights, sounds, and flavors of Italian culture for as long as she can remember. Sunday dinners at her grandmother's house were a weekly affair, a culinary experience that included wonderful freshly grown food straight from the garden. From homemade wine to fig trees in the backyard, Julia's childhood was a prime example of keeping Italian culture alive while not living in Italy.

Even today, she and her siblings actively participate in the time-honored process of crafting homemade sauces, and learning the recipes that have been perfected over generations. These familial bonds are further strengthened through the celebration of Italian feast days and holidays, with the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve standing out as a cherished tradition among her family.

Julia's commitment to preserving her Italian heritage extends beyond familial traditions and reaches into her everyday life, especially when it comes to sports, more specifically the soccer field. As many Italian-Americans can attest, soccer, or better known as calcio is more than just a sport or an activity, but it is a way of life. It is the heart of many Italian families, and Julia’s was no different. With influence from the history of her lineage, Julia found yet another common love that so many Italian-Americans do, and carved a niche for herself on the soccer field, playing for the premier club Connecticut FC United ECNL throughout her formative years and high school. Her dedication to the sport earned her a spot on the Division II soccer team at Assumption University in Worcester, Massachusetts, where she eventually graduated from and earned her Bachelor’s Degree.

As her Undergraduate collegiate career came to a close, Julia felt that her student-athlete days were not done yet. Looking to continue playing the sport that she loved, as well as continue to embrace the heritage that helped forge that exact love, Julia made the decision to continue to play soccer, but to do so back in her family’s homeland of Italy.

Currently Julia is studying at Rome City Institute in Rome, Italy, as she is a part of the school’s soccer academy, while halfway through completing a Master’s degree in Sports Management & Coaching.

Not only is Julia able to keep making waves on the pitch, but to do so on the Italian soil and to experience the life and the culture of her history, is an opportunity many dream of, but not something everyone can take advantage of.

For Julia, being Italian American is not just about the past; it's about living and breathing the traditions that have shaped her family for generations. Carrying on traditions in America was a beautiful way to honor her heritage, but to return to Italy and to truly understand the traditions and the culture on a new level, has brought Julia closer to her Italian roots than ever before. Now she walks the streets of Rome, travels up and down the country and finds new inspiration every day of what it means to be Italian.

Beyond the borders of the United States, Julia maintains strong ties with her Italian relatives, scattered across Isola d’Ischia, Lercara Friddi, Sicily, and La Spezia, Liguria. Julia continues to stay close to her Italian family members in Italy and visits her relatives as often as she can. Before living in Rome, seeing her Italian family was something only possible during vacation, however now they are only a train ride away.

 Coming from a big Italian family, both Italian American and pure Italian, Julia is ever grateful for the time spent laughing, eating, talking, and just spending time with her family who still reside in Italy. Her time with her family in Italy is a constant reminder for Julia of the interconnectedness of her family across the world.

As an advocate for the preservation of Italian American heritage, Julia recognizes the significance of passing down these traditions to future generations. She believes that these customs not only connect individuals to their roots but also foster a sense of belonging and continuity. Julia retains the importance of continuing traditions relating to one’s heritage, as it serves as a reminder of family origin in the most authentic way possible.

In a melting pot of diverse cultures, holding onto one's heritage becomes a reminder of the unique tapestry that makes up the American story, especially the Italian American story.

Julia Sferlazza's journey from Connecticut to Rome is a testament to the enduring power of cultural identity. Her Italian American heritage is not confined to the pages of history; it is a living narrative that lives on in her daily life. Through her commitment to tradition, family, and the celebration of her roots, Julia stands as a proud symbol of the legacy passed down to her, ensuring that the flame of her Italian heritage continues to burn brightly for generations to come.