We The Italians | An Italian American in Rome: Robert Allegretta, Bridging Cultures Through Education and Soccer

An Italian American in Rome: Robert Allegretta, Bridging Cultures Through Education and Soccer

An Italian American in Rome: Robert Allegretta, Bridging Cultures Through Education and Soccer

  • WTI Magazine #176 Jun 23, 2024
  • 216

Robert Allegretta’s life is a compelling narrative of cultural fusion, familial bonds, and the pursuit of academic and athletic excellence. His journey from San Luis Obispo, California, to attending and graduating High-School while abroad in Rome, Italy, underscores the rich heritage of his Italian-American roots and his passion for soccer.

It’s a story that reflects his deep appreciation for his family’s Italian origins and his ambition to carve out a path for himself in the world of sports and education.

Robert Allegretta was born in San Luis Obispo, a small town with a population of about 50,000 people. Robert’s mother, Mary Allegretta-Butler, an african-american woman born in Massachusetts, provided Robert with a large American family. Robert has immense love and respect for his mother who in his own words is “the most wonderful person you will ever meet”.

Mary was originally adopted but was raised with 5 total siblings who Robert has lovely holiday memories in America with. Despite what most would consider a challenging childhood, Mary became a strong, independent woman who instilled in Robert the values of resilience and determination.

On his father’s side is where his Italian origin begins. Robert’s father, Cosimo Allegretta, is Italian born, and originates from the small Italian town of Molfetta, Apulia. Cosimo and his brother, Robert’s Uncle, decided they wanted to share their love for Italian cuisine, and moved to America, where they opened and created a restaurant called “Mama's Meatball”. Subsequently named after Robert’s grandmother, who is the Mamma in question.

Ultimately Robert was raised by his grandparents on his fathers side, as they followed their sons to California shortly after the restaurant was opened. Robert’s upbringing was profoundly influenced by said grandparents, Maria and Saverio, providing Robert with a proper Italian-American childhood. Maria and Saverio, who also emigrated from Molfetta, were pivotal in instilling the rich traditions and values of Italian culture in Robert.

Growing up, Robert was enveloped in an environment where the Italian language, cuisine, and customs were an integral part of daily life. His grandparents, who spoke little English, communicated with him in Italian, allowing him to become fluent in the language from a young age. They shared stories of their experiences in Italy during the 1970s, providing Robert with a deep understanding of his heritage and the challenges his family faced.

The Allegretta family maintained a strong connection to their relatives in Molfetta. Regular summer visits to Italy allowed Robert to immerse himself in the culture and build lasting relationships with his extended family. These trips were more than just vacations; they were opportunities for Robert to experience the lifestyle, traditions, and values of his Italian relatives, further solidifying his cultural identity.

Beyond his passion for his Italian heritage, Robert found his second passion early in his life, a passion for Calcio. A passion that millions of Italians share with Robert. In San Luis Obispo, he played for the Central Coast Condors, a local team where he honed his skills and developed as a player. His time with the Condors was marked by significant achievements, including winning the State Cup. These experiences built his reputation and fueled his ambition to pursue soccer at a higher level.

However, the limited opportunities in his small hometown prompted Robert to seek more competitive environments, which led him to making the remarkable decision that changed his life. Robert decided to finish his last year of High School studies, at Rome City Institute, moving his life from California to Rome, Italy at just the age of 17.

His decision to finish high school at Rome City Institute was driven by a desire to advance his soccer career and experience life in a new cultural setting. In Rome, Robert joined the Urbetevere U19 team, one of the top youth clubs in the city. As well as being on the Senators, a team that competes in Rome City’s own Empire Collegiate League, a soccer tournament consisting of the student-athletes here at Rome City Institute. In the Spring ‘24 Season, Robert was able to cap off an incredible second season with the Senators as they went on to win the Men’s Soccer Championship for the first time in team history.

The intensity and competitive nature of Italian soccer provided a new level of challenge and development for Robert, pushing him closer to his dream of playing professionally.

As of the writing of this article, Robert completed his last year of High School Education in Rome, and on May 11th, 2024, Robert crossed the stage to receive his diploma, with his family proudly in attendance. The Allegretta’s were able to watch their young man take a massive step forward on his journey, and to do so back in their home country, was a marvelous achievement.

Through his diverse cultural background, Robert was able to develop a unique perspective on life. Robert’s parents divorced shortly after he was born, however Robert was able to embrace both sides of his family. He will always cherish the large family gatherings with his mother’s side, filled with the warmth and joy of numerous cousins, aunts, and uncles, especially during Christmas, a time of abundant gifts and family bonding.

His father ultimately re-married, and his stepmother had three older daughters from an earlier marriage that she brought into the family—Maria, Ally, and Deanna—who treated Robert lovingly like their little brother, offering love and support from a young age.

Despite the challenges of a blended family, Robert found strength and stability in the loving environment created by his family and specifically his grandparents, Maria and Saverio. Their dedication to preserving and passing down Italian culture was evident in every aspect of Robert’s upbringing, from language and food to stories of their past. The deep bond with his parents, grandparents and the supportive relationship with his step-sisters and American family members, enriched Robert’s life and provided a strong foundation for his personal and cultural identity.

Looking ahead, Robert is focused on his education and soccer career in Rome. He plans to take the next step in his academic journey, by returning to Rome City Institute, where he can begin his Undergraduate Collegiate Academic pursuits while continuing his path in the soccer world. The Institute offers a unique environment for student-athletes, providing the necessary support and facilities to excel both in sports and academics. The experience of living and playing in Italy, with its rich soccer culture and competitive environment, has been instrumental in shaping Robert’s ambitions and driving him toward his goals.

Robert’s story is a testament to the power of cultural heritage, family bonds, and personal determination. His journey from California to Rome is not just about soccer and education, but also about embracing and celebrating the diverse influences that have shaped his life. As he continues to pursue his dreams on the soccer field and in his academic endeavors, Robert remains deeply connected to his Italian roots, honoring the legacy of his grandparents and the rich cultural tapestry of his family.