Italy is generally depicted by Americans in a charmingly romantic way: its strong points are, indubitably, its beautiful landscapes and landmarks, its long history, its delicious regional and national cuisine and wine, and last but not least, its people!
These highlights make this warm and loving country very appealing to the American eye and they persuade many fascinated tourists to visit (and sometimes, stay in) Italy. Italy is considered one of Americans’ favorite destinations when planning a memorable and life-changing trip.
What influences this portrayal of Italy? We’ve outlined three main points:
The way most Americans see Italy and Italians is based on the legacy brought there by Italian immigrants in the last century.
At first emarginated and held back by cultural and linguistic barriers, Italians found a way, through the passing of time and generations, to integrate into American culture: most of the population now considered Italian in the USA is actually Italian American, and the two cultures have largely merged. So an Italian American whose family was originally from Southern Italy, can now tell you how well they make the traditional Lasagne alla Bolognese (a delicacy from northern Italy!), and that’s perfectly fine with the general depiction of Italian culture.
Italian stereotypes have always been displayed in Hollywood productions, and this obviously affects the way Italians are seen worldwide. Unfortunately, most people probably think of characters such as the Godfather and the Sopranos, which portray a very negative image of the country, focusing mainly on organized crime.
However, I think nowadays this stereotype has probably been washed out, as many people have had the opportunity to travel and come in contact with actual Italians, realizing that that way of life is far from being the predominant one in the country.
As said above, many tourists have had the possibility to visit Italy and interact with people. Italians generally love Americans, and they often go out of their way to appeal to them whenever they meet them. This may be the reason why they often come off as loud and very friendly!
In general, what Americans know about Italians is very generic and mostly based on stereotypes: Italians are often depicted as good looking, outgoing (sometimes even a little bit too much!) and very physical. Italian men are seen as handsome and passionate and women as caring mothers and wonderful cooks, and Italians are thought to be reckless drivers with a poor work ethic. Chatty and warm, welcoming and affectionate, Italians treat everyone as if they were family.
Overall, Americans seem to be profoundly fascinated by the Italian culture and people. Americans admire the Italian way of life and their customs; they love their generosity and warmth, and laugh about all the quirks that make Italian people so unique and lovable.