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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Europe (excluding the United Kingdom) (02/19/09)

TITLE: Francesca Fortunato
By Angela M. Baker-Bridge


La Vita ITALIANO; an Italian-American publication preserving our heritage

Winter 2009óMember Spotlight; Francesca Fortunato

IAM: Welcome Francesca to La Vita ITALIANO. Typically, we interview members born in Italy who immigrated to America. Your storyís the opposite. Tell us about your family history.

Francesca: Absolutely. My parents are from Calabria. In 1949, they immigrated to America, settling in NY. Papa worked hard, quickly learning English. They lived in an Italian neighborhood, but couldnít find many foods they missed. So eventually, they opened an Italian grocery and bakery.

IAM: Were you born in NY?

Francesca: Yes, the third child of five.

IAM: Thatís a big family.

Francesca: Yeah, but not because of my siblings. Over time, Papa brought his entire family to America. We all lived in the same neighborhood, attending the same schools and Italian church. Holidays meant lots of family. It was great.

IAM: Sounds like it. How did you wind up in Italy?

Francesca: Well, my maternal grandmother was a missionary to Sicily. For my high school graduation, she sent me a ticket to visit her. That trip changed my life. I feel in love with the lush rolling countryside, the markets, long lunches, slower lifestyle, and rich culture. Italyís amazing. Working with Nonnie at the mission helped me find my heart and calling.

IAM: How did you go from Sicily to Milan?

Francesca: Oh, I didnít stay in Italy. I returned stateside to attend Bible College. Then Nonnie became ill, returning to America. A guy she knew from Sicily was visiting America. He came to see herówe met, fell in love, and married. We saved for a year before moving back to Italy. That was thirty-years ago.

IAM: How romantic! What did you do after you immigrated?

Francesca: First, we returned to Sicily since his family and Nonnieís mission were there. Itís a beautiful providence, charming villas, sprawling vineyards, bountiful orchards, and pristine beaches. Unfortunately, my husband was struggling to support our growing family. In Italy, those in ministry must support themselvesónot like in America where congregants support their ministers. Itís difficult here.

IAM: But, arenít all Italians Roman Catholic?

Francesca: Not at all, the Vatican is still strong, but itís losing its influence. Young people especially are leaving Catholicism. Theyíre rejecting the institute of marriage, living together instead. They want birth control and believe in abortion. Drug use is rampant, as well as alcoholism. Protestant congregations are slowly increasing, but not as quickly as the growing number of Muslims.

IAM: Muslims? In Italy?

Francesca: Oh yes, Italy isnít just home to native Italians. Immigrants arrive daily from Romania, Asia, and Africa. Theyíre draining our economy, which is raising our taxes. Remember, we have free medical care in Italy and government housing, which attracts refugees. We have a multi-cultural society. In fact, the best Chinese food Iíve ever eaten was right here in Italy.

IAM: Fascinating. I wasnít aware of that.

Francesca: Anyway, we heard there was work, and ministry opportunities, up north around Malpensa airport. We choose a smaller country village though to live in. Weíre close enough to the train station to commute to Milan but enjoy our close-knit community.

IAM: What kind of work do you do?

Francesca: I teach English to executives with business dealings in America, often translating their documents.

IAM: Did coming from an Italian speaking family help you?

Francesca: It made it harder! We spoke Calabrese at home, not the proper Italian. And my in-laws speak Sicilian. Plus, the Italian government wouldnít recognize my American education. I had to attend state schools to become certified. Growing up we didnít really use medical terms at home. When I went to the doctors here, Iíd bring my dictionary. The nurses giggled, calling me ďAmericana.Ē Grocery shopping was difficult too. Once I meant to buy baking soda but came home with salt.

IAM: I never thought about that. Tell us about your ministry.

Francesca: We oversee an outreach to homeless immigrants. We gather and distribute food, clothing, and furniture. I also assist with their official documents, help them find work, and teach them Italian and English.

IAM: Thatís wonderful. After thirty-years in Italy, will you ever move back to America?

Francesca: My children and I do maintain dual citizenships, and I miss my family in America, but our life is here. We love our work and ministry, the Italian lifestyle, and gregarious people.

IAM: Sounds like a great life. Thanks Francesca for sharing. Buona fortuna!

Francesca: It was my pleasure. Ciao!

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This article has been read 665 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Yvonne Blake 03/02/09
Creative approach to the subject! Is this based on a true story? I would have enjoyed perhaps an childhood incident or embarrassing experience included in the interview..to make it more personable instead of just facts.
It did show the need for the Gospel in Italy today. Thank you for writing this.
Dee Yoder 03/02/09
Oh, I really enjoyed this! It IS a refreshing change from the usual listing of what a country has in it, and I never knew some of the things you wrote about. I never thought about how a country can become overwhelmed with "takers" who immigrate only for the free stuff a country doles out. We need to careful of that, too. Again, I liked this very much.
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/02/09
I like the way you presented a lot of information in this interesting format.
Ruth Ann Moore03/02/09
I was amazed at how much information you were able to put into your piece. It was enjoyable to read, and I liked the unique perspective.
Jan Ackerson 03/02/09
I love the alliteration in the title, and the interview format was fascinating. I really like this entry!
Connie Dixon03/02/09
I enjoyed your Interview format here. Lots of details about Italy that I never knew, very informative and creative.
Bryan Ridenour03/03/09
Informative and entertaining, thanks for sharing.
Carol Slider 03/03/09
Thanks so much for sharing this interesting interview. I learned a great deal that I didn't know!
Eliza Evans 03/03/09
I enjoyed this very much. It felt real and natural.
Lovely writing! Good job!
Thank you for sharing. :)
Diana Dart 03/04/09
The format was very creative and helped to get a lot of information out there, interesting, thought provoking info. I sometimes felt like it was a bit stilted, like I wanted to hear more about her feelings, etc., maybe to connect with her???
Anne Linington03/04/09
Initially attracted by the title- I like titles that contain names or relationships. You did convey a lot of informaion about Italy, either first-hand knowledge or personal experience I couldn't judge. However I too would have liked some personal story-telling detail that would be found in an interview. When I give a Bible talk/ sermon, the pace changes the moment you interject an illustration. The hearers relax and pay greater attention. I am sure this is true of writing.
Joshua Janoski03/26/09
If I could travel to only one country in the world, it would be Italy. I have never been, but I have a lot of Italian and Polish ancestors. I love the format you used. It made it very fun to learn about the country. I had no idea that the Vatican was losing its hold and that they offered free health care. Lots of interesting bits of information here. Of course, that is is to be expected from a true Italian writer. :)