Bill de Blasio: A Trip Back to His Italian Roots

A Vote for Matera
July 7, 2014
Visiting my Mother’s Village
September 12, 2014

On July 18th New York City’s first family will say “Arrivederci, Big Apple” as they head to Italy for a family vacation. Bill de Blasio, his wife Chirlane McCray and their two teenage children, Chiara and Dante, will spend ten days visiting Rome, Venice and Naples, as well as Grassano and Sant’Agata, the ancestral villages of de Blasio’s maternal grandparents.

De Blasio had promised to visit his grandparents’ towns during his election campaign.
“On election night, we watched in awe as the town of Sant’Agata live-streamed Bill’s victory in a small movie theater. We saw Italians—people who had never even met us—erupt in cheers when Bill won the final vote,” his wife Chirlane wrote on her blog.
“Returning to Italy this summer will be a homecoming for our family.

It will be a moment to humbly express our gratitude to the family members and local residents who supported us and cheered us on over those long months. And, as our first family trip together since we went to Niagara Falls in 2012, it will be a moment to enjoy some much-needed time with Chiara and Dante.” She added that this trip would help their children understand their “rich, complex, and beautifully diverse heritage.”

santagatadeigoti20bAn old postcard of Sant’Agata dei Goti
from ItalianSide collection

In 1903, Mayor de Blasio’s grandmother, Anna Briganti, immigrated to the United States from Grassano in Basilicata with her brothers and later married Giovanni de Blasio, who had been born in Sant’Agata de’Goti in Campagna. Their daughter, Dorothy, is Bill de Blasio’s mother. Bill de Blasio was estranged at an early age from his father, Warren Wilhelm, and strongly identified with his mother and her Italian heritage, even taking her maiden name.

grassano12bAn old postcard of Grassano
from ItalianSide collection
The Mayor de Blasio has arranged to meet with some Italian mayors and government officials during his stay and do interviews with Italian media. But perhaps the most important meeting will be the one with the mayor of Grassano, Francesco Sanseverino. Mayor Sanseverino will host Mayor de Blasio with a solemn ceremony that will include the national anthems of both countries and will likely award him with honorary citizenship.

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