“Campanilismo”, or How Italians Build Community

In Italy, the concept of “campanilismo” comes from the word “campanile”, or church bell. The concept refers to people’s devotion to their community, or to their neighborhood, or town. Community consists of closely knit lives of people who feel a sense of love and belonging in the place where they feel at home.

Last night I had the honor of giving the keynote address to over 100 people at UNICO’s annual scholarship dinner in Waterbury, CT. UNICO is an Italian American organization of professionals who give service and whose only mission is to help others. Frank Travisano, their president is also a tireless defender of our ethnicity’s good name.

As the former Research Director for the Italian American Defense Association (AIDA) I spent a lot of time focusing on pushing back on the typical and widely diffused negative stereotyping of Italian Americans and Italians so prevalent in the media. With equal passion, however, I love to talk to people about the positive aspects of their Italian cultural heritage  and how they can connect or reconnect to those traditions as a source of building personal strength an character.

I spoke to  UNICO’s young scholars and their proud families about the humanist psychology theory of Abraham Maslow, who developed a concept about all human beings need in order to fully tap into their potential and become all they can be. Then I told my eager listeners how they could achieve their full potential by  tapping into the wisdom of their own Italian heritage.

Maslow stressed the importance of community and social needs. That is having a sense of love and belonging.  As I sat among the UNICAN’s of Waterbury it was exhilarating to part of an evening that exemplified this goal.  At the gathering  were  people of all walks of life, united by the same passion for their heritage and by their passion for doing good. Everyone accepting, no matter what their views were, everyone feeling a sense of belonging and brother/sisterhood, in a place (Bella Vista / Ponte) where the food was as exquisite as the sense of community connection.

You may be in the routine of going to work, coming home, eating supper, watching tv and going to bed.  We can all identify with a similiar kind of rut. But if you feel that something is missing in your life, chances are, it may be that sense of community. It is up to YOU to give yourself the gift of love and belonging. Build an atmosphere of community, where people share common goals, where people keep an eye out for each other’s safety, where people gather together to share ideas, laughter, and good food. You can build community in your neighborhood,  or by  joining an extant community built around your  interests–your place of worship, your after-work softball team, or an association like UNICO or wherever YOUR passion lies.

We are almost into summer. The weather is right.  Get out and interact with others and give yourself the gift of COMMUNITY!


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