Nonno is the Italian word for grandfather. In Italian it is common to add suffixes to grandparent names. Uccio denotes smallness or affection and is sometimes added to nonno to create nonnuccio. Nonnino and nonnetto are also terms of endearment meaning “little grandfather.” Occasionally, nonnino will be shortened to nonni, but nonni is also the word for grandparents plural.
Bisnonno is the Italian word for great-grandfather.
Some who are not ethnically Italian have adopted Nonno as their own grandparent name because they like the way it sounds and because it is easy for grandchildren to say.
Importance of Grandparents in Italian Culture
We think of Italians as having large, close families. Traditional Italian culture places great emphasis on extended family, with grandparents and great-grandparents playing important roles. Adult children are expected to stay close to their families after they marry. Frequent family gatherings are the norm, with a shared Sunday dinner being the ideal.
Economic troubles and changing times have had an impact on Italians both in the United States and abroad. Family size is smaller. Many Italian women have careers other than homemaking, and the resulting two-career families struggle to maintain family closeness. The cultural value of family is still appreciated.
The Importance of Food
Food is also important in Italian culture, not only as nourishment but as a shared pleasure that binds family members together.
Most non-Italians are familiar with several Italian dishes, but few know how to organize a real Italian meal. This can be a fun learning experience for grandchildren, too. Traditional Italian meals are served in courses — primos and segundos. The amount of each serving is small so that you can enjoy a leisurely meal without filling up too quickly.
Looking for a book that shows the importance of family tradition and food? Italian-American chef Lidia Bastianich demonstrates both in her book Nonna Tell Me a Story.
Enjoying Life Every Day
The Italian culture emphasizes enjoying everyday life. Italians believe that don’t have to travel or spend a lot of money to enjoy life.
Many grandparents have found that this philosophy meshes well with their grandparenting experience. With the help of their grandchildren, even the most mundane activities can be pleasurable.
Holidays and Special Days
Italy has 12 days that are national holidays in addition to the many saint’s days and feast days that are commonly celebrated in Italy.
Italian festivals are common in the United States, with many being celebrated during October, which is National Italian American Heritage Month. Taking grandchildren to one of these festivals is a good way to share the culture of Italy, whether you are of Italian background or not.
Being Italian in America
Of the many Italians who came to America, around half returned to Italy. Most of those who remained worked hard, tried to maintain Italian traditions and fought against being identified with organized crime. A documentary series, The Italian-Americans, profiles their struggle. Originally aired early in 2015, it can be seen on PBS.com.
Many Americans of Italian heritage belong to the Order Sons of Italy in America, an organization that helps keep Italian culture alive stateside. Besides having an active anti-defamation branch, the group sponsors trips abroad to help Italian-Americans reconnect with their heritage. Other organizations for Italian-Americans include The Center for Italian and Italian American Culture.