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  • Italy-Inspired Tattoos
    Discover the body art that some people are wearing to prove their love to Italy, its people, and its language
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    Wearing your heart on your sleeve is a very Italian thing to do. Our people are known for being passionate about everything from their lovers to their country. They also happen to be known for being loud, sometimes about their passions, sometimes about other things. Seldom are they subtle. Some people are literally putting their heart on their bare arms with Italy-inspired tattoos and body art that convey their love of country and all things Italian. How's that for subtlety?

    Indeed, young Italians and Italian Americans connect with their heritage with their body art. Some people are driven to get Italy-inspired tattoos by their love of Italian soccer or an experience or vacation they've had in Italy or simply in honor of their ancestry or origin. Since tattoos are permanent, you wouldn't want to make a mistake in choosing what to have etched into your skin. In fact, many people in search of tattoos honoring Italy or the Italian language get in touch with my editor at ItaliansRus for help with translations. (For images of common Italy-inspired tattoos, click here.)

    They obviously don't want to pull a Hayden Panettiere, the star of the TV show Heroes, who has a misspelled tattoo on her shoulder. The Italian saying is, "Vivere senza rimpianti" or "Live without regrets." Her tattoo includes an extra "I" as in "rimipianti." That's a pretty big oops that you are best to avoid. Calling on us - or others who know the language - isn't a bad idea after all.

    Of course, you can save yourself the trouble of translation if you're not fluent in Italian by choosing to get a tattoo of a symbol - from the boot that is Italy to the Italian horn. Think Paul "Pauly D" Del Vecchio of MTV's Jersey shore, whose back features the Italian flag's red, white, and green.

    Still, you shouldn't just follow celebrities and reality stars. Body art, because it is permanent, should represent something meaningful to you. Frank Mariconti, Sr., whose family is originally from Naples, Italy, has the American and Italian flags with his name tattooed on his left shoulder. "I was inspired to get the tattoo because of my love of my heritage," writes Mariconti Sr. in an e-mail. I am a proud Italian American and wanted the world to know it. I would tell anyone to do the same.

    Italy - the country itself - has a way of making you fall in love with it. Just ask Michael J. Gyulai of Los Angeles, Calif., who managed a nightclub in Rome from 2004 to 2006. On his right shoulder, he has a collage that includes a hybrid design of the Seal of Rome, the Piramide (which is where he lived in Rome), SPQR acronym (which refers to the Latin saying that means "The Senate and the People of Rome"), and the Roman numerals of the years he spent there. "It is an ode to the city that inspired the adventure of a lifetime and led to my memoir Midnight in Rome (iUniverse Star, 2009)," writes Gyulai, who adds that he has no plans on getting another tattoo unless he has another such journey.

    No matter how moved you are, you don't have to rush into getting a tattoo. After all, the best tattoos are works of art, and fine art takes time. Debbie Frangipane of Valrico, Fla. spent two years thinking about her body art before actually getting a tattoo of a winged lion of Venice, which is seen in a piazza in Verona alongside Socrates, on her lower right abdomen and upper thigh. She plans to have a tattoo artist finish the Latin writing on the book that the lion is holding.

    This lion is the symbol of La Serenissima or the Venetian Republic, and Frangipane, who is "Chef Dolce Debbie" of SavoryAdventures.com, sometimes lives in Venice. The tattoo reminds her of life there, she writes in an e-mail. But her advice for others thinking about getting a tattoo is clear: "Think about it before you do it."

    Di Meglio is the Guide to Newlyweds for About.com, and you can read about her life in Italy and the United States at the Two Worlds Web site.


    Article Published 6/20/2010

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