Allison is a longtime NOIAW member and Italian culture enthusiast who is committed to sharing her passion for her heritage. You may recognize her from our Greater New York Region event earlier this year, St. Joseph’s Day Alla Siciliana, where she sang Sicilian folk songs and while playing guitar, clarinet and Sicilian tambourine. She even danced a tarantella!
Allison’s love for her Italian roots is evident in every aspect of her life. She seeks to bring joy to people through travel to Italy, music, and dance. She is a travel professional specializing in designing creative itineraries to Sicily and Italy, as well as a musician who performs Italian American roots music and Sicilian folk songs with her music ensemble Villa Palagonia. She also dances and teaches the tarantella.
- How did you hear about NOIAW? What drew you to join the organization?
I first heard about NOIAW when I was reading the notes in the back of one of Lidia Bastianich’s cookbooks. Once I heard that Geraldine Ferraro was a founding member (Since I was a kid, she’s been one of my idols!), I had to join.
- How has your NOIAW membership helped you personally and/or professionally so far?
Being a member of NOIAW brings me great joy. When I go to events, I feel great because I know right away that other people in the room are “my kind of people.” I have met some truly inspired women through NOIAW: People like MaryRose Morris have been so supportive and others such as Tanya Bastianich Manuali and Ornella Fado have been very generous with their time and advisement.
- Tell me about your connection with your Italian heritage. How has it influenced your life and your career?
My life took a completely different turn upon my first trip in Italy in 1996. I immediately started studying Italian and returned within six months to see more and get to know my family in Rome and Palermo. For years after those first trips, I dreamed of working in a business that would help others connect to the vitality of Italy. Now that I’ve launched Experience Sicily, my travel and education company with my cousins in Sicily, as well as perform with Villa Palagonia, my music ensemble with my husband Joe Ravo, I’ve made ways to do just that!
- Do you have a favorite memory of your Italian family?
There are so many, now that I visit Italy often; however, when speaking about my experience as an Italian-American, I remember returning from Sicily after having met my great-aunt who was 90 years old and blind at the time. In Italian, I told my grandmother, who spoke Sicilian and Italian and lived in Brooklyn, that I had met her sister. She was very old and fragile, but I remember her being so proud… especially later in that visit when I started reading to her in Italian. I think that gave her great satisfaction after so many years of struggling to communicate with me and my brother. She gave me a magnificent gift! It’s because of her prolific letter writing throughout the decades and her fierce family loyalty that I have a priceless connection to my Italian cousins and Sicilian roots.
- Anything else you’d like to share?
I am so thankful that NOIAW exists. I love events like the “Three Wise Women” Epiphany celebrations each January that recognize outstanding members of our community. We sisters need to support each other and stick together! We have a particular story as American women of Italian heritage. Recognizing it as a distinct sisterhood and embracing how we can advocate for each other professionally and personally should be a routine part of lives.
Thanks so much to Allison for participating in our Member Spotlight series. We’re proud to have her as a member!
If you have a story to share, get in touch with Beth Connolly at firstname.lastname@example.org for your chance to be interviewed here!