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Italian Ambassador Andrea Canepari LLM’99 documents indelible Italian impact on Philadelphia

March 21, 2022

The Italian Legacy in Philadelphia: History, Culture, People, and Ideas explores Philadelphia’s centuries-long connection to Italian culture.

Name any place in the world, and Italian Ambassador Andrea Canepari LLM’99 will quickly describe an Italian connection.

The connections with Philadelphia, for example, were so abundant that Canepari, who served as Italy’s Ambassador to the city from 2013 to 2017, was compelled to put it in writing. He and co-editor Judith Goode assembled The Italian Legacy in Philadelphia: History, Culture, People, and Ideas (Temple University Press, 2021), which explores Philadelphia’s centuries-long connection to Italian culture.

“Philadelphia is a very cosmopolitan city with a rich history, and part of this rich history is the historical link with Italy and the Italian community,” said Canepari, who now serves as Italian Ambassador in the Dominican Republic.

He began the project in 2016 and asked many of the city’s institutions and organizations — from the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to the Union League — to contribute essays on how Italian culture helped shape, and continues to shape, the City of Brotherly Love.

“The book is a chronological line from the colonial period to the present day, and that’s important because the connection between Italy and Philadelphia has changed throughout the centuries,” Canepari said.

The beginning of the book covers the influence of Italian intellectuals on the Founding Fathers. William Ewald, Professor of Law and Philosophy and Co-Director of the Institute of Law and Philosophy at the Law School, contributed an essay on Cesare Beccaria, an 18th-century Age of Enlightenment philosopher and criminal law reformer who advocated for the abolition of the death penalty, enlightened punishment, and clear laws.

“It was a fun project to do, and I wish him all the best,” Ewald said of Canepari, who is his former student.

Canepari’s book also explores the Italian influence during the Industrial Revolution in Philadelphia and the mass migration of Italians, particularly to South Philadelphia, at the turn of the 19th century as well as the impact of Italian culture on the city’s universities, museums, and cuisine.

Chris Sanchirico, Samuel A. Blank Professor of Law, Business, and Public Policy and Co-Director for the Center for Tax Law and Policy at the Law School, contributed two essays: one on Italian connections to the University of Pennsylvania and another on the Italian contribution to what he called “Philadelphia’s venerable and vibrant jazz scene.”

“Fortunately for me, and I believe for the volume, I had access to the generosity and expertise of two important members of our community: Mark Frazier Lloyd, Penn’s University Archivist (now Emeritus) and Alessandro Pezzati, Senior Archivist at the Penn Museum,” said Sanchirico, adding that he was excited and interested to learn more about Penn’s history. “They provided me with both general assistance and access to key sources.”

Sanchirico focuses on South Philadelphia’s renowned jazz guitarist Eddie Lang, who was born Salvatore Massaro, and a string of Italian American jazz guitarists who followed him –most notably, Pat Marino, who passed away this fall.

Canepari said he hopes readers will find “another reason to love Philadelphia” after reading his book.

“I love creating bridges,” he said. “This book is a living bridge, because if you create a connection where one was not so immediately evident you can see what we can do together to create even more cooperation.”

Explore more books written by alumni at the Digital Bookshelf.