Jill Biden surrounded by her family’s deep roots in Italy as she returns to the Eternal City



By Kate Bennett, CNN

Six months after the death of their son Beau in 2015, Jill Biden and then-vice president Joe Biden couldn’t bear the thought of traveling to Nantucket, Massachusetts for the family’s traditional Thanksgiving. Biden.

It would have been – she wrote in her 2019 memoir, “Where the Light Enters” – “like a photograph with Beau’s face cut out”.

Instead, she took the helm and decided to bring the family to Rome for the holidays, seeking refuge at the US Ambassador’s residence, a source close to where she was staying at the time. For Jill Biden, Italy was a country to which they could “escape,” as she described it, and the familiarity of religious symbolism also served as comfort to the devout Biden Catholic family.

This week, Biden returned to the Ambassador’s Roman residence – a 15th-century estate called Villa Taverna – this time as the First Lady of the United States, years away from the tragedy of Beau Biden’s death and determined to support her husband on his first group of 20 trip to the top as president. While meeting with leaders, discussing controversial topics such as the environment, the global economy, possible threats from China and Russia and the pandemic, Jill Biden will handle a few bilateral diplomatic meetings.

The first lady’s family has deep roots in Italy, and Italian culture has long played a role in Jill Biden’s life. Her Sicilian ancestors are the source of a historical note: she is now the first and only Italian-American first lady of the United States.

Biden’s maiden name is Jacobs, but before his great-grandfather emigrated to America – arriving at Ellis Island – it was Giacoppa. Guytano Giacoppa “Americanized” the surname, as did thousands of immigrants, starting a new life in the United States.

The Giacoppas lived in tiny Gesso, Sicily, a small village in the province of Messina, which now has a population of less than 1,000. Her family’s origin story contributes to her growth with Italian influence, which Jill Biden has credited in several interviews as the impetus for large Italian-style Sunday family dinners – she said the President loved his angel haired pasta with fresh tomato sauce and his sons had a soft spot for his chicken parmigiana.

The first lady’s stay in her ancestral homeland will be rich in encounters and will include a visit to the families of American soldiers.

After an audience with Pope Francis on Friday – in which she wore a black leopard-print suit and a black lace mid-back mantilla strapped to the back of her head – Biden is scheduled for a Friday afternoon tea afterwards – midday with Brigitte Macron, the first lady of France.

Simultaneously, the president will hold a formal bilateral meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, their first in-person meeting since last month’s diplomatic crisis. The first two ladies have more in common than their husbands – both are long-time educators. A source close to the meeting told CNN that women are likely to discuss their roles as first ladies in their respective countries, education – bullying is of particular interest to Macron – and common interests in culture, including better access to the arts.

Before Macron, Biden is also expected to meet with Maria Serenella Cappello, the wife of Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi. Cappello is known in Italy to be a relatively private and press-shy person, and the meeting with Biden will not be available to the media.

In addition to his one-on-one meetings, Biden is also expected to attend a spousal lunch on Saturday and a farewell lunch on Sunday. She will also go to the official G20 gala on Saturday evening with the president.

On Sunday, President Biden departs for Scotland and the COP26 climate summit, while the first lady stays in Rome until Monday, then returns to Naples, where she will make a stopover at the United States military base. Biden will visit the Department of Defense Educational Activities School on the base.

“She will meet with high school students, visit several classrooms and speak at a rally to encourage the senior class,” her publicist Michael La Rosa told CNN.

After this period with military families, Biden must return home to Washington.

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