Christopher Columbus monument close to Las Ramblas in Barcelona, Spain.

Happy Day Off, Here Are Better Italians Than Christopher Columbus to Celebrate

For many—both individually and, in some areas, on an institutional level—the holiday which used to be referred to as Christopher Columbus Day is now known as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and rightfully so. There wasn’t really a reason to give Christopher Columbus an entire day and that’s not just my opinion, though on a personal level, I don’t like the man and I didn’t like that he always got praise over better Italians.

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There are plenty of other, more worthy Italians you can celebrate that aren’t murderers, tyrants, and tied to the brutal killings of the Indigenous Peoples who lived in the Americas that Columbus and his teams “discovered.”

Here, my friends, is a list for those so determined to celebrate Italians that I, an Italian-American, collected because no one should be celebrating Christopher Columbus. That guy f**king sucked.

Rocky Balboa

The shirtless boxer Rocky glistening with sweat in "Rocky"
(United Artists)

If anyone Italian-American deserves a holiday, it’s the Italian Stallion himself. Straight out of Philadelphia, but I don’t hold that against him, Rocky Balboa had a rough life. But he turned it all around and brought his success as a boxer back home to his family time and time again. Until he couldn’t do it any more and even though he struggled (and doesn’t have the best relationship with his son), he still tries to be a perfect man. That’s why we love Rocky.

He’s a great coach, he’s beloved in Philly, and he’s just all around a great man. Rocky loved his wife, he loved Apollo Creed, and he loved fur coats. What’s not to celebrate with Rocky?

Mario Mario and Luigi Mario

Mario and Luigi pump their fists, standing in the street. Luigi has a bag of plumbing tools on his shoulder.
(Universal Pictures)

Look, Mario Mario has been in some hot water recently for letting non-Italian Chris Pratt voice him in the movie The Super Mario Bros. but that doesn’t detract from the importance of Brooklyn born plumber Mario and his brother Luigi and their status as Italian-Americans.

Luigi, of course, has always been innocent (voiced by Charlie Day perfectly in that movie) and he’s just the fun brother but these two are important to us because come on, they’re cute little guys on a mission who say “Mamma mia” when things go awry.

Chef Boyardee

Various packaged canned pasta
(Getty images)

You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Now Rachel, this is offensive. There are actual Italian chefs you could have included on this list.” Joke’s on you though, Chef Boyardee is a real chef! And he did a good job even if his food is now not what Ettore “Hector” Boiardi initially brought to America. An Italian immigrant, Boiardi even cooked for the president at one point and he’s largely responsible for bringing Italian food to middle America and making it easily accessible to American families.

The Coppolas

A black and white image of Sofia Coppola smiling on a red carpet.
(Kristy Sparow/Getty Images)

Francis Ford Coppola is obviously Italian—obvious not just because of the name but because this is the man who directed The Godfather and its subsequent sequels. His family, though, has gone on to grow into a full Hollywood institution. Coppola’s children include director and writer Sofia Coppola, whose new movie Priscilla is currently showing at film festivals, and Roman Coppola, who often works with director Wes Anderson as well as his sister (Francis Ford Coppola and his wife had another son named Gian-Carlo Coppola who died at 23). While that’s enough talent for you to celebrate, the Coppolas don’t stop there.

Coppola’s sister is Talia Shire, of Rocky fame. Shire’s children include both Jason Schwartzman and Robert Schwartzman (of the band Rooney and The Princess Diaries) as well as a son named Matthew Shire who is a producer. Coppola’s brother was named August Coppola and his son is Nic Cage. Do you see a pattern? It’s a nepotism family of brilliant Italian creatives and I love them all!

Tony Soprano

dr Melfi and tony soprano in the sopranos being angsty
(HBO)

Do you think that this is a joke? This is an Italian man who is the definition of the machismo experience. And what is doing throughout the entire run of The Sopranos? He’s in therapy. That’s amazing! He’s actually working on himself and making sure he’s talking to someone, and that is something to celebrate.

Tony Soprano isn’t perfect. He’s a man who has murdered and whether or not he’s dead at the end of the show, he probably would do it again. That being said, Tony Soprano at least tries to work on himself.

Lady Gaga

Who doesn’t love Lady Gaga? There is something so fun and theatrical about Gaga as a performer that you can’t help but just love her as a creative. She’s fascinating to watch and listen to whenever her very catchy songs come on. She will also be the first to tell you that she is Italian-American. (And that she’s worked with fellow Italian icon Tony Bennett.)

Frank Sinatra

Circa 1953, American singer and actor Frank Sinatra (1915 - 1998) during a recording session at Capitol Records. (Photo by Murray Garrett/Getty Images)
(Murray Garrett/Getty Images)

I don’t know if it is normal for a kid to have a Frank phase but I did. Growing up, my grandfather (whose name was Carmelo and he changed it to CARMEN to sound less Italian so actually LOL) loved Frank Sinatra and would play his music all the time, sharing that love with me. My own favorite song is “One For My Baby (One More For the Road)” and out of the Rat Pack (which consisted of Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop), Sinatra was always my favorite. Mainly because I think Sinatra always managed to mix his own feelings in with his crooning in a way that others gave up for a catchier hook.

Are there other Italian crooners I could have put here? Sure! But this is my list so, I put my favorite. Celebrate who you want but if we’re celebrating Italian-Americans, I’m picking Frank Sinatra cause that was something my grandfather and I did together and I love him dearly.

Italian American actors make the world go round

Marissa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny, looking badass with her arms folded.
(20th Century Fox)

Initially, I started to list my favorites as their own separate entries and then I realized that there are a lot of us. Surprise! Marisa Tomei is my queen forever and always but when you get down to it, so many Italian-American actors have graced the big screen (in a lot of Martin Scorsese movies actually) and they’re all worth shouting out. For the men, have Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, Al Pacino, Steve Buscemi, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Joe Pesci, Sylvester Stallone, Stanley Tucci, Danny DeVito, John Travolta, John Turturro, Jon Favreau, Michael Imperioli, Milo Ventimiglia, Ray Romano, Steve Carell. I didn’t even bring up John Cena and Vin Diesel because that’s then getting into my favorite maybe Italian family, the Torettos in the Fast and the Furious movies.

For actresses, did you know that Rachel Bilson is Italian? That makes sense actually. If you want to get into it and celebrate actual Italians from Italy (as opposed to Italian-Americans), we’ve got Monica Bellucci and Sophia Loren. Point is, there are a lot of people to know and love and celebrate who aren’t you know, that guy.

Martin Scorsese

Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort in 'The Wolf of Wall Street': A man looks triumphant as a crowd celebrates around him.
(Paramount PIctures)

Italian granddaddy himself, Marty Scorsese! If you’re Italian, chances are that one of his movies has been on in your home at one point or another whether you like it or not. For my family, it was Goodfellas, even though my favorite is The Departed, followed by The Wolf of Wall Street. Scorsese’s work is a staple for all the Italian-Americans that I know.

Bruce Springsteen

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - AUGUST 30: Bruce Springsteen performs at MetLife Stadium on August 30, 2023 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Manny Carabel/Getty Images)
(Manny Carabel/Getty Images)

Springsteen’s songs have always been for the people and it makes him one of the best musicians out there still, and he’s rocking on to this day. Being an Italian-American is just a bonus and Springsteen is always a boss, as his nickname rightfully calls him.


Christopher Columbus doesn’t deserve your attention. But if you’re that determined to celebrate Italians, at least these guys are worth our time.

(featured image: Getty Images)


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Author
Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.