An Italian American in Rome: Like Father like Son, Carrying on the Mariottini Name
- WTI Magazine #166 Aug 19, 2023
In this month’s edition of “An Italian American in Rome”, we’re going to do something a little bit different. For this article, I am going to be writing about myself. My name is Rob Mariottini and I have been the author of all of the previous publications of this series.
Typically I will dive into the story of student-athletes who study at Rome City Institute and their Italian American heritage that brought them to this point in their lives. However, I myself am also an Italian American and I think it’s time to tell my story of how I got to be an American in Italy.
I was born and raised in the County of Westchester, NY in a town called New Rochelle, about 20 miles north of New York City. Being a New Yorker has always been a staple of who I am, and the influence of “New Ro” still resides with me today. Yet, even though I grew up over 4000 miles away from Rome, the feeling of being Italian, and specifically a Roman, has been pulsing through my veins from the moment my heart started beating. Specifically, it was pulsing Red & Yellow.
It all started with my parents. My mother, Susan Davis, is also a New Yorker, born and raised in Westchester as well, while my father is where my foreign heritage comes from. My father, Domenico “Mimmo” Mariottini was born in the city of Rome, in the Neighborhood ‘Prati’ right next to the Vatican walls. As far as can be remembered, the Mariottini family were Romans to the core. At the young age of 23 years old, my father made the tough decision to depart from his family and life in Rome, to venture off to the USA, in his personal search for the “American dream”.
After spending some time in NYC, working and living with other Italians who recently moved to America during the time, my parents would meet by chance at a famous Italian Bakery called “Ferrara” where my father was working at the time. The rest is history. They went on to marry and have two children, my older sister Deborah Mariottini as well as myself, as they built a beautiful life together in NY. As my father was able to keep his Italian Citizenship while becoming a dual citizen in the US, my sister as well as myself are Italian Citizens as well.
While my father never returned to Rome on a full time basis, he kept close to him many of his Italian traditions, with one trumping all others, his love for AS Roma. Ever since he attended the Stadio Olimpico for the first time as a child, my father has been a dedicated Romanista, even being a season ticket holder for some years in the late 70’s and early 80’s. He had seen the team through ups and downs, watching many legends such as Burno Conti and Carlo Ancelotti play for the club. When he made his move to NY, he did everything he could to continue to follow AS Roma. He would often visit Rome to see his family as well as attend certain Rome games. Incredibly enough he was in the Stadio Olimpico for the wonderful match in 2001 where Roma beat Parma three to one to clinch their third ever Scudetto.
He made sure that his love for the team didn’t diminish, and through all of that, the love and passion was passed down to me.
From the moment I was born, I was destined to be a Romanista. While looking through old photos, I can always find pictures of myself as an infant dawning my father’s Roma kits.
Anywhere I went or anything I did as a child, there was almost a guarantee that I was proudly sporting the red and yellow colors. As time went on and seasons passed, my love for both the sport of Soccer and AS Roma only continued to grow.
While this might not seem extremely out of the ordinary nowadays, in the early 2000’s soccer in the USA was not a very common obsession for a young American. Of course so many kids played recreational soccer, but not many stuck with it, nor did any follow the world of European Football. But I was an exception. I lived and breathed this sport.
While many of my friends played Little League Baseball in the summer, or watched NFL on Sunday’s with their father, I was watching RAI at 9 am on Sunday morning with my dad to get even a glimpse of a Roma goal. The option of streaming every match was non-existent at the time, so whatever Serie A match was shown, was the one we watched. If I wasn’t watching, I was taking free-kicks in my backyard. I wasn’t outside, I was spending countless hours on FIFA Career Mode scoring 100’s of goals with Francesco Totti, the symbol of the team that I loved so much. In 2003 we visited Rome as a family, where I got to meet my Uncle’s and extended family which was a wonderful experience, but what I remember most was getting lucky enough to visit Trigoria (the training ground of AS Roma) and meeting some of the players. Those pictures are still some of my most cherished memories to this day.
To me, my connection to Roma was also my strongest connection to my Italian heritage. While there are so many aspects of being Italian that I love, I also loved my American heritage. Being raised in New York, I was exposed to so many cultures and so many traditions which I am quite proud of.
My whole life, soccer was the most constant reminder of my father’s past and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
While I supported from afar, I always had a dream that one day, I would bring the Mariottini name back to the Stadio Olimpico, and be a season ticket holder of Roma, just like my dad was all those years ago. In 2021, that dream turned into a reality.
Two years after graduating from Binghamton University, I was looking for a change of pace. After searching for different opportunities throughout Italy, I found Rome City Institute, the Institution that changed my life.
Shortly after learning more about the school, I realized that this was the perfect fit for me. However, the University at the time was typically meant for Student-Athletes. While I was a soccer player in my formative days, I had not played for almost 5 years. Yet, after some discussion with the recruitment team, I was given an offer to attend the Institute as a Graduate Assistant as I would earn a Master’s Degree in Sports Management which is something I had always been very interested in.
On only my second day in Rome, Roma played their season opener against Fiorentina, and thankfully I was able to secure the season ticket I so desperately dreamed of. While I had been to two Roma games at the Stadio Olimpico before, those experiences were as a traveler. Now, for the first time, I would be attending the game with Rome as my home.
From the moment I walked into the Stadio Olimpico, I had chills. For the first time in my life, I was part of a group of Romanisti who care as deeply as I do about this club and these colors. It was no longer something that I experienced with only my dad, but it was something bigger. It was a community. I felt a feeling of pride like never before.
To be fair, going to Roma games wasn’t the only highlight from my first year in Rome. My time in Rome City was truly remarkable. I was able to meet incredible people throughout the Professional Sports world, make incredible friends who came from all over the world (Brazil, America, Germany, just to name a few) and study sports on a whole new level. It was not long before I realized I found my calling.
After I finished my year as a student and earned my degree, I am happy to say I was offered a role in the Marketing & Media team at Rome City Institute.
For the past year, I have worked to show what an incredible time I and so many others had, by making videos for social media, gaining interactions on our website, and fortunately enough writing articles for We The Italians.
As I write this article, I am entering my third full year living in Rome. I was fortunate to be able to visit New York during breaks in the school year, and while it is hard to say goodbye everytime I leave NY, the moment I step foot in Rome, the Roman in me can’t help but feel grateful.
Grateful that my love and my passion for this Roma team, a “random” that my father happened to like because he was from Rome, has kept me so connected with my Italian heritage, and has led me this far, even beyond the simple love for the team and the sport. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love my American heritage, especially the New Yorker in me. That has made me who I am today, and I am just as grateful for the exposure that I had getting to grow up where I did.
However, that is only half of my story. For the other half, I am forever grateful that my dad took the incredibly hard journey to leave his home. 37 years later, I traveled the opposite route. I feel immense pride for the red, white, and green colors on the Italian flag, as I brought my father’s Mariottini blood back to Italy, with a heart that will forever and always be filled with the Red and Yellow of the Giallorossi colors.