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

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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 trip to the top of a group of 20 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 with Brigitte Macron, the first lady of France.

As she walked into a cafe with Macron, the first lady told CNN her meeting with Francis was “wonderful. He was wonderful.”

After a glass of white wine with Macron, the first lady said their relationship was “like sisters”.

Standing next to Macron in front of the cafe, Biden said: “It was nice. Two friends together, like sisters.”

When asked if she appreciates Italy, she replied: “We come here so many times. I love Italy. Brigitte loves Italy. I mean, who couldn’t love Italy ? There’s nothing we wouldn’t like about it, right? “

While the first two ladies enjoyed afternoon drinks, their husbands held their first in-person meeting since the diplomatic affair last month. The first two ladies have more in common than their husbands – both are long-time educators. A source close to the meeting told CNN ahead of the meeting that the women were 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 was also due to meet 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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