Oct 12, 2023 - Ancestry

Italian Genes and American Dreams


New 23andMe Italian Genetic Groups for Italian American Heritage Day 

Next time you mangi i fusilli bucati, note the similarities between the chewy, spiral noodles and a DNA double helix. Visualize each noodle as a piece of your DNA that links you to your ancestors: this noodle comes from Nonna Elisabetta, and she got it from her Nonna, Vittoria. This noodle comes from great-grandpa Giuseppe. That one from Celestina. You realize Celestina had curly hair like you, not unlike the fusilli bucati you’re savoring.  

And perhaps you, like fusilli, trace your roots to southern Italy. 

Now, for Italian American Heritage day, October 12th, 2023, 23andMe is introducing 59 new Italian Genetic Groups, to help customers who tested on the latest genotyping chip learn even more about their fusilli, er…rather, their Italian genetic ancestry. 

Before we dive into that, a little history. Following the unification of Italy in 1861, southern Italians experienced worsening economic conditions due to policies that heavily favored the industrialized north at the expense of the more agricultural south, in addition to other factors such as soil exhaustion. As a result, between 1880 and the First World War, over four million Italians — most from the southern Italian provinces of Campania, Abruzzo, Apulia, Basilicata, and Sicily — immigrated to the United States. 

While many Italians eventually returned home, more remained in the United States and were later joined by other family members — or started families of their own, leaving a lasting imprint on America’s genetic tapestry. Today, over 16 million people in the United States report Italian ancestry, making it the fifth-most reported ancestry behind German, English, Irish and “American.”

23andMe Italian genetic ancestry around the world
Italian Genetic Ancestry at 23andMe

23andMe’s 59 new Italian Genetic Groups reflect the regional differences within the country, with a rich tapestry of dialects, food and culture. Many 23andMe customers who tested on the latest genotyping chip and have Italian ancestry can explore where their DNA traces to in Italy. Over 95% of customers with more than 50% Italian ancestry will receive a match to one or more of these Genetic Groups, and over 63% of customers with more than 5% of Italian ancestry will receive a match.    

A map of Italy and the regions included in 23andMe's most recent update.
A map showing the locations of the 59 new Italian Genetic Groups

Below are the lists of Genetic Groups 23andMe has added as part of this update (most common matches are in bold)

Northern Italy
  • Central Ligurian Apennines and Western Emilia-Romagna
  • Marche and the Central Adriatic Coast
  • Western Arno Basin and Magra Valley
  • Adige River Basin
  • Central Arno Basin
  • Western Gulf of Genoa and the Monregalese
  • Western Po Valley
  • Central Lombardian Prealps
  • Central Po Valley
  • Northern Po Valley
  • Northwestern Po Valley
  • Southeastern Po Valley
  • Dolomites Region
  • Friuli-Venezia Giulia
  • Garda Mountains
  • Modena and Reggio Emilia
  • Northeastern Venetian Plain
  • Northwestern Venetian Plain
  • Southern Venetian Plain
  • The Valtellina
  • Western Great Pre-Alpine Lakes
  • Corsica and Southern France
Southern Italy
  • La Sila
  • Latin Valley
  • Molise
  • Sangro River Valley
  • Eastern Bari
  • Lucanian Apennines
  • Salento Peninsula
  • Southern Gulf of Naples
  • Northern Gulf of Naples
  • Isthmus of Catanzaro
  • Irpinia Region
  • Campanian Valley
  • Southern Calabrian Apennines
  • Calabrian Serre
  • Foggia
  • Vibo Valentia Peninsula and Gioia Tauro Valley
  • Volturno Valley and the Matese
  • Pescara and Vomano Valleys
  • L’Aquila
  • Western Bari
  • Gulfs of Palermo and Castellammare
  • Gulf of Termini Imerese
  • Malta and South Central Sicily
  • Central Sicily
  • Eastern Messina
  • Platani Basin
  • Southern Trapani
  • Northern Trapani
  • Western Messina and the Aeolian Islands
  • Mount Etna and the Simeto Basin
  • Eleuterio Basin
  • Ragusa Hyblaean Plateau
  • Syracuse Hyblaean Plateau
  • Sciacca Verdura Basin
  • Northeastern Sardinian Highlands
  • Campidano Plain and Gennargentu Mountains
  • Coghinas, Mannu, and Temo Basins 

More on the update

About 4 percent of customers who’ve tested on the latest genotyping chip receive a match to one or more Genetic Groups in Southern Italy, 2.4 percent  receive a match to one or more groups in Sicily, 1.4 percent to one or more groups in northern Italy, and less than 1% to groups in Sardinia.

Many customers with Italian ancestry may already have a Country Match to Italy, as well as subregion insights. 

The top 5 Italian administrative subregions among 23andMe customers 
  1. Sicily – 4 million customers share DNA with people who report recent ancestry from Sicily
  2. Campania – 3 million customers share DNA with people who report recent ancestry from Campania
  3. Calabria – 2.5 million customers share DNA with people who report recent ancestry from Calabria
  4. Apulia – 1.9 million customers share DNA with people who report recent ancestry from Apulia 
  5. Abruzzo – 1.7 million customers share DNA with people who report recent ancestry from  Abruzzo
Ancestry Composition update

23andMe’s Ancestry Composition report is a living analysis that improves as we add new reference data. Underlying our Ancestry reports are powerful algorithms and analytical tools developed by 23andMe population geneticists and engineers to offer our customers more insights into their ancestral origins.

Over the last few years, we’ve updated results to allow our customers to see more detail about their connections to specific geographic regions that also correspond to cultural and linguistic regions.  

Find out more

23andMe customers can see their Ancestry Composition

Not yet a customer? Find out more about 23andMe’s Ancestry Service and other services.

Parting thoughts

We leave you with a taste of Italy — Learn how to fare una bella figura

Ever wonder what the secret is to an elderly Italian gentleman’s impeccable outfit — like a perfectly draped scarf? Or why an Italian chef can make a few simple ingredients (fresh basil, mozzarella, and ripe tomato) taste so delicious? Fare una bella figura translates to “to make a beautiful impression,” and captures the essence of how Italians aspire to bring aesthetic beauty to everything they do and make.

Happy Italian American Heritage Day!

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