As a nation state, Italy has emerged only in 1871. Until then the country was politically divided into a large number of independant cities, provinces and islands. The currently available evidences point out to a dominant Etruscan, Greek and Roman cultural influence on today's Italians.
When I was a little girl my Grandmother told me a story about the town where she and my grandfather came from. She told me that they came from a small town in Sicily named Gangi, just outside of Palermo. both of my grandparents last name were Gangi. She told me that although her family were in Sicily for many generations our family was originally from what is now called Turkey. She went on to say that when they left this area they had followed their king. Subsequently they were called by his name. She was very adamant about the fact that we were not originally Italian and that our dark skin and green eyes were a throw back to our place of origin. Putting together a puzzle from hundreds or even thousands of years ago is no easy task and it has led me down a road that has been in the making for over forty years. After the kids were grown I went on to my under graduate work in ancient history and I plan to document my research as part of my eventual thesis. I have looked into the Etruscan angle and although we now know that they were immigrants themselves to the north western part of the mainland, their culture was not Greek and no one has been able to decipher the scarce examples of their written word. There is a blurb in Herodotus that has peeked my interest . He states that there was a famine in a country once called Lydia.
"1.94] The Lydians have very nearly the same customs as the Greeks, with the exception that these last do not bring up their girls in the same way. So far as we have any knowledge, they were the first nation to introduce the use of gold and silver coin, and the first who sold goods by retail. They claim also the invention of all the games which are common to them with the Greeks. These they declare that they invented about the time when they colonised Tyrrhenian, an event of which they give the following account. In the days of Atys, the son of Manes, there was great scarcity through the whole land of Lydia. For some time the Lydians bore the affliction patiently, but finding that it did not pass away, they set to work to devise remedies for the evil. Various expedients were discovered by various persons; dice, and huckle-bones, and ball, and all such games were invented, except tables, the invention of which they do not claim as theirs. The plan adopted against the famine was to engage in games one day so entirely as not to feel any craving for food, and the next day to eat and abstain from games. In this way they passed eighteen years. Still the affliction continued and even became more grievous. So the king determined to divide the nation in half, and to make the two portions draw lots, the one to stay, the other to leave the land. He would continue to reign over those whose lot it should be to remain behind; the emigrants should have his son Tyrrhenus for their leader. The lot was cast, and they who had to emigrate went down to Smyrna, and built themselves ships, in which, after they had put on board all needful stores, they sailed away in search of new homes and better sustenance. After sailing past many countries they came to Umbria, where they built cities for themselves, and fixed their residence. Their former name of Lydians they laid aside, and called themselves after the name of the king's son, who led the colony, Tyrrhenians." This is very intriguing. There many Greek cities on the western coast of Italy. Could this refer to the Etrucians? Maybe. Maybe not. There is also established documentation that the Phoenicians also colonized Sicily. During the reign of the Normans there was a time of great influx in Middle Eastern immigration and a 100 year tolerance of all religious faiths including Islam. Although my grandmother never gave an indication that our ancestors were not of Christian lineage. There are so many possibilities! What I'm hoping is that some one out there had the same story told to them. I am seeking clues that will help me on my quest. I would appreciate any help anyone can offer.