Robert De Niro: an Italo-American actor icon

Who is Robert De Niro?

Are you really asking this question?…

Robert De Niro is one the most known American actor, film producer, and director. He was born on August 17, 1943, in New York City. De Niro is widely regarded as one of the greatest actors in the history of cinema and has had a successful career spanning several decades.

He is known for his versatility and ability to transform himself into a variety of complex characters. De Niro has appeared in numerous successful films, including Taxi Driver, The Godfather Part II, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Casino, The Deer Hunter, Heat, Silver Linings Playbook and many others.

Robert De Niro has received numerous awards and accolades throughout his career, including two Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Godfather Part II and Best Actor for Raging Bull. He has made significant contributions to the film industry and continues to be an influential figure in the world of entertainment.

Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver (1976)

De Niro and his Italian heritage

Robert De Niro has a special bond with Italy-a deep and nuanced connection that embraces both his family roots and his immense contribution to world cinema.

He is proudly (and clearly) of Italian descent, with a father who carried with him the rich cultural heritage of Italy. This legacy is reflected in his performance in iconic roles such as the young Vito Corleone in The Godfather – Part II and in multiple films set in Italy. 

But De Niro’s connection with Italy does not stop at the movies. He has been involved in prestigious Italian film festivals, where he has shared his passion for Italian cinema and culture. In addition, he has invested in property in the charming region of Tuscany, expressing his deep love for the country and its extraordinary culinary art

De Niro on holiday in Naples, July 2023

Di Niro Family Tree

De Niro’s family emigrated to the US in the early 20th century, in search of new opportunities and better life. In particular, his great-grandfather Giovanni De Niro was that one ancestor who left Italy. Like many Italians at the time, he brought with him his traditions and a strong sense of pride in his roots.

Our Robert De Niro Jr., born in 1943, in NY City, is the son of Robert De Niro Sr. (1922-1993), of Irish and Italian descent, and Virginia Admiral, of English, French, German and Dutch ancestry. The parents divorced a few years later after Robert’s birth, so he was raised by his mother in Manhattan’s Little Italy and Greenwich Village.

His father Robert Sr., painter, poet, and sculptor, was born in Syracuse, on May 3, 1922, to Henry Martin De Niro (1897-1976) and Irishwoman Helen O’Reilly (1899-1999). 

Henry Martin’s parents were the very ancestors who emigrated from Italy, namely Giovanni Di Niro (1864-1952) and Angiolina Mercurio (1874-1961). 

They’re from a little village called Ferrazzano, Molise, in southern Italy, and emigrated around the 1890s to the US. Once they arrived, the surname changed from Di Niro to De Niro due to an initial probable transcription error that has persisted over the years. 

Giovanni Di Niro (1864-1952) birth deed
Municipality of Ferrazzano, Campobasso, Molise

By researching additional civil status records kept at the Campobasso State Archives, it is possible to reconstruct the family tree back to the generation at the turn of the 1600s and 1700s

Thanks to the deeds it is possible to recognize also the profession of his ancestors: all of them were masons or farmers. Some of them were even able to read and write (which was not taken for granted at the time), and in some of the deeds you can recognize some of the ancestors’ signatures! An extremely fascinating element!

Filippo Di Niro (1806-1886) signature in his son Carmine Di Niro (1836-1882) birth act
De Niro Family Tree, up to XVII century

Did he take Italian citizenship?

YES! In 2004, he was granted honorary citizenship of Ferrazzano, his ancestral town, and on 18 October 2006, he was naturalised as an Italian citizen, while retaining his US citizenship. It was the then Mayor of Rome, Walter Veltroni, who presented the actor with an Italian passport.

However, you don’t have to be Robert De Niro to apply for Italian citizenship. If you also have Italian ancestry then you can apply for Italian citizenship by descent! Do not wait any longer and contact us! We can assist you in the Italian citizenship application process and in your genealogical researches.

De Origine genealogical services

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