La Lega Toscana di Protezione

Learn more about:

The Project
The Team
The Methods
Our Resources

About our Resources

The Heinz History Center

Founded in 1990, the Senator John Heinz History Center's Italian American Program is dedicated to preserving and interpreting the history and culture of Italian Americans in Western Pennsylvania through exhibitions, educational programs, publications, and community outreach. For nearly three decades, it has documented the pivotal role Italian Americans play in shaping the region's political, economic, religious, and cultural landscapes. The Italian American Collection is one of the largest repositories of Italian American material culture in the United States. This specialized collection houses approximately 800 objects, including textiles, utensils, tools, sculptures, housewares, and other three-dimensional items, and thousands of archival records in the form of books, photographs, immigration materials, family papers, records from mutual beneficial societies and fraternal organizations, and oral histories from more than 300 first, second, and third generation Italian Americans from Western Pennsylvania.

Among the many Italian immigrant communities documented by the Italian American Program, the Tuscans of Pittsburgh are among the most well represented thanks to the records of the Lega Toscana di Protezione, donated by Laura Baccelli Vondas-Vizzuto. The collection, housed in the History Center's Detre Library & Archives, is one of the most complete assortment of records from an Italian lodge, containing minutes, membership information, and financial records from the men's organization and the Ladies' Auxiliary. Besides the Lega records, oral histories from restauranteurs John and Nino Barsotti and Bruno Tambellini shed a light on the both the social and business practices of the Lucchesi; photographic collections from Tambellini's on Seventh Street, Tambellini's in the North Hills, and Tambellini's in Bridgeville illustrate three of the eleven Tambellini's restaurants that once populated the Pittsburgh metro area. Some of the artifacts representing the local Tuscan community in the collection are an espresso machine from Poli's Restaurant, a fryer basket used to make fried zucchini from Tambellini's Ristorante on Seventh Street, bottles from Roma Bottling Works, Prohibition-era bottles of Tambellini's China Celli Elixir, and fiberglass murals of the Walls of Lucca and Puccini-inspired vignettes by artist Ivo Zini.

Melissa E. Marinaro is the Director of the Italian American Program at the Senator John Heinz History Center where she oversees the institution's Italian American Collection and manages the Italian American Program's public and educational programming, community outreach, and Italian American Advisory Council. Marinaro has a BFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago and a MA in Art History with a concentration in the History of Photography from Savannah College of Art and Design. She has worked at The Art Institute of Chicago in Museum Education, The Chicago History Museum in Special Collections, and was the Interim Director of Education at Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art. In 2009, she co-founded a small commercial art gallery and project space in Chicago with two peers from Columbia College; they successfully hosted over 40 exhibitions and participated in art fairs, neighborhood festivals, and public art works. She taught courses at Chicago Semester, an off-campus program for college juniors and seniors, and The Chicago Photography Center.

Since joining the History Center's staff in January of 2013, Marinaro has cultivated significant artifact and archival collections related to post-war Italian immigration to Western Pennsylvania, the Passionists' first monastery in North America, Italian folk-revival troupe I Campagnoli, former Vice Consul of Italy in Pittsburgh, Joseph D'Andrea, and local Italian American foodways businesses. Her research interests include post-war Italian immigration, Italian American identity (particularly in veterans), and oral history and storytelling as a research device. Marinaro is currently the Exhibition Review Editor for the journal The Italian American Review.

For more information about the Italian American Collection's archival holdings, please search the online catalog or contact the Detre Library & Archives Reference Desk at

Our Collaborators

This project, being multi-faceted and containing research from several specialties and academic domains, thanks all the individuals and groups who personally contributed to development on the project. With students and faculty from multiple campuses all graciously investing their energy in this project, it's impossible to imagine that this project would have developed to its current point.

Being that the Tuscan League's materials that we studied throughout this semester were a primary pedagogical resource for Dr. Insana and her translation workshop students in the fall of 2017, we are happy to thank the students from that class for the continued work that they developed in transcribing and translating the first 75 pages of the first volume of Lega minutes. The student participants who contributed to the initial linguistic study of these documents are the following: Jenna Bernadino, Jordan Brewer, Jessica Cappellini, Zachary Enick, Maria Fenner, Eliza Jermyn, Rita Keil, Luke Langkamp, Kaleigh Mauroni, Archie Millar, Henry Novara, and Calvin Salazar. Of that group of students, Zachary, Eliza, Rita, and Archie were the four who decided to continue their own personal research projects on the Tuscan League after their first exposure to them in the classroom.

Elisa Beshero-Bondar is an associate professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh, Greensburg campus, and she also serves as the sponsor for the Greensburg chapter of Sigma Tau Delta and as the director of Greensburg's Center for Digital Text. Additionally, Elisa is a chair member of the TEI Technical Council, an eleven-person team that maintains and continues development of the TEI ecosystem, about which you can learn more in our About the Methods page. Elisa volunteered her expertise in text-encoding and TEI compliance and was the chief mentor for the portion of the project on social mapping of the members of the Lega. Additionally, Elisa facilitated an online collaboration of student digital humanists from the greater Pittsburgh area and abroad, all of whom comprised a weekly web conference to discuss new ditigal technologies and to develop individual DH projects.

David J. Birnbaum is a professor and co-chair of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literature at the University of Pittsburgh. As a digital humanist, David is an internationally renowned specialist in electronic text processing. Along with Elisa Beshero-Bondar, he contributed personally and extensively in the development of the social mapping of the League's members and the rendering of the reading view of the minute logs.

Lorraine Denman is an EdD candidate and a lecturer in the Italian department at the University of Pittsburgh in Oakland. In the Fall semester of 2018, Lorraine served as the linguistic advisor and mentor for the research surrounding the appearance of English loanwords in the volume of minutes.

While the work for the spatial map was completed, for the most part, independently and under loose guidance, we thank the faculty from the Geology department at the University of Pittsburgh for the mentorship given to student researchers throughout the development of the geographical maps of Tuscan League's residences. You can read more about the Geology departments GIS Studies certificate program here.

Our Online Sources

The online resources used for this project were a collection of free and paid databases, including some geneological websites, archived newspaper articles, and more, and they were used to compile the biological profiles of each of families that are discussed in our About the Lega webpage. An itemized list of all the online resources and articles consulted for this project are listed below, organized by family.

Frediani Family
Maffei Family
Pasquinelli Family
Pellegrini Family
Zini Family