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Now, that show's Italian!

One in an occasional series

Florida, perhaps more than any other state, is made up of people who came here from somewhere else. The move frequently leaves these transplants with a feeling of rootlessness and a desire to establish new ties that remind them of home. In this occasional series we look at these new connections.

Three years ago, Dino DiLiberti came home and told his wife, Vincenza, that he had just bought a half-hour of radio time for Italian programs and she was going to host the show.

Today, Mrs. DiLiberti's hourlong show, Giro D'Italia (Tour of Italy), can be heard from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sundays on Clearwater station WLVU-1470 AM. The program features Italian cultural news and singers. It is aimed at the 37,000 first-generation Italian-Americans in Pinellas County.

"The purpose of the program was to further Italian culture" in a time when people are losing touch with their roots, Mrs. DiLiberti said.

"Italians traditionally have a strong family orientation; they tend to stick together. We are concerned about losing all this cultural background," Mrs. DiLiberti said.

"Italians are usually shown in a derogatory light on TV and we wanted to try to turn this around.

"We are not just a community of singers or people who eat pasta. There is a cultural and historic side," said Mrs. DiLiberti, 48, whose grandparents were born in Italy.

Six months ago the radio program sparked television shows on competing cable companies. Dino DiLiberti, 52, bought the air time on Vision Cable and Paragon. The program also now is being shown on TCI cable in North Pinellas.

The overwhelming response from Italian-American radio and TV viewers who want more connection with their ethnic background led to the idea of celebrating special occasions with community events for the whole family. The DiLibertis organized a Mother's Day cruise in May and a Fourth of July celebration with music and dancing at Philippe Park. They showed the videos on their cable show.

They helped organize and promote this weekend's Columbus Day activities in Coachman Park. Dino DiLiberti will be one of the featured entertainers for that event.

DiLiberti, a dramatic tenor whose repertoire includes operatic arias, has performed in several local operas as well as on his wife's programs. A former student of opera coach Mario Laurenti, DiLiberti sang his way from Carmen with the Florida Lyric Opera to a supporting role in Aida with one of the local opera companies. His short-lived opera career ended with an automobile accident in the late 1980s that left him with a strained voice from whiplash.

His voice now emanates from the cassettes and CDs he markets along with those of other Italian performers that help pay for the TV and radio time.

In the tradition of a true Renaissance man, DiLiberti also is an artist. He started painting when he was 7 while living in Sicily. The skill gave him something to fall back on after he moved to Clearwater to marry Vincenza.

DiLiberti financed the radio show through ads marketing his contemporary landscape and portrait paintings.

Dario Borselli, a former president of the Italian-American Club, supports the DiLibertis' efforts in the Italian community. "Vincenza is a maverick with the idea of promoting our Italian heritage. The spirit should be kept alive. The Greeks and Spanish have their own radio station. We hope she can expand the program and get backing from the Italian community.

"The Italian-American Club supports our Italian heritage. We are Americans first, but so much has been contributed in making this country great by Italians."

Maria Zambelli, another member of the Italian-American Club, said: "Vincenza and Dino DiLiberti are doing a magnificent job in promoting Italian culture. All of us like to hear about our heritage."

On the air

Giro D'Italia is broadcast from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sundays on Clearwater radio station WLVU-1470 AM and continues from 1:30 to 2 p.m. The cable television programs can be seen on WPGN, Paragon (Channels 9 or 18) at noon Friday, Vision Cable (Channel 24) at 4:35 p.m. Wednesdays and at 9:35 p.m. Sundays, and TCI cable at 9:30 p.m. Wednesdays.

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