The Return of a 'Native' Brings Cheers in Italy from Everyone but Madonna's Family Elders

updated 09/21/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/21/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Strutting into a vortex of blazing spotlights, Madonna took the stage in a Florence soccer stadium earlier this month to wow 65,000 Italian fans with lingerie and linguistics. The lady of lusty songs, trussed in her usual slinky black corset, slithered, pranced and strutted for more than two hours onstage, but what really raised the crowd to raptures were a few artfully delivered Italian phrases. "Siete gia caldi? [Are you hot?]...Mora, andiamo! [Then let's go!] Finally, she elicited a roar of approval with a line that summed up the spirit of this visit to her ancestral homeland: "to sono fiera di essere italiana! [I'm proud to be Italian!]

Madonna's paternal grandparents, Gaetano and Michelina Ciccone, sailed from Naples 68 years ago to begin a new life among immigrant steelworkers in Pittsburgh. Madonna's father, Silvio ("Tony") Ciccone, a design engineer in Pontiac, Mich., had told the family about her success when he visited Italy two years ago, so they were not taken entirely by surprise. (In 1984 Madonna was in Venice to tape the blockbuster video of her hit Like a Virgin, but did not meet with relatives.) Backstage before a concert in Turin, Madonna met privately with the family of her second cousin Amelia Vitucci, who presented her with a painting of the original family homestead in the central Italian village of Pacentro. In a sunny mood, Madonna kissed Amelia warmly on the cheek and did a little two-step. Turning to Amelia's 11-year-old son Giuseppe, she said in Italian, "Do you want to dance with me?"

"I don't know how," replied Giuseppe with some embarrassment.

But then there were the old ones. Madonna's closest relation, Bambina De Guilio, 82, a sister of her grandmother, was too frail to join the solemn delegation of town councilmen from Pacentro (pop. 1,500) who hand-delivered a parchment to Madonna, officially making her an honorary citizen. From Pacentro, Bambina sent her regrets. "Of course I'd like to see her and hug her," she told an Italian reporter. "After all, it is an honor to have such a famous relation." But when asked her opinion of her grand-niece, Bambina was surprisingly blunt. "What do you want from me? The girl is a singer, just a singer," she said of the phenomenon who has earned an estimated $47 million in the last two years. "In my times we didn't behave like that."

A townsman in the bar at Pacentro summed up the prevailing feeling among local old-timers. "That girl sings, dances and shows her thighs," he grumbled, "so the old people of Pacentro consider her a malafemmina [loose woman]. No Madonna she! The devil is more like it!"

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