One foot in the U.S., one boot in Italy

Lucia Liano-Button is preparing to teach “Lessons On Italy” for six Wednesdays, starting July 10 in Mallory Olson’s studio at the Box Factory for the Arts in St. Joseph. Here she holds a map of Italy while an Italian flag hangs on the left and the flag of the region most of her family lives, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, is on the right.

ST. JOSEPH — Lucia Liano-Button of St. Joseph says her heart is divided between two countries – the United States, where she lives, and Italy, her home country where her three adult children live.

“Half of me is over there all the time,” she said. “In fact, even my phone is on their time.”

Liano-Button said she has a passion for sharing Italy with other people and has been teaching Italian culture classes for many years with Anna Russo-Sieber at her gallery, ARS Arts & Culture Center in Benton Harbor.

This summer, she is preparing to teach “Lessons On Italy” for six Wednesdays, starting July 10 in Mallory Olson’s studio at the Box Factory for the Arts in St. Joseph. Part of the reason for the classes is to prepare six women to travel with her and Olson to Italy this fall for two weeks. Everyone is invited to take the class, even if they aren’t going on the trip.

For more information, she can be reached at

She said the class will cover many aspects of Italian culture, including food, basic conversation and how to use the trains.

She said this is the first time she’s taking a group of people to visit Italy, though she has advised people in the past. She said that in addition to Rome and Florence, people need to visit small towns such as Udine in Friuli-Venezia Giulia. 

“There’s so many places people miss when they visit Italy,” she said. “Every city, every region, has that little gem that people miss out on.”

This isn’t the first time Liano-Button has lived in the United States. She was born and raised in the southern part of Italy until she was about 10, when her family moved to Detroit for five years. 

When her family moved back to Italy they settled in the northern region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, where other extended family members lived.  

Liano-Button got married, had three children, got a divorce and was looking at options when she met her husband, Jim Button, online. She ended up moving to St. Joseph in 2007 when she married him.

“There was a part of me that was still attached to the U.S.,” she said.

In addition, she likes St. Joseph because it resembles Northern Italy.

“There’s all this greenery, and we have the sea,” she said. “The weather is very similar to Michigan, although we don’t usually get snow. You have to drive to the Alps to see snow.”

Plus, both areas have booming wine businesses, said Liano-Button, who became a U.S. citizen two years ago.

Why does she love the U.S.?

“It’s still the dream country,” she said. 

Another class Liano-Button is preparing for is a cooking class in August, with Russo-Sieber. More information on that class will be posted on the Facebook page for the Anna Russo-Sieber Gallery.

Contact:, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege