To the Italians, family is the most important thing, family and pasta. Family, which extends beyond blood, is the structure that supports Italian culture. The best example of the Italian views of family comes from the movie the Godfather. Granted the movie is an example of the corrupt side of the Italian family, but it also shows many of the good sides as well. For example, Tom Hagen is the family's lawyer, and a Irish-German man. Tom Hagen made friends with Sonny Corleone as a young child. According to the movie the Corleone family took Tom in, they adopted him, made him a son, sent him to law school, and eventually made him the number two in the family business. This is one example of the family and the tight connections that Italians make.
The Italian family is also largely patriarchal. The Godfather also illustrates this point in a scene during the first movie. In the movie the father of the family and the son, who is to be his successor, go to a business meeting. The family made its business through racketeering, a man from Turkey wanted the family to get into drugs. The son saw potential in the business, the father refused to get into the drug business for moral reasons. The son broke two prime Italian rules, he let someone outside the family know what the family was thinking and he went directly against the ideas of his father.
In my family, my grandfather use to joke that his wife was his property, and that he owned and controlled her. This was a joke, but there was a bit of truth behind it. Grandma would spend her day in the kitchen and after slaving over the oven all day, she would let everyone else eat, she would clean the kitchen, and when it was all done, then and only then would she eat. The men are in place to control things and the women take care of the house.