Before my arrival in Calitri I received an email from Luigi, an amateur genealogist who happens to live there and has is own website
which shares historical records of the town starting in 1707. Maybe Luigi isn’t so amateur after all. He told me that he would like to prepare my family tree for me.
Well, now, I thought “what a nice gesture, what a sweet man”, however I have been working on this particular family tree for 13 years now. I think I’ve got it. And, besides, how does Luigi really know who I am? And who should be on my little ole family tree? So, I filed this piece of information in the back of my mind along with the list containing
don’t forget the electrical converter and the advice about packing old underwear with holes so you could through it away after using it. Has anyone ever really done this? How much suitcase space does old underwear really take up anyway?
It was day 2 of our arrival in Calitri when our hostess and 24/7 interpreter told us that Luigi would like to meet us that evening at Bar-Gelateria Jolly on Corso Garibaldi. (Note to my friends: don’t ever go to a foreign country without your own personal interpreter…it makes all the difference in the world!) And next should be the note about gelato in Italy…..oh my….
There was Luigi standing around three small round tables clothed in white paper containing family trees. Our family trees, no doubt, and he was pointing and explaining to the people surrounding him the different branches.
Angela DiCecca was Judy’s grandmother (and my great-grandmother). Luigi was pointing out Angela’s siblings on the Tree. There was Giovanni, Berardino, Filomena, Raffaele and Giovanna. I knew about some and not about others. What I did not know was that of all my great grandmothers siblings, she was the only one to leave Calitri to come to America. All the rest remained. This was an eye opener. This was exciting. That would mean (yes, I admit I’m a little slow…you, my more intelligent friends, probably already figured it out) but I must have some relatives right here, in this town, right now. Wow!
Luigi pointed out the first branch. Giovanni DiCecca married Giovanna Cestone on January 20, 1899. This explains the overuse of names, as grandchildren were, for the most part, traditionally named after their grandparents. As he pointed and drew lines, he turned around to a group of seemingly innocent gelato-eaters, who stood up and were introduced as the grandchildren of Giovanni & Giovanna. (these Italians are a tricky bunch). They were second cousins to Judy and my mother. For me – 2nd cousins/once removed.
Luigi did not just bring the paper family tree……He brought the people.
I have goose bumps still just telling you about it. And this was only our second day!
“The Giovanni Contingent”
Giovanna on the far left is not a relative, she is Luigi’s wife.
L-R: Giovanna, Giovanni, Giovanni, Maria Giovanna, Giovanna.
After the Giovanni’s came the Berardino’s. Berardino DiCecca married Angela Zarrilli on January 31, 1903. The grandchildren of Berardino & Angela, as you could have probably guessed by now, were Berardino, Giuseppe, Antoninetta from one parent; Berardino, Giuseppe and Angelo from the second, and Berardino and Pompeo from the third.
Left – Luigi with Berardino DiCecca. We also met the other Berardino along with Pompeo but I don’t have that picture.
The first meeting of “cugini” actually took place the first night we were in town. We went to eat at Tres Roses. 3 Roses is the Village emblem, so to speak.
L-R: Maria DiMilia one of our tour guides, Angela our best friend in the world 24/7 interpreter, (which wasn’t planned) & my cousin Judy.
That was the night I ate Octopus for the first (and last time) and drank grappa for the first (and probably last time…but I could be convinced). As we finished our dinner and went to the bar/cash register to drink our Grappa, in came a couple who were friends of Angela’s. Serafina Tornillo and her husband Vittorio. Women do not change their names when married, even to this day. Thank God because how would you ever figure out which Giovanni is which unless you could research who they married.
Well, Tornillo was a name Judy and I were familiar with. Before leaving for Italy we knew that we had at least ONE relative in the town and they were named Tornillo. Donato Tornillo was the grandson of Berardino DiCecca’s daughter Filomena who married Donato Tornillo. Don’t worry – there won’t be a test. But, Judy and I were so excited by the thought of meeting a real live relation that we bought a gift for his 3 year old son and for the baby that was due in a few months. To make a long story short, we never did meet these cousins – and Judy returned the gifts when she got back to New Jersey. But upon being introduced to Serafina Tornillo, our eyes lit up and Angela began what would be her week long translation. Although, to be honest, by the end of the week, she was talking in Italian to us and in English to the Italians. I think it took its toll.
L-R Mario, Serafina, Marlene, Monica, Antonella, Vito & Judy
These would all be 3rd cousins to me. Oh, if I were only 30 years younger.
The next day I ran into Monica and she said “I find you on Facebook”. We are now Facebook friends (is that better or worse than 3rd cousins?) I translate via “Babelfish” and write to her in Italian and she writes to me in English. what a hoot.
What are the odds that we would all be in the same restaurant on our first night in town.
I’m not done but am afraid I might be boring you. I still have the 89 year old 1st cousins of Judy & my mom – “the little old ladies in black” but I don’t have that picture yet.
If you come back I promise some more great scenery.