Through His Words: Day Thirty-Six

17 Jun

Reflections From and About My Grandfather
Alexander Capraro, Architect


Saturday  August 20, 1938
(no letter written for 5 days)

Honey, I got the real kick of the whole trip today when I reached my hometown and saw the house and the actual room of my birth. It was necessary to go the opposite direction from Naples to Pietrabbondante than to Ricigliano for Rici is about 100 miles southeast of Naples and my town about 100 miles north east.

Pietrabbondante to Ricigliano today by car - Google Maps

Pietrabbondante to Ricigliano today by car – Google Maps

Alex’s parents left Pietrabbondante in 1899, when he was just four years old, to bring him to America. On the other hand, Maude’s parents and even some of her grandparents, were born in Chicago, but traced their roots to Ricigliano. Alex had promised Maude that he would visit each of their ancestral towns.

It certainly was a blessing to have the use of a car to get to these mountain towns, and when I say mountain,  I mean just that. Rici is about 2500 feet above sea level and Pietra is about 4000 feet above. Rici is almost impossible to get to it as the R.R. Station is at Bovano-Ricigliano, 10 miles from Rici, and from there, the only means of transportation is a jackass with a guide or to walk. Without a car, I never could have gone there.

Joe Colianni placed the car with chauffeur at my disposal. I am paying for the gas, however, to compensate in a way for his generosity. This fella is a Chicago boy, Tony Dell Croce is his name, a nice young chap 22 years old and a marvel in those mountains. There is a lot to tell about the small towns, but today I met Rosaria’s mother, my aunt, another aunt Beatrice, and Rosaria’s other brothers and sister, two boys and one girl and a flock of near real relatives. They cried with joy in both aunts and cousins never stopped feasting their eyes on the boy from America. We took some pictures and you can see what kind of country this is, if they come out well.

I also found my relative is the big shot of the town for my Aunt Beatrice’s son is the mayor of the town and his son in turn is the priest and pastor of the church. In a few minutes, word spread that I was there and the whole town seemed to come around my aunt’s house to see the “fine automobile and the prodigal son from America.”

I went to the church climbing several hundred feet to the top of a cliff and there it was, just exactly as I had remembered it when I was a little over four years old. I went to the rear of the church and from there it is a sheer drop of a couple of thousand feet. It just makes you dizzy. From the vantage point, you can see about 20 other towns including Agnone where Doc Vitullo comes from. 

Landscape on Agnone from Pietrabbondante,

Landscape on Agnone from Pietrabbondante,

Now for a brief comparison. Rici has a little over 800 population, no railroad, and is practically in Calabria. 100 feet more and you would have been a Callabrian. There is one street a little over a block long and it is not paved, not even the Piazza or Square. (You must know that every town in Italy has a Piazza.) The only buildings with electric lights are the Pagano’s, the City Hall, and the church. The people are terribly poor and it’s hard to figure out how they live for there is nothing around it in the way of farmlands, etc. The crops are meager and scarce, but on these meager crops, they have to exist.

The people from my town are in a little better circumstance for besides raising wheat, etc., there is a great mountain forest with a very expensive wood as a product of the trees, and a few sawmills to cut the trees and market the lumber. The town has 4000 inhabitants, electric light, and a secondary railroad, so that it is accessible. It certainly is rightfully named for the mountain peaks of stone and rocks of marble from a wall on one side. The scenery here is beautiful beyond imagination, going to either town, but the roads are better going to Pietra than they are at Rici. I don’t say this to boast about my town; this is a fact.

Abbruzzi is quite higher in the mountains, cooler in summer and more scenic than any other part of Italy, and it is becoming a summer mountain resort catered to by people from Rome and Naples. Water there is marvelous. I must have drunk a gallon of water there today.

Well, I better quit writing about these towns. We got back to Naples about 11 o’clock and I am staying at Montenegros place tonight, for tomorrow I am to take a boat to Capri, which is an all-day trip.

Marionelli is coming in tomorrow morning from Rome and might go with me. He sent me a wire tonight and by coincidence, he is staying at the Flora Hotel in Rome where I stayed. He informed me there are four letters for me there. I wired back and told him to bring them with him.

Monday, the Coliannis are coming to Naples and we will be together and then on the ship for home.

Some wonderful postcards from Napoli circa 1938:

Napoli  1935- Via Caracciolo

Napoli – Via Caracciolo

Napoli  1937 - Nuova Palazzo RR. Paste - Lata posteriore

Napoli –  Nuova Palazzo  RR. Poste – Lata posteriore

Naploi - Piazza Plebiscito e Basilical S. Francesco Di Paola

Naploi – Piazza Plebiscito e Basilical S. Francesco Di Paola

This will probably be the last letter you will get before I see you, so Goodnight Sweetheart until we meet.

Lovingly yours,


Sadly for me, Alex’s trip has almost ended as this is his last letter from Italy. However, I am hoping in the next few weeks to visit Pietrabbondante and actually find the home of Alex’s birth, just as he did.  I have sent numerous emails to the local municipal office, and even contacted them by phone, but the fact is, I just need to show up. And thanks to Aunt Marion, I have my ancestors Italian birth records in hand!

It’s been an interesting and exciting journey for me. I have discovered so much about my grandparents lives and love, and what life was like for them in the 1930’s. The most fitting way I can think of to keep Alex’s trip alive is to keep it going.

Over the years, so much has changed in Pietrabbondante. Even the area has been redistricted and Pietrabbondante is now part of Molise instead of Abruzzo. Today, the population is less than 1000. And yet I’m sure, much remains the same. Who knows what I’ll discover?

Stay tuned as we all find out.




10 Responses to “Through His Words: Day Thirty-Six”

  1. Deb June 17, 2014 at 7:08 AM #

    Can’t wait for the next installment! Thanks for sharing such a fantastic story!


    • blogginginitaly June 17, 2014 at 7:38 AM #

      I’m looking forward to the next installment too!! I wonder what lies ahead???


  2. florence Connelly June 17, 2014 at 7:24 AM #

    judy – Bon Viaggio !!! This will be quite an adventure and we’ll look forward to your adventures in Pietra ! travel safely and have a wonderful trip ! xoxo


    • blogginginitaly June 17, 2014 at 7:39 AM #

      Won’t it be amazing if I can actually find his house? Sure hope so. xo


  3. Barbara Kaines June 17, 2014 at 10:05 AM #

    Safe journey to you both. We so look forward to our peaceful Cortona holiday. I will continue to live there through your blog. Barbara

    Sent from my iPhone



  4. Loren June 17, 2014 at 8:01 PM #

    Juju, this is so amazing!! When Alex mentions the Colianni’s is he talking about The Colianni’s? Were they related to Uncle Cork? I love thinking of Alex finding his home and wandering through that church. I wonder if Papa ever saw it…
    Love you! Have a safe trip!! xoxo


    • blogginginitaly June 18, 2014 at 2:29 PM #

      Yes, the same family…they were all friends back then. How they’d love to know that two of their ancestors united! As for Alex, I’m feeling pretty positive that I will find the church and his home. As for Papa, to my knowledge, Papa never saw it, all the more reason for me to find it! xo


  5. Bill Capraro June 18, 2014 at 6:06 AM #

    Awesome!!! Thank you!!! Have a safe and wonderful trip!! XO Bill


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