Archive | 10:48 AM

Through His Words and Now Mine: Pietrabbondante!

3 Jul

Reflections From and About My Grandfather
Alexander Capraro, Architect

At long last, our journey is realized – we find Pietrabbondante.

76 years, 10 months and 10 days after Alex returned to his birthplace, so too did Len and I, being the first and only ancestors after Alex, we think, to step foot in this town of his birth.

The town’s name comes from pietra, meaning stone, and abbondante, meaning abundance, hence Pietrabbondante. And there certainly is an abundance of stone in the area.


Pietrabbondante –

When Alex was born, Pietrabbondante was in Abruzzo, but with redistricting (a la US politics), it is now part of Molise. On the map below, Pietra is between Agnone and Isernia, in the Apennine Mountain range.


In 1895, when Alex was born, there were about 4000 residents in Pietrabbondante. Today, there are less than 800.

As soon as we arrived in the main square, the few people around greeted us kindly, but knew instantly we were visitors. This definitely isn’t a town with a tourist issue. The main square has a beautiful war memorial like so many we see throughout Italy, dedicated to the soldiers who died defending their country and towns.

We made our way to the church my grandfather described in his last letter and easily found it at the end of the main street.

This is where my great-grandparents, Emerenziana Vitullo and Vincenzo Iacapraro were married and where their first-born son Alex was baptized.

Next stop was the Municipal building. Armed with Alex’s parents’ birth records, we were eventually united with the vice mayor (vice sindaco), Michele Zullo. When I told him I was hoping to find Alex’s parents’ house, he shook his head saying that without an address, it would be difficult to find. The mayor did not know any Iacapraros, but said there were many Vitullos still in town, so we decided to search for those records.

Forget computers – this is an efficient manual process. We experienced this once before, years ago, when we went to Calabria to find Len’s ancestors.

First, find the book with the right year span. Check.

Next, cut the twine as the book hasn’t been opened in years! Check.

Then, search for the date of birth in 1873. Check.

And just like that – Alex’s mother’s name and records.

Emerenziana Vitullo

Emerenziana Vitullo –

The mayor patiently reads the page and suddenly says he knows the house. He tries to explain where it is, but then decides to walk us there himself. I can hardly believe this is about to happen!

We walk for about five minutes, when he stops abruptly… “Guarda, questa è la vostra casa!” (Look, this is your house!) he proudly proclaims in Italian.

And there it is – right on the main street, 83 Corso Sannitico.


Time for photos.

Vie Sindaco e Judy

Vice Sindaco Michele Zullo and Judy –

Michele explains that there had been a little shop or bar on the fist floor, hence the door on the left with curtains.

Amazing! Mission accomplished.

We talked, hugged and kissed arrivederci, then thanked Michele for his genuine hospitality.

Then Len and I stopped to imagine Alex running up and down this lovely street until age four…

and couldn’t help but wonder why his parents decided to leave Pietrabbondante and their ties behind. What caused them to seek a new life in America, so very different and so very far away?

How did this young family manage, in 1899, to get from this town, high in the mountains, to the harbors in Napoli, where they would have boarded a ship destined to a land unknown?

Talk about courage. Whatever they envisioned, never could they have imagined that one day, their four-year old Alex would become the first licensed Italian American architect in the state of Illinois.

There is much more to Alex’s story, but for the next month or so, I will relish in this encounter with my ancestral origins and just smile.

To Alex, my grandfather, thank you for your incredible letters and for the history and insights that led us to your roots, as well as ours. And to Aunt Marion, and all of Alex’s descendants, a bit of history we can now cherish forever, and as Alex did so well, continue to pass on for generations to come.




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