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.




22 Responses to “Through His Words and Now Mine: Pietrabbondante!”

  1. Deb July 3, 2014 at 11:53 AM #

    This was an amazing and rewarding journey. Thank you Judy and Len for finding this for my family. We love you and the descriptions and pictures.


  2. Yvonne Wilson July 3, 2014 at 11:59 AM #

    What a wonderful adventure and such an ending! A lovely link between then and now. Thank you for taking us along on your journey!! Happy times!! A beautiful little town and wonderful little piece of history! How nice you can feel so grounded and such a sense of belonging in the country we all love so much!


    • blogginginitaly July 3, 2014 at 12:10 PM #

      Thanks so much!…thought of you today when we passed Maria’s home…did she ever sell? there is a occupant in the foyer now!


  3. Sandy Holswade July 3, 2014 at 11:56 PM #

    What a fascinating story and such a beautiful, well preserved town! To see the church where Alex was baptized and the house where he lived must have been an incredible experience for you and Len!


    • blogginginitaly July 4, 2014 at 1:26 AM #

      It is such a well preserved town, especially since we have seen several that are not! Such a happy “ending” to this part of the story.


  4. Patricia Hughes July 4, 2014 at 2:05 AM #

    Che emozioni! Love it. Thank you for sharing it with us all.


  5. July 4, 2014 at 4:05 AM #

    What a great story! I had a very similar experience about 4 years ago, also in Molise where my great-grandfather was born. His town (Bagnoli del Trigno) has a similar story in terms of emigration…a little less than 3,000 when he left, a little more than 800 today. Ciao!


    • blogginginitaly July 4, 2014 at 9:03 AM #

      We stayed in Bagnoli and I will be posting about that soon. Such a lovely town in the mountain! Maybe you are related to Michele Zullo as the towns are so close. Thanks for your note. Ciao!


      • July 5, 2014 at 10:22 AM #

        Please alert me when you post about Bagnoli…I was only there for 1/2 a day would love to learn more. Just signed up to follow your blog, so I look forward to reading more…ciao!


  6. Denise Sarigianopoulos July 6, 2014 at 12:10 PM #

    Judy Gingerella, please check your inbox on Facebook. I’ve sent you a message regarding my grandfather.


  7. Domenic Toni July 14, 2014 at 7:29 AM #

    Great story Judy. I began over a year ago researching my family, and found three people in the course of the year, two on my mom’s side and one on my dad’s side (plus a host of other Tonis from the Serramazzoni Modena area) to help build a picture of the family going back in time up to 300 years (and I suspect we can go further). Easy to find local historians who can help !!


    • blogginginitaly July 14, 2014 at 9:51 AM #

      Thanks for sharing your story. I’m so glad you were successful. It’s such a rewarding experience to learn about our ancestors!


  8. Fred Cassano July 18, 2014 at 10:10 PM #

    This was a great story. I returned to Piettrabbondante last year and the experience of cleaning out my grandparents home was surreal. I found many items that are now considered antiques still put away nicely in boxes. Unfortunately, we will now have to sell their home….because it is vacant. But certainly a place I felt a connection immediately.


    • blogginginitaly July 19, 2014 at 2:16 AM #

      Fred, you don’t “meet” many from this small town, so thanks for letting me know. Sad you have to sell the house but how nice it was for you to have many items to sort through…a great piece of your history that so many never see. Like you, I felt the connection too.


  9. Lauren Lanzotti May 6, 2015 at 12:21 AM #

    Hi!! I came across this blog post and just had to say something! My noni (grandma) is from this town in Italy also. We also live in Illinois and I believe she made the journey to america around the same time as your grandfather! So cool to see what a small world it really is considering this town is so tiny. I visited 4 years ago and it is my favorite place in the world. I’m glad you enjoyed it!


    • blogginginitaly May 6, 2015 at 9:38 AM #

      Hi Lauren, how fun to hear from you. It was amazing for us to see not only the town but my grandfather’s actual home. Not sure if you saw this, but here is the link to the post where my grandfather describes getting to Pietrabbondante himself…
      Given the size of the town, I’d guess that our ancestors knew each other and perhaps even came over together. Who knows? In any event, so nice to “meet” you! Ciao,


  10. Lyniece Salvatore May 31, 2015 at 1:10 PM #

    I really enjoyed your trip to Pietrabbondante. My husband’s family is from there as well. His great-grandparents, were Benedetto and Letizia (Iavicoli), his grandfather, Giovanni. Giovanni had a sister Maria Iacapraro, could they be related We know very little about the family since Giovanni’s children were all orphaned after their mother, Concetta, died in 1919 and Giovanni died in 1920. They were sent to an orphanage. We know Giovanni had brothers Michele Angelo, Domenico and Filomeno. We would love to visi the town someday, but this is the next best thing. Thank you so much.


    • blogginginitaly May 31, 2015 at 1:56 PM #

      Thanks so much for your note. I will contact my aunt and ask her if there was a Maria in the family. I don’t know of any but she would be the one who might know. The town is so small, I am quite sure they are somehow related. I’ll be sure to let you know what I find out! Ciao, Judy


      • blogginginitaly May 31, 2015 at 2:06 PM #

        One other question: is Iacpararo Maria’s married or maiden name? Thanks!


      • Lyniece Salvatore May 31, 2015 at 3:00 PM #

        She was married to Vincent Iacapraro, Vitullo was her maiden name. The death certificate said her parents were Benedetto and Letizia Vitullo. She died in 1917 in Chicago


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