Archive | 10:08 AM

Mission Accomplished! Missione Compiuta!

12 Mar

For years in my Italian class, I was always somewhat envious of classmates who had familial connections in Italy. Being second generation, I realized that my ancestors had emigrated years ago, so I understood. Yet, were there relatives I did not know?

As we planned our trip to Napoli, my curiosity went into high gear. After several phone calls, emails and internet searches, the pieces of my puzzle began to take shape. And then yesterday, the final pieces of the puzzle were put into place.

Meet Bianca and her son, Danilo, distant cousins on my maternal grandmother’s side.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Although it was a bit of a challenge understanding all the connections and generations, with fast conversations mostly in Italian, Bianca’s great-grandmother Fiorita is my great, great grandmother.

They were born in a tiny area of Castel San Giorgio called Santa Maria a Favore, way too small to be called a village. It seems to have only three streets, one being Via Villa, the street of their home. In the photo above, Bianca and Danilo stand on the rooftop terrace overlooking part of the expansive villa.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

The villa was built around 1835, we think by Gaetano Auria, a distant uncle and attorney.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Gaetano’s wife, Fiorita Liguori, seems to have come from a noble family. They had no children, so they eventually left parts of the villa to a nephew, Pasquale, and a niece, Fiorita, Bianca’s and my ancestors. The villa, therefore, was the home where Bianca’s mother, Carolina (Anna) and my grandmother, Serafina, who were first cousins, lived as children with their parents and  siblings.

Pictured below are my maternal grandparents, Salvatore and Serafina, years after they met and married in Chicago. His family came from Nola, a part of metro Naples, but back to the villa.

Salvatore and Serafina, my grandparents ©Blogginginitaly.com

Salvatore and Serafina, my grandparents ©Blogginginitaly.com

This is part of the front of the main building when you enter the complex.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Over the years, (and my order is suspect here), some emigrated to America, the villa was rented to a hospital which repurposed it, the hospital moved out, some relatives returned from America and moved in, and at some point, the earthquakes occurred, causing severe damage to the structure.

At various times, the original villa as well as the apartments were divided. Some years ago, Bianca began to restore a part of the villa, including rooms where my grandmother lived until age 16, when she, her parents and siblings, emigrated. If I understand correctly, Bianca’s family lived in the area over the arch which used to connect inside to the area on the left. The left area is where my grandmother and her family lived and the area which has been restored. It is easy to see the damaging effects of time and nature and at the same time, see the beauty and grandeur that once existed. No wonder my grandmother always loved being surrounded by beautiful things.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

I had only ever hoped to see the outside of the villa, so it was a great surprise that we were able to enter and see a bit of the restored rooms inside of Via Villa 49.

Street door©Blogginginitaly.com

Street door©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

original doors©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

original portico©Blogginginitaly.com

There’s even a wine cellar under this part of the building, and apparently a much larger one under the main house.

wine cellar©Blogginginitaly.com

wine cellar©Blogginginitaly.com

wine cellar©Blogginginitaly.com

wine cellar©Blogginginitaly.com

How I’d love to tap these barrels!

wine cellar©Blogginginitaly.com

wine cellar©Blogginginitaly.com

A Day of Italian Hospitality

Danilo and Bianca picked us up in Napoli at 9:30. Our first stop was Vietri sul Mare, home of ceramics and incredible views on the Gulf of Salerno.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Next stop, the beautiful city of Salerno, perhaps too often bypassed because of the popularity of Positano. This is the region of my grandmother’s home and the beginning of the Amalfi drive. We walked along the lungo mare, through the beautiful old city, and finally up to the Duomo.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Then on to see my grandmother’s villa before the rain began.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

This is a view down quiet Via Villa from one of the villa’s balconies.

View from villa window down Via Villa©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

The next photo is a panoramic view, a bit confusing but it does show the size of the property and all of the structures. Try to picture it as a closed rectangle. The open archway on the left is actually the center entrance archway and is quite large. The building with car on the right actually wraps around to meet the building with arch on the left. Ok, forget it.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

On to Bianca’s beautiful home in San Giorgio for an incredible five-course meal, all lovingly homemade, and served with conversation, smiles, and more deciphering of the family tree.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Even artichokes roasted in the fire.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

At the house, we met Bianca’s husband, Giovanni, his sister, and Danilo’s wife, Anna Paola, who made the delicious chocolate torte. Bianca and her husband are retired teachers and Danilo and his wife both have PhDs, his as a physicist and hers in bioethics. “He works on the volcano,” his uncle Renato told me before coming, so we kidded Danilo about being able to flip the switch for tourists. In reality, he actually does monitor the seismic activity among other things, so he’s definitely a good person to know when in Napoli!

I explained to my new-found relatives that each trip we take to Italy gives us a few extra special experiences, soprattutto, above all others. Spending the day with them was certainly one of these!

Around 7 PM, Danilo and Bianca returned us to our hotel in Napoli, a nearly 2 hour drive back in crazy bumper to bumper traffic, which Danilo makes twice daily for work.

Bianca and Danilo, I am so grateful we had the opportunity to meet you, to try to untangle the family tree, to see my grandmother’s house, and benefit from your incredibly warm hospitality. We will always remember the day we spent with you and your family.

Bianca e Danilo, io sono così grato abbiamo avuto l’opportunità di incontrare voi, per cercare di districare l’albero genealogico, per vedere la casa di mia nonna, e trarre vantaggio dalla tua incredibilmente calorosa ospitalità. Ricorderemo sempre il giorno abbiamo trascorso con voi e la vostra famiglia.

Grazie mille… speriamo che ci vediamo di nuovo qualche volta!

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

When I get home, I will attempt to reconstruct the family tree from my scribbled notes and assemble my siblings, aunt, and any interested nieces, nephews and cousins, to share more photos and stories. For now, I remain incredibly happy to be able to share this amazing experience. Definitely Missione Compiuta!

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

 

 

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