An Honor Indeed!

10 Sep

Two weeks ago, and most unexpectedly, we received an invitation to attend the 76th Venice International Film Festival, guests of Prof. Dr. Massimo Lucidi, economic journalist, author, and founder of numerous international events such as the Premio Eccellenza or Italian Excellence Award.


The festival is held on Venice Lido and our meeting was at the Hotel Excelsior. Per their website: “This extraordinary creation opened to great acclaim on 21st July 1908, with a lavish ocean-front party for over 3,000 guests. It rapidly became a haven for the elite, film stars and royalty.”

In 1932, Hotel Excelsior Venice Lido Resort welcomed the first ever Venice Film Festival and is now the official venue of this world-famous event.

© HOTEL EXCELSIOR VAT: 09825980965

We took a moment to enjoy a cappuccino in good company.


The meeting we participated in was titled “Cinema and Web.” It focused on the relationship between the emotion and seduction of cinema and today’s digital opportunities to preserve and share history and culture.

But why us? A bit of history required here…

Len and I, both with Italian origins, always had a dream and goal to spend significant time in Italy. Since 2001, with our trip to Calabria to find Len’s grandparents’ records, we’ve continued the research of our ancestral homes and visited most. Once we retired, and wanting to truly experience the country of our ancestors, we chose the ancient and beautiful town of Cortona in Tuscany.


For us, it was the perfect size and setting to give us a central base from which to travel, to truly interact with locals, and to absorb the culture of our ancestors as we became immersed in daily Italian living. Little could we have imagined the great friendships we would make.

Growing up, Len and I were both very fortunate to be surrounded by large extended Italian families. Each of our lives was filled with fun Italian traditions, large family gatherings and love.

In my family, there were 10 grandchildren on each side. And while we knew of our grandparents’ accomplishments, it wasn’t as if they talked about themselves. For us, they were typical and fun grandparents who worked hard and loved their grandchildren dearly.

As a result, my ancestral fascination truly began many years later when I started researching my paternal grandfather, Alex Capraro.

©   Alex Capraro and wife Maude

He left Pietrabbondante in Abruzzo at age four and emigrated with his young parents to America where he eventually became the first licensed Italian-American architect in Illinois. In the early 1930’s, he was appointed chief architect by the Italian Government for the Italian Pavilion at the 1933 Century of Progress Fair in Chicago. Although he passed away when I was five, my grandmother kept many of his letters and documents.  Eventually, these were passed on to me. In due time, I was able to piece together so much of who he was and what he had accomplished in his life, as documented in my blog series: Through His Words: Reflections From and About My Grandfather.

Alex’s story generated interest, not only with my family members, but also with many Italian friends.

This led me to research and share more about my maternal grandfather, Salvatore Ferrara, who opened a retail pastry and candy shop in the Little Italy section of Chicago in the early 1900s.

Salvatore Ferrara (r) C.1908

The bakery produced Italian pastries, large wedding cakes, and the sugarcoated almonds, or confetti, that Salvatore had learned to make in Italy. When candy sales surpassed pastries, he left his wife to run the bakery and eventually launched the Ferrara Pan Candy Company. In 2017, the Ferrero Group, maker of Nutella and the second largest chocolate producer and confectionery company in the world, purchased the Ferrara Candy Company.

Not to be outdone by the men, my maternal grandmother, Serafina Ferrara, became a dynamic business personality and philanthropist.

Serafina Ferrara and brother

Unlike my grandfathers, I had the good fortune to know her into my 20s. In addition to running the bakery, she opened two of Chicago’s first banquet halls, the Chateau Royale and Ferrara Manor. She also devoted significant time to charitable and civic causes. She was known as “The Angel of Halsted Street” for her unending generosity to those less fortunate. In 1956, she was named national grandmother of the year along with Ed Sullivan as grandfather of the year. The same year, she was decorated by the Italian government for helping to cement Italo-American relations. Her many life accomplishments were entered into the U.S. House of Representatives Congressional record by the Honorable Frank Annunzio in 1972.

Over time, I could see the gears turning in our good friend Carlo’s head. He was intrigued, not only about the story of these Italian immigrants who accomplished so much in America, but that the two families were united though the marriage of my mother, Benita Ferrara, and my dad, Bill Capraro. Carlo was also struck by Len’s and my decision to fully immerse ourselves in the history and culture of our ancestors, as well as research and share our stories. I knew he had begun talking to others, but never quite to what extent.

Fast forward to last week, and the invitation.

At dinner Wednesday night, we met Massimo Lucidi (across from me) for the first time, although he had been well briefed. Before the evening was over, he had invited me to join a panel the next morning.


The Tropicana Conference Room at Hotel Excelsior housed the Italian Pavilion where the meeting would be held.


Suddenly, I was on stage with a parliamentary member, a carabinieri colonel, the president of Rai Cinema, and Massimo Lucidi, all who play significant and varied roles in the promotion of film and the arts related to the history and culture of Italy on an international stage.


My role was to share a brief history (in Italian, of course!) of my grandparents, all Italian immigrants, and the contributions they made in America. And why so much interest? As was pointed out during the panel, there are so many wonderful stories of Italian immigrants that are never heard, and never told, and it is the challenge of those involved in all types of media to seek out such stories.

In the room were producers, directors, actors, writers and journalists, and several were recognized for their work.


And then, at the conclusion of the panel, came our incredible surprise and amazing honor – Len and I were recognized by the Executive Committee of Premio Eccellenza as follows:

For the history of extraordinary commitment, passion and style,
we are pleased to award
Judy and Leonard Gingerella
Ambassadors of the Italian History of Emigration

©     Colonel Anania, Len , Judy, Massimo Lucidi

The actual award ceremony will be held in Washington DC in October, but since we won’t be available, we were given our award in advance. And that is why we were invited to Venice.

After the event, Massimo conducted an interview with Carlo and me which is available on YouTube.

We presented Massimo with a book from Luciano Meoni, the Mayor of Cortona.


And Colonel Anania presented a book to Honorable Nicola Acunzo from Francesco Attesti, the Cortona Cultural Councilor. 

Len and I will be forever grateful to Massimo, Orazio, Carlo and all those who see value in sharing the past and are committed to keeping the stories alive. Grazie mille, thank you! Our time spent together at the 76th Venice International Film Festival will be something we’ll cherish forever.

Most of all, my heartfelt gratitude to my grandparents and great grandparents for having the courage to leave the known behind, seek opportunity in America, and create extraordinary legacies. I will always be in awe and also inspired by their accomplishments. As their granddaughter, I am so proud to be able to share their stories.


On a prophetic footnote… in late July, our extended family gathered in Chicago for a week. One night around a large round table, we were each asked to complete the following sentence:

“I am a 10 at _________.”

I pondered, not sure of my response, and then at my turn, the word just popped out – RESEARCHING.

Little could I have ever imagined that my research would take me on this incredible journey.

Stay tuned – there just might be more to come.





















38 Responses to “An Honor Indeed!”

  1. Deborah Capraro September 10, 2019 at 11:32 AM #

    Congratulations to you both on this well deserved honor.

    Sent from my iPhone

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mary Mattucci September 10, 2019 at 11:34 AM #

    Yes you are!! Congratulations, Judy! So proud of you! Love, Mary Terese XX

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mary Mattucci September 10, 2019 at 11:35 AM #

    You are the Queen of Research! Congratulations! So Wonderful!! Love, Mary Terese XX

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lyniece Salvatore September 10, 2019 at 11:59 AM #

    Congratulations. Your research has inspired me to find more about out common family.

    Liked by 1 person

    • blogginginitaly September 10, 2019 at 12:48 PM #

      Thanks and keep at it. Your research really opened up many new insights for me!


  5. jeanfromcalifornia September 10, 2019 at 12:00 PM #

    Brava! Brava! Brava! We were greatly impressed hearing your fluent Italian. That certainly outclasses us having to remember to speak in our native Canadian when back home 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • blogginginitaly September 10, 2019 at 12:49 PM #

      Thanks and look forward to hearing some of that native Canadian!😂


  6. Carol Kadison September 10, 2019 at 12:01 PM #

    Congratulations! It must be a thrill to know that not only you, but your grandparents were being honored once again for lives well lived!

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

    • Maureen Lawler September 10, 2019 at 12:12 PM #

      Judy, this is a wonderful honor…and such a special treat to be a part of the Venice Film Festival! Your grandparents represent a great American success story!

      Maureen Lawler

      Liked by 1 person

    • blogginginitaly September 11, 2019 at 10:51 AM #

      Thanks, Carol, it was really special!


  7. Sharon September 10, 2019 at 12:10 PM #

    Wow, history is amazing, as you have proofed
    Over and over again!
    Keep on researching and I know your ancestors are extremely proud!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. jknotts7 September 10, 2019 at 12:45 PM #

    Oh Judy and Len, how wonderful and what an honor! We in your life past and present are so honored to know you. And you gave the interview in Italian. Amazing! Your grandparents and great grandparents are cheering in heaven!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Chuck September 10, 2019 at 4:11 PM #

    A Perfect 10!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Royce Larsen September 11, 2019 at 12:58 AM #

    Fantastic story Congratulations to you and Len!


    Liked by 1 person

  11. Elissa Flaska September 11, 2019 at 7:20 AM #

    LOVED reading this and learning more
    about your family! Missed u at Bill’s 60th..
    Elissa Piano-Flaska(Bill and Tina’s friend)

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Sandra September 11, 2019 at 7:45 AM #

    Incredible……pronounce in Italian, please! Wow, how wonderful, Judy! Congratulazioni!!


    Liked by 1 person

  13. Andrea Coath Baumgartner September 11, 2019 at 7:49 AM #

    Bravo a Len e Judy, che onore meritato !!
    Così tanto divertimento. Andre​a


    Liked by 1 person

  14. Alexis September 12, 2019 at 8:03 AM #


    Liked by 1 person

  15. John Volpe September 12, 2019 at 9:09 AM #

    Beautiful! What an incredible honor for you and Len. Also, thank you for being such an incredible ambassador for Italo-Americans in Chicago and elsewhere throughout the U.S.. As a former Italian language classmate of yours, I’m constantly impressed by your tenacity and diligence to further your grasp and fluency of the Italian language. To be able to keep up with and interact with “the natives” as seemingly effortlessly as you do, is truly astounding and commendable. Who would’ve thought that our Saturday morning classes would’ve come in so handy! Brava!


    • blogginginitaly September 12, 2019 at 10:30 AM #

      Thanks, Giovanni, who who’ve thought is right! Good thing I did my compiti 📚!! 🤗


  16. Carol Downs September 12, 2019 at 1:22 PM #

    Well Judy, that’s incredible! And so nice to be surprised and honored in such a special way. Thanks for sharing your amazing story. I’ve often wondered how you picked Cortona and how it all started. You’re living my dream, so I guess I better do more research into my family history!

    We are hoping for a return trip in May with our friends Steve and Marti, who you met when we were traveling with them. Right now we are pretty grounded as Greg just had knee replacement surgery on his right knee and it’s a long road back to normal!

    Continuing to enjoy your blogs.

    Best regards, Carol Downs Colorado

    Liked by 1 person

    • blogginginitaly September 12, 2019 at 1:57 PM #

      Thanks so much, Carol, it was such an incredible surprise. And yes, get going on that research 😂. Hope Greg rehabs quickly to speed up your return to Cortona! Best back to you, Judy


  17. MariLouise September 14, 2019 at 9:46 AM #

    Big congratulations Judy and Len! What a wonderful honor and rich experience for you both! I love that your heritage is present and rewarding.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Patricia Wasley September 15, 2019 at 2:15 PM #

    Judy-this was just fabulous to read! Made me cry!

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

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