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Un Onore Davvero! (Italian Version)

10 Sep

Due settimane fa, e inaspettatamente, abbiamo ricevuto un invito a partecipare alla 76a Mostra Internazionale del Cinema di Venezia, ospiti del Prof. Dr. Massimo Lucidi, giornalista economico, autore e fondatore di numerosi eventi internazionali come il Premio Eccellenza o il Premio Italiano Eccellenza .

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Il festival si tiene al Lido di Venezia e il nostro incontro è stato all’Hotel Excelsior. Per il loro sito web: “Questa straordinaria creazione ha riscosso un grande successo il 21 luglio 1908, con una sontuosa festa in riva al mare per oltre 3.000 ospiti. È diventata rapidamente un paradiso per l’elite, le star del cinema e la regalità”.

Nel 1932, l’Hotel Excelsior Venice Lido Resort ha dato il benvenuto al primo Festival del cinema di Venezia ed è ora la sede ufficiale di questo evento di fama mondiale.

© HOTEL EXCELSIOR VAT: 09825980965

Ci siamo presi un momento per goderci un cappuccino in buona compagnia.

©blogginginitaly.com

L’incontro a cui abbiamo partecipato è stato intitolato “Cinema e Web”. Si è concentrato sul rapporto tra emozione e seduzione del cinema e le opportunità digitali di oggi per preservare e condividere storia e cultura.

Ma perché noi? Un po ‘di storia richiesta qui …

Io e Len, entrambi di origini italiane, abbiamo sempre avuto il sogno e l’obiettivo di trascorrere un periodo significativo in Italia. Dal 2001, con il nostro viaggio in Calabria per trovare i documenti dei nonni di Len, abbiamo continuato la ricerca delle nostre case ancestrali e visitato la maggior parte. Una volta in pensione, e desiderosi di vivere davvero il paese dei nostri antenati, abbiamo scelto l’antica e bellissima città di Cortona in Toscana.

©blogginginitaly.com

Per noi, era la dimensione e l’ambiente perfetti per darci una base centrale da cui partire, per interagire veramente con la gente del posto e per assorbire la cultura dei nostri antenati mentre ci immergevamo nella vita quotidiana italiana. Non avremmo potuto immaginare le grandi amicizie che avremmo fatto.

Crescendo, io e Len siamo stati entrambi fortunati ad essere circondati da grandi famiglie italiane estese. Ognuna delle nostre vite era piena di divertenti tradizioni italiane, grandi riunioni di famiglia e amore.

Nella mia famiglia c’erano 10 nipoti per parte. E mentre sapevamo dei risultati dei nostri nonni, non era come se parlassero di se stessi. Per noi, erano nonni tipici e divertenti che lavoravano duramente e amavano i loro nipoti a caro prezzo.

Di conseguenza, il mio fascino ancestrale iniziò davvero molti anni dopo, quando iniziai a ricercare mio nonno paterno, Alex Capraro.

©blogginginitaly.com   Alex Capraro and wife Maude

Lasciò Pietrabbondante in Abruzzo all’età di quattro anni ed emigrò con i suoi giovani genitori in America dove alla fine divenne il primo architetto italo-americano autorizzato in Illinois. Agli inizi degli anni ’30, fu nominato capo architetto dal governo italiano per il padiglione italiano alla Century of Progress Fair del 1933 a Chicago. Anche se è morto quando avevo cinque anni, mia nonna conservava molte delle sue lettere e dei suoi documenti. Alla fine, questi mi sono stati trasmessi. A tempo debito, sono stato in grado di mettere insieme così tanto di ciò che era e ciò che aveva realizzato nella sua vita, come documentato nella mia serie di blog: Attraverso le sue parole: riflessioni da e su mio nonno.

La storia di Alex ha suscitato interesse, non solo con i miei familiari, ma anche con molti amici italiani.

Questo mi ha portato a ricercare e condividere qualcosa in più su mio nonno materno, Salvatore Ferrara, che ha aperto una pasticceria al dettaglio nella sezione Little Italy di Chicago nei primi anni del 1900.

Salvatore Ferrara (r) C.1908

La pasticceria produceva dolci italiani, grandi torte nuziali e mandorle ricoperte di zucchero, o coriandoli, che Salvatore aveva imparato a fare in Italia. Quando le vendite di caramelle hanno superato i pasticcini, ha lasciato la moglie per dirigere il forno e alla fine ha lanciato la Ferrara Pan Candy Company. Nel 2017 il Gruppo Ferrero, produttore di Nutella e il secondo produttore di cioccolato e azienda dolciaria al mondo, ha acquistato la Ferrara Candy Company.

Per non essere superata dagli uomini, mia nonna materna, Serafina Ferrara, divenne una dinamica personalità imprenditoriale e filantropo.

Serafina Ferrara and brother

A differenza di miei nonni, ho avuto la fortuna di conoscerla tra i 20 anni. Oltre a gestire la panetteria, ha aperto due delle prime sale per banchetti di Chicago, il Chateau Royale e il maniero di Ferrara. Ha anche dedicato un tempo significativo a cause caritatevoli e civili. Era conosciuta come “L’angelo di Halsted Street” per la sua infinita generosità verso i meno fortunati. Nel 1956, fu nominata nonna nazionale dell’anno insieme a Ed Sullivan come nonno dell’anno. Lo stesso anno, fu decorata dal Governo italiano per aver contribuito a cementare le relazioni italo-americane: i suoi numerosi successi nella vita sono stati inseriti nel record congressuale della Camera dei Rappresentanti degli Stati Uniti dall’onorevole Frank Annunzio nel 1972.

Nel corso del tempo, ho potuto vedere gli ingranaggi girare nella testa del nostro buon amico Carlo. Era incuriosito, non solo per la storia di questi immigrati italiani che hanno realizzato così tanto in America, ma che le due famiglie erano unite dal matrimonio di mia madre, Benita Ferrara, e di mio padre, Bill Capraro. Carlo è stato anche colpito dalla decisione di Len e dalla mia decisione di immergerci completamente nella storia e nella cultura dei nostri antenati, nonché di ricercare e condividere le nostre storie. Sapevo che aveva iniziato a parlare con gli altri, ma mai fino a che punto.

Avanti veloce alla scorsa settimana e l’invito.

A cena mercoledì sera, abbiamo incontrato Massimo Lucidi (di fronte a me) per la prima volta, sebbene fosse stato ben informato. Prima che la serata fosse finita, mi aveva invitato a partecipare a un panel la mattina successiva.

©blogginginitaly.com

La sala conferenze Tropicana dell’Hotel Excelsior ospitava il padiglione italiano dove si sarebbe tenuto l’incontro.

©blogginginitaly.com
©blogginginitaly.com

All’improvviso, sono stato sul palco con un membro del parlamento, un colonnello dei carabinieri, il Presidente di Rai Cinema e Massimo Lucidi, tutti che recitano ruoli significativi e vari nella promozione del cinema e delle arti legate alla storia e alla cultura dell’Italia in un palcoscenico internazionale.

©blogginginitaly.com

Il mio ruolo è stato quello di condividere una breve storia (in italiano, ovviamente!) Dei miei nonni, tutti immigrati italiani e dei contributi che hanno fatto in America. E perché così tanto interesse? Come è stato sottolineato durante il panel, ci sono così tante storie meravigliose di immigrati italiani che non vengono mai ascoltate e mai raccontate, ed è la sfida di coloro che sono coinvolti in tutti i tipi di media a cercare tali storie.

Nella sala c’erano produttori, registi, attori, scrittori e giornalisti, e molti furono riconosciuti per il loro lavoro.

©blogginginitaly.com

E poi, alla conclusione del panel, è arrivata la nostra incredibile sorpresa e il nostro straordinario onore – Len ed io siamo stati riconosciuti dal Comitato Esecutivo del Premio Eccellenza come segue:

Per la storia di straordinario impegno, passione e stile,
siamo lieti di premiare
Judy e Leonard Gingerella
Ambasciatori della storia italiana dell’emigrazione

©blogginginitaly.com     Colonel Anania, Len , Judy, Massimo Lucidi

La cerimonia di premiazione effettiva si terrà a Washington DC in ottobre, ma poiché non saremo disponibili, ci è stato assegnato il nostro premio in anticipo. Ed è per questo che siamo stati invitati a Venezia.

Dopo l’evento, Massimo ha condotto un’intervista con me e Carlo, disponibile su YouTubehttps://youtu.be/Ikif5iup2mY

https://youtu.be/Ikif5iup2mY

Abbiamo presentato a Massimo un libro di Luciano Meoni, il sindaco di Cortona.

©blogginginitaly.com
©blogginginitaly.com

E il colonnello Anania ha presentato un libro all’onorevole Nicola Acunzo di Francesco Attesti, Consigliere culturale di Cortona.

Len ed io saremo per sempre grati a Massimo, Orazio, Carlo ea tutti coloro che vedono valore nel condividere il passato e sono impegnati a mantenere vive le storie. Grazie mille, grazie! Il nostro tempo trascorso insieme al 76 ° Festival Internazionale del Cinema di Venezia sarà qualcosa che apprezzeremo per sempre.

Soprattutto, la mia sincera gratitudine verso i miei nonni e bisnonni per avere il coraggio di lasciarsi alle spalle il noto, cercare opportunità in America e creare eredità straordinarie. Sarò sempre sbalordito e anche ispirato dai loro successi. Come loro nipote, sono così orgoglioso di poter condividere le loro storie.

©blogginginitaly.com

Su una nota profetica … a fine luglio, la nostra famiglia allargata si è riunita a Chicago per una settimana. Una notte attorno a una grande tavola rotonda, ci hanno chiesto ciascuno di completare la seguente frase:

“Sono un 10 a _________.”

Ho riflettuto, non sono sicuro della mia risposta, e poi a mia volta, la parola è semplicemente saltata fuori: RICERCA.

Non avrei mai immaginato che la mia ricerca mi avrebbe portato in questo incredibile viaggio.

Resta sintonizzato: potrebbe esserci ancora qualcosa in arrivo.

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

©blogginginitaly.com

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.

©blogginginitaly.com

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.

©blogginginitaly.com

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.

©blogginginitaly.com   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.

©blogginginitaly.com

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

©blogginginitaly.com
©blogginginitaly.com

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.

©blogginginitaly.com

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.

©blogginginitaly.com

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

©blogginginitaly.com     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. https://youtu.be/Ikif5iup2mY

https://youtu.be/Ikif5iup2mY

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

©blogginginitaly.com
©blogginginitaly.com

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.

©blogginginitaly.com

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.

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering a year ago…

5 Dec

Last year, I sadly published this post and can hardly believe a year has passed. There is so much I keep learning about my grandfather Alex’s life, so much more I want to discuss with my Aunt Marion, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Instead, I’ll try to remember how lucky we were to have her till almost 90. In memory of Aunt Marion, one year later…

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Yesterday was Aunt Marion’s 90th birthday and she was throwing a party. How lucky to approach 90, still active and in full command. She had shopped the day after Thanksgiving and found just what she wanted to wear – a red wool jacket and black pants.

What birthday gift would I give Aunt Marion? The answer came easily. In October, 2013, I began writing a series of posts that traced a European trip my grandfather, Alex, her father, took in 1938. I titled the series Through His Words: Reflections From and About My Grandfather. From Alex’s letters, postcards, etc., that Aunt Marion had saved, I was able to document every step of his incredible journey. 76 years, 10 months and 10 days after Alex returned to his birthplace, so too did Len and I, being the first and only, we think, descendants to step foot in the town of Pietrabbondante, Italy.

With each post, Aunt Marion would call me or I her. How I loved those conversations. Along with several members of my extended family, I learned much about a man I hardly knew, and even Aunt Marion learned a great deal more about her father. Who could have guessed that a blog could bring so much joy?

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com Sharing info with Aunt Marion, my sibs & some cousins.

“I just wish I could print these all out,” she had said to me on more than one occasion.

As her 90th birthday approached , I found blog2print.com, a company that could make a book of my blogs. With guidance from a very helpful customer service, I created the front and back covers, wrote the dedication, and selected the contents. It was the perfect gift.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com Dedication Page

©Blogginginitaly.com Dedication Page

Of particular note is the dedication to Aunt Marion: …my guiding light, collaborator and friend, who guarded “the bag” that made this all possible. The bag, of course, contained my grandfather’s letters and so much more that she had kept all these years.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

On Saturday, instead of celebrating her 90th birthday, we celebrated her wonderful life. Sadly and very unexpectedly, she left us just 5 days short of her 90th birthday.

I will miss her and our talks. But like the other strong Italian women in our family who proceeded her – my grandmothers, my mother and my aunts, I will remember her always and the traditions she passed on.

If only I could have given her the book.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Sleep well, Aunt Marion. Love you.
Judy

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Memory of…

4 Dec

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Yesterday was Aunt Marion’s 90th birthday and she was throwing a party. How lucky to approach 90, still active and in full command. She had shopped the day after Thanksgiving and found just what she wanted to wear – a red wool jacket and black pants.

What birthday gift would I give Aunt Marion? The answer came easily. In October, 2013, I began writing a series of posts that traced a European trip my grandfather, Alex, her father, took in 1938. I titled the series Through His Words: Reflections From and About My Grandfather. From Alex’s letters, postcards, etc., that Aunt Marion had saved, I was able to document every step of his incredible journey. 76 years, 10 months and 10 days after Alex returned to his birthplace, so too did Len and I, being the first and only, we think, descendants to step foot in the town of Pietrabbondante, Italy.

With each post, Aunt Marion would call me or I her. How I loved those conversations. Along with several members of my extended family, I learned much about a man I hardly knew, and even Aunt Marion learned a great deal more about her father. Who could have guessed that a blog could bring so much joy?

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com Sharing info with Aunt Marion, my sibs & some cousins.

“I just wish I could print these all out,” she had said to me on more than one occasion.

As her 90th birthday approached , I found blog2print.com, a company that could make a book of my blogs. With guidance from a very helpful customer service, I created the front and back covers, wrote the dedication, and selected the contents. It was the perfect gift.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com Dedication Page

©Blogginginitaly.com Dedication Page

Of particular note is the dedication to Aunt Marion: …my guiding light, collaborator and friend, who guarded “the bag” that made this all possible. The bag, of course, contained my grandfather’s letters and so much more that she had kept all these years.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

On Saturday, instead of celebrating her 90th birthday, we celebrated her wonderful life. Sadly and very unexpectedly, she left us just 5 days short of her 90th birthday.

I will miss her and our talks. But like the other strong Italian women in our family who proceeded her – my grandmothers, my mother and my aunts, I will remember her always and the traditions she passed on.

If only I could have given her the book.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Sleep well, Aunt Marion. Love you.
Judy

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016 Chicago Open House – Case Bonita

14 Oct

Three years ago, I began an amazing adventure to learn more about my paternal grandfather, Alexander Capraro. As mentioned in my first post dated 10/2/13:

Through His Words: Reflections From and About My Grandfather

My grandfather was small in stature but large in accomplishment. He was the first Italian-American architect licensed in the state of Illinois and fortunately, a few of his buildings still stand for us to admire.

This weekend, the Chicago Architecture Foundation hosts its Open House Chicago.

200 COOL PLACES.
48 HOURS. GO.
IT’S FREE.
OCTOBER 15-16, 2016

I am so proud that for the 6th time, Casa Bonita, designed in 1928 by my grandfather Alex and his partner Morris, is included in the festival. Quite an accomplishment for a man who, at the age of four, emigrated to America in 1899 with his parents.

Casa Bonita is considered a Spanish-Renaissance Revival apartment building.

Casa Bonita ©Photo by Charlene Ferguson

Casa Bonita ©Photo by Charlene Ferguson

There are 66 units in the U-shaped white terra-cotta building that surround a beautiful garden. The attention to detail can be seen everywhere.

Casa Bonita ©Photo by MTMattucci

Casa Bonita ©Photo by MMattucci

Besides its incredible structure, Casa Bonita has amenities including a library, a billiards room, and a large indoor pool.

Casa Bonita ©Photo by MTMattucci

Casa Bonita ©Photo by MMattucci

 

When it was built, I have been told, there was even a driving range on the roof.

Casa Bonita ©Photo by MTMattucci

Casa Bonita ©Photo by MMattucci

Casa Bonita ©Photo by MTMattucci

Casa Bonita ©Photo by MMattucci

If you are in or near Chicago this weekend, this is a unique opportunity to visit incredible historic landmarks, including Casa Bonita – all for free. Residents will be available to answer questions, give tours, and share their passion about this very special Chicago treasure.

http://openhousechicago.org/sites/site/casa-bonita/

My thanks to Mary, Linda and Charlene for rapid assistance with photos.

For more on Alex’s story, see below. And one last thought – When I began writing about my grandfather, I used the phrase: Through his Words... Now I can say,  Through his Words and Works…

Ciao,
Judy – a very proud granddaughter

 

Opening of Original Post 10/2/13

Through His Words: Reflections From and About My Grandfather (10/2/13)

I am about to begin an incredible adventure with my paternal grandfather. We will venture to Europe, via ship, and spend a month together touring Italy. During our stay, we will visit his birthplace, Pietrabbondante, a town he left with his parents when he was four years old to emigrate to the United States.

To continue reading, please click below:

 

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.

IMG_2677

Pietrabbondante – blogginginitaly.com

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.

molise

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.

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

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.

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

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

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

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.

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

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

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

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

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

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

Emerenziana Vitullo blogginginitaly.com

Emerenziana Vitullo – blogginginitaly.com

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.

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

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

data=VLHX1wd2Cgu8wR6jwyh-km8JBWAkEzU4,7oGgtJuaglUFIfuiddSlrSqhBd-EIWrxzPt07pVZeGZZyeC0GIJHYYEEfzKtNngKbVU5ZmcPOy0tTSrkN_WZXhpVLNs81TLexDwlchdDMm0YJO7AON4sBMC8oqhMsWmXOVgJOxpVWMLjAcA9i7DOyeIVfx2PLwQLX4YiE2IQrPSUu_qkl3GVhG-D-IEShmdVw6A8xiML

Time for photos.

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

Vie Sindaco e Judy blogginginitaly.com

Vice Sindaco Michele Zullo and Judy – blogginginitaly.com

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

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

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…

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

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?

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

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.

Salute!

Ciao,

Judy

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.

valentinadesantis.com/walking-through-pietrabbondante

valentinadesantis.com/walking-through-pietrabbondante

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, valentinadesantis.com

Landscape on Agnone from Pietrabbondante, valentinadesantis.com

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.

comune.ricigliano.sa.it

comune.ricigliano.sa.it

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,
Al

Postscript:

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.

Ciao,

Judy

 

Through His Words: Day Thirty-One

13 Jun

Reflections From and About My Grandfather
Alexander Capraro, Architect

 

Grand Hotel Flora – Roma

Rome
Monday. August 15, 1938

“Eureka” !!

At last I received word from home and Maude dearest, was I ever so happy I felt like a child with the new toy. I got one from you, one from Billy, and one from Joe Montenegro, and it is just exactly one month since I left home.

You say you sent two letters to Naples. Well Naples is my last port of call and of course, I won’t get them until I get there Wednesday. I had hoped you sent some to Milan via American Express Company, which I should have received by now, however, I was so glad to hear from you, I will forgive you for any errors you may have made in connection with the mail.

Sometimes we just need to vent our frustrations!

I am glad to hear everyone home is in good health and Billy tells me he sees to it that you get out and enjoy yourself. Thank Billy for his letter, it was real cute. Also tell him I have taken a lot of pictures to show him when I get home. I am also very happy to know Monte is getting better. It certainly was a tragedy, and what a difference it would have made if he was in good condition and had made the trip with me.

I had expected to go to the American Express Company hoping to get mail, but this is a holiday over here. In fact, from Saturday to Tuesday, all shops are closed. The holiday is called Ferragosto and it is equal to our Labor Day.

Still celebrated today, Ferragosto is the August 15 holiday when Italians celebrate the harvest following a long period of agricultural labor.

Well, I took it rather easy yesterday, it being Sunday. I went to St. Peter’s to church,

St. Peter's at night - blogginginitaly.com

St. Peter’s at night – blogginginitaly.com

after which I walked around the Foro Romano (ruins) and the Coliseum.

romeisalwaysagoodidea

romeisalwaysagoodidea.wordpress.com

Then I went to Fermes for dinner. They have been very nice to me and I wish you will drop them a line when I get home for the hospitality shown me. He has been with me every day since I got here, and I have met some very big shots here through him. By the way, his brother is a big mogul here but I am out of luck so far as meeting Prince Potenziani and others as they are all out of town in the country and naturally cannot be seen. However, I saw the Pope and I’m satisfied.

Alex was the first licensed Italian-American architect in the state of Illinois. In 1933, the Century of Progress Exhibition would open in Chicago. Prince Potenziani, the Royal Italian Commissioner to the Exposition, had chosen Alex to supervise the construction of the Italian Pavilion. The Prince was in Chicago for its opening, and bestowed a decoration on Alex for his work.

February 20, 1933 Ground Breaking for the Italian Pavilion. Prince Potenziani center

February 20, 1933 Ground Breaking for the Italian Pavilion. Prince Potenziani center. (Herald and Examiner Photo)

Italian Pavilion Alexander V Capraro  - Associate and Supervising Architect, Chicago

Italian Pavilion 1933,   M. Derenzi, A. Libera, A. Valente –  Architects Rome
Alexander V. Capraro – Associate and Supervising Architect, Chicago

Mr. and Mrs. Ferme and I went to the Camposanto of Rome early in the evening and it certainly was a sight to behold, altogether different from ours. Then we went to what is known as the “Baths of Caracalla” – an old ruin immense in size. They use it for open air grand opera. You should only have the chance to see it. It is a spectacle no other place in the world has. The opera was Aida. The stage, set between two huge pillars several thousand years old, 400 musicians in the orchestra, 1000 actors on the stage, the best opera stars, 20,000 people in the audience, and the seats filled only about one-third of the inside of the magnificent ruin.

BathsOfCaracalla en.wikipedia.org

Baths of Caracalla –  en.wikipedia.org

Still today during the summer, the Caracalla Baths turn into a platform for breathtaking Teatro dell Opera performances. I need to add this to our Bucket list!

tatistidbits.com/2012/09/24

tatistidbits.com/2012/09/24

 Powerful lights turn night into day. Finally the lights go out, the orchestra starts playing, and then absolute silence in the throng of 20,000 spectators, real music lovers, real critics of ability. And I was almost breathless in the enjoyment of such a marvelous spectacle, a performance which can be held only in Rome, the Eternal City. And what a wonderful city this is. Paris was great, Venice was unusual and wonderful, but Rome is ever interesting, ever bewitching, the city of antiquity and modernism all-in-one; the city of the Caesars of yesterday and of great men of today. Clean as a whistle, law and order 100%, and no end to art, sculpture, painting, music and culture.

1938 Roma postcard

1938 Roma postcard

The men and women both dress as good if not better than we do in the States and they parade on the streets in smart style and the height of fashion. The evenings are spent mostly at little tables on the sidewalks, eating gelati or caffe. Every street is almost the same as far is this feature is concerned and all of them are lighted better than Madison Street at Crawford Avenue. Well, I better stop raving because I could go on like this for hours about Rome.

Today I visited three of the most important churches next to St. Peter’s, besides some smaller ones, and best of all, I made the holy stairs of St. John the Lateran. This is the most sacred spot in Rome. As the enclosed card shows, there are 28 wooden steps leading to an altar of our crucified Lord.

St. John Lateran

St. John Lateran

In order to gain an indulgence, you must kneel on the first step and say certain prayers, or the rosary will do. You must continue this on each and every step without rising on your feet or without touching the step below with your feet – only your knees. In other words, you must drag yourself up to the top on your hands and knees, stopping at each step to say prayers. I did it today and believe me, I thought I would never get to the 28th step. My kneecaps felt as if they were torn to pieces by the time I finished, but I made it, and Maude, what a feeling of relief as well as gratitude towards our Lord you have when you get to the top. Well, I hope the good Lord will reward the effort in answer to the prayers I offered for you, et all.

The other churches follow in rank next to St. Peter’s are St. Paul, St. John Lateran, and Santa Maria Maggiore.

St. Paul

St. Paul

Santa Maria Maggiore

Santa Maria Maggiore

Santa Maria Maggiore interior - blogginginitaly.com

Santa Maria Maggiore interior – blogginginitaly.com

They are so gorgeous it is difficult to describe the grandeur of these churches. All told, there are 400 churches, every one of them would make Resurrection looks sick. In the main churches I mentioned, you could actually put a half dozen churches like Resurrection and still have room for Santa Maria on Alexander Street.

Then I saw the Pantheon, a very old edifice where the bodies of King Victor Emmanuel II and others are buried.

Pantheon at night - bloggingintialy.com

Pantheon at night – bloggingintialy.com

Tomorrow I shall spend at the Vatican, Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museum, and National Museum, and then I think I shall have seen enough of Rome to remember it vividly.

Two of the most beautiful art treasures Alex would long remember are Michelangelo’s Pieta, (1498–1499)

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

and his Sistine Chapel Ceiling (1508-1512).

You should have a month here alone to do a good job of it. It is 8 PM and I am waiting for Ferme to go out to dinner somewhere. 

P.S. Confidential
Ferme and I have seen certain officials here about the decoration for PA and it will come but not before April 21, 1939. There is an absolute law that cannot be broken by anyone that this particular class of decoration be given and presented on April 21 only, that being Natale di Roma and Festa di Lavoro. The decoration is called Stella Merita di Lavoro and is given an recognition for long and meritorious labor. Ferme has already written the council in Chicago about it.

Based on my research, this “medal of honor” dates back to a Royal Decree 1898 to recognize industrialists and their employees. In 1927,  it was extended to Italians living abroad who have given evidence of patriotism, honesty and hard work as an example to their countrymen. Alex was researching the viability of this honor for his father-in-law, Maude’s father.

In the meantime, good luck, and God bless you. Loads of love and my very best to all at home.

Finally Alex was content. He had heard from his family and knew all was well. He effortlessly penned an eight page letter to Maude, the love of his life, describing in detail the treasures of Rome he would never forget, and that she would only ever “see” through his eyes. Lucky for Maude, Alex’s eyes absorbed deep beyond the surface, as only an architect could.

As ever yours, AL 

Ciao

Judy

 

Through His Words: Day Twenty-Nine

10 Jun

Reflections From and About My Grandfather
Alexander Capraro, Architect

 

Grand Hotel Flora – Roma

Rome
Sat. August 13, 1938

Hello Darling

Well dear, Ferme and I put in a full day today. I had to go to the Vatican to get a permit to visit the Pope. First I had to bring the letter of introduction from the Catholic bishop of Chicago to Msgr. Hildebrand, who in turn gave me a note to the Vatican where I got the permit. In the meantime, I had to get the rosaries and things I wanted blessed by the Pope and then was on the way to Castello Gondolfo. This ride is on the Via Appia Antica, the oldest road in the civilized world dating back 2000 years B.C. 

Appia Antica blogginginitaly.com

Appia Antica  –  blogginginitaly.com

The ruins of the old walls and aqueducts could be seen all along the road, a distance of about 18 miles from Rome.

Appia Antica blogginginitaly.com

Via Appia Antica – blogginginitaly.com

We arrived there a little before noon and were ushered into the throne room. There were at least 250 to 300 people there. We had to wait until about 1 PM before his Holiness came. He was announced and was brought in on a rich chair born by four guards all in glittering uniforms. He spoke for about 10 minutes and the ceremony was over. The whole thing was very touching and thrilling. Here was a little old man, 82 years old, and showed signs of his long sickness.

Pope Pius XI reigned from 6 February 1922 to his death in 1939. He was the first sovereign of Vatican City from its creation as an independent state on 11 February 1929. 

The Castello is a large palatial palace with an inner courtyard where the people who have appointments must wait until called.

Recently published archives indicate that Hitler expected to be received by the Pope at the Vatican during a May 1938 visit, but Pope Pius XI thwarted Hitler’s plan and took off for Castel Gandolfo, also shutting the Vatican Museum during his leave.

The Swiss Guards have colorful suits and other attendants have suits of red cardinal robes with silk knickers, etc. It was all most interesting. 

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

 After we left, we lunched in a little place nearby overlooking a lake way below us, where you could see a half-dozen towns on the other side in the hills.

After coming back to Rome, we visited in order:  Castel St. Angelo, monument to Vittorio Emanuel II, the Coliseum, Roman Forum, and the Mussolini Forum. So you can see why I really am all in and ready to hit the hay.

blogginginitaly.com

Castel St. Angelo blogginginitaly.com

Coliseum - blogginginitaly.com

Coliseum – blogginginitaly.com

Tomorrow I’m going to St. Peter’s for mass and at the same time visit it. Later to dinner with Ferme at their home. It has been hot here but not as bad as I expected. I can go along all day, but the old feet are the ones that tire first. However, a good bath at night fixes them up for the next morning.

Well, young lady, I am still in the dark as to how, when, why, all of you are at home because I have received nothing in the way of mail here. It looks as if I shall be home before I receive any word. I can take it, but it is a little bitter and certainly not pleasant.

Just a little more patience, Grandpa…Really!

Well, good night. Love to all, will write again tomorrow.

Yours, AL 

Ciao,

Judy

 

Through His Words: Day Twenty-Seven

7 Jun

Reflections From and About My Grandfather
Alexander Capraro, Architect

 

Grand Hotel Flora – Roma

August 11, 1938

Darling Modesta

At last I have arrived in the eternal city. I left Siena this morning bright and early, 7:03 AM, and got here this noon. It was awful hot coming down on the train and you could feel it getting hotter as we neared Rome. Siena is much cooler because it is up in the mountains, while Rome is closer to the sea and low.

I had a little lunch and at the same time started to map out what I was going to see. One of the interesting spots is near my hotel, so I walked over to it, the Villa Borghese and the gardens of the Borghese.

In January, I visited The Hotel Flora at the end of Via Veneto overlooking the Borghese gardens, had a wonderful tour, and tried to imagine Alex’s pure delight at seeing the treasures of the eternal city.

Villa Borghese is a large palace now used as an art gallery which contains originals of Michelangelo, Raffaelo, da Vinci, Botticelli, Bernini, and other famous sculptors and painters. You know, it is almost fantastic to see the palaces the people in power of those days lived in. We have nothing like it anywhere in America.

commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Villa_borghese.JPG

commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Villa_borghese.JPG

Try to imagine a plot of land equal to Columbus Park, only more beautifully landscaped with formal gardens, big old trees, marble and bronze statuary, and wonderful fountains here and there, and the palace about the size of the Art Institute, and you have a pretty fair picture of this villa and gardens.

The Borghese Gardens

The Borghese Gardens

The Borghese family had two popes in it, and these were built when the church was the governing body of the state or country. From a hill nearby, I got a fair panorama of one side of Rome  and I gazed on St. Peter’s and numerous other church domes which could be seen at a distance.

Like Alex, I took several panorama photos of Rome, these from the Grand Hotel Flora’s incredible rooftop deck.

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

I called up the Fermes when I got back and had quite a long telephone conversation with Mrs. Ferme, because Ferme was out and would not be back until late. She was very glad to talk with someone from Chicago, and judging from her talk, she doesn’t like it here as well as Chicago, especially because her two big boys are back in America. She invited me over for dinner with them tomorrow night, and Ferme is coming over to see me in the morning to give me some information on how to see as much of Rome in five days as possible. She asked about you and sends her best regards.

Tonight after supper, I walked quite a bit and saw the Coliseum, The Forum, the ruins of this and that, and many structures dating back several centuries before Christ.

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

The impression is awe inspiring, the city is wonderfully clean, and the streets are lined with beautiful trees of tropical nature, palms, magnolias, etc. Tomorrow I shall start about visiting these places and probably make the Vatican in St. Peter’s first. It is going to take a lot of time here because there is so much to see. Will let you know more tomorrow night.

Greetings to the family and a big and tight embrace for you.” Wait until I get home!”

Yes, he wrote that!

Love, Al

Ciao,

Judy

 

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