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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. 

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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.

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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

 

Through His Words: Day Twenty-Six

3 Jun

Reflections From and About My Grandfather
Alexander Capraro, Architect

 

Maude Capraro
Chicago


Wednesday
August 10, 1938 

Dearest Al,

Received your three letters of July 31 – Aug 1 and indeed very glad to hear from you, and all very interesting. Also, glad that you are well and enjoying your trip. It sure is a very wonderful country. You know, last Monday, August 1, Marion and I went to Byrd Theater and saw Swiss Miss. It’s a picture about Interlaken and I said to Marion, it’s where dad is going, so you see, we saw the pictures of Interlaken while you were there. So you have nothing on us!!  

Swiss Miss was a Laurel and Hardy movie released in 1938 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Beautiful shots of the Alps gave Maude and Marion some insight into what Alex was seeing first hand.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Released by MGM, May, 1938

Released by MGM, May, 1938

It sure is beautiful country and I’m sorry I’m not with you. I sure miss you and hope this month will fly so you will be home with us soon.

Glad to hear you are making acquaintances with men (how about women?). Well, we won’t worry about that now!! I wrote to you yesterday so I don’t have very much to write. I do hope that you get all our mail as the children have been writing also. As I wrote before, Marion is at Long Beach and having a good time. She said she would write to you from there.

It must be quite a thrill to be up 12,600 feet. It must have been a grand view. Well, I hope someday we will make the trip together, which I hope won’t be long. Gee, I wish I was with you! Had I known you were going alone, I sure would be with you.  (As you may recall, Alex’s friend Joe Montenegro became ill and was unable to travel, leaving my grandfather to travel solo.) Next time I will go with you for sure.

Joe Monte is getting better every day. Why don’t you write to him. They only received a postal from you and I guess they expect you to write to them more, so write a letter if you can. Oh, dear, the weather is terribly hot this month, especially yesterday, and today is worse than ever. I have no pep to do anything today. I hope it isn’t that warm over there because it would be hard to travel.

The children are all well and so are Pa and Ruth and hope the same with you. You sure are traveling – now take it easy or you will be good and tired when you get home and you will need another vacation. Of course, I understand you are trying to see all you can, which I don’t blame you.

Well, I hope you will see Ferme  in Rome so you won’t get lonesome. So, I see you are not going around with DeRosa. It’s too bad you didn’t, but I suppose he had a different itinerary than you. Catherine was just down here and she sends her regards and thanks you for the card you sent them.

I didn’t go out last night, it was so warm that I decided to stay home. The gang wanted to take me for a ride but I didn’t want to go. So I stayed home and relaxed. Hoping you are well and enjoying yourself, I will close my letter with millions and millions of kisses and love
from your darling Maude xo
Vincent, Billy, Marion, Pa and Ruth

It would still be almost a week before the first letters from home would reach Alex.

Ciao,

Judy

 

Through His Words: Day Twenty-Four (2nd letter)

29 May

Reflections From and About My Grandfather
Alexander Capraro, Architect

 

Hotel De Rome

Florence
Monday
August 8, 1938

Hello Darling

Well I sure got my fill of walking today. Florence is filled with art treasures of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Rafael, etc. There are three large art galleries: Galleria Pitti, Uffizi, and Museum of San Marco. They are blocks long and filled with paintings and sculptures of the famous old masters.

Outside the Uffizi -blogginginitaly.com

Outside the Uffizi -blogginginitaly.com

Dante’s house, the Cathedral and Ponte Vecchio all date back centuries and yet they are here and used as if they were built only yesterday.

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The Duomo – blogginginitaly.com

The Duomo - blogginginitaly.com

The Duomo – blogginginitaly.com

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blogginginitaly.com

Baptistry doors - blogginginitaly.com

Baptistry doors – blogginginitaly.com

My feet actually ache and I just got through taking a bath and treating my feet to soothe them a little. I am glad in a way that Joe was not with me, because he could never stand up under the strain, especially with a bad heart. It is just impossible to see everything worthwhile seeing in only a few days. It takes at least a week and I can’t spare that much time. I leave one place thinking it has the best in sculpture, painting, tapestries, etc., only to find the next place is richer than the one before. It actually makes you dizzy trying to take it all in.

Ponte Vecchio - blogginginitaly.com

Ponte Vecchio – blogginginitaly.com

I intend on leaving for Pisa and Montecatini at 8:10 in the morning and coming back to Florence later in the evening. Then I shall get to Siena for a half day and then Rome.

Pisa - blogginginitaly.com

Pisa – blogginginitaly.com

Pisa - blogginginitaly.com

Pisa – blogginginitaly.com

So much for my activities, now how about you? I still haven’t had word from you and I am actually starving for want of something from home. What in the world has happened? If you wrote me even after I landed here, I should have received your letters by now. Fortunately, I have met many Americans who are traveling about the same itinerary as I am, and it has been a comfort because as long as we are Americans when we meet here, we have a feeling of being neighbors.

It’s easy to understand Alex’s growing concern for news from home, especially after more than three weeks. His tone now had a slight edge to it that came across even on paper. Fortunately, there was much to keep him busy and distract him, at least until writing time, which was usually late at night when he was tired.

I have given up hope of hearing from you until I get to Rome now, but I hope to God I’ll get mail there, otherwise I’ll go nutty. I am starting to miss you more every day and the only medicine good for it is a letter from you. So good night and pleasant dreams. Love to the children and a big kiss for you, Al

Ciao,

Judy

 

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