A grandmother is a mother who has a second chance

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Back to Italy !!

On Monday Ed and I head out on the first leg of another trip to Italy (and France). This one is going to be very different from other trips and very special. We get to meet family!

Several years ago, a distant cousin named Jean-Claude contacted my dad and his sister, Marylou, and told them he was their cousin. He lives in the south of France and has spent a lot of time researching family history and tracking down family members. I still remember my dad calling me to tell me about the letter he received from France. He was in tears while he was telling me. Apparently, my grandfather's family (my dad's and Marylou's grandparents) left their village of Pizzone, Italy in the late 1800's and migrated to Avignon, France. This was during a time when a lot of Italians were leaving for France, Brazil, U.S., and other countries to escape poverty and famine. My grandfather was born in Orogon, France, but went back to Italy as a young man when he entered the Italian army.

In fact, he went back to Pizzone where he met and married my grandmother. Then they all came to the U.S. in the early 1900's. Amazing that they were in their late 20's in this photo!

But a large portion of Grandpa's family stayed in France and those are the descendants we will meet. Grandpa died when in his early 50's (I was only 4 years old) so wasn't yet at the age to tell stories about "the old days". Plus my dad was at the age where he probably wouldn't have been interested.

But Jean-Claude told much of this story to dad in that first letter. Later he sent my dad some postcards that Grandpa had sent to the family as a young man in the army. They were all in Italian, but dad recognized Grandpa's handwriting and more tears flowed. Jean-Claude continued to send dad and Marylou photos, stories, family tree diagrams, etc. After my dad died in late 2007, I got Jean-Claude's e-mail address from my aunt and wrote to him. He responded quickly and warmly and sent a few additional photos and family stories. At one point I told Ed, "Wouldn't it be cool to visit him in France and then go back to Italy?" That was pretty much all I had to say - Ed was on it! When I mentioned this to my aunt she asked if she could come with us. I mean, it was her father who was born there! So the three of us are heading out next week for the trip of a lifetime.

We'll fly in to Milan and drive to Avignon where we'll spend four days touring the area with Jean-Claude. And seeing the house where Grandpa was born. Also, we will visit Aunt Maria who turned 100 years old in February. She actually remembers my grandfather - called him little Pasquilino. She was a young girl when he was a teenager!

After those four days we'll drive into Italy and spend 5 days in Tuscany (I know, it's quite a sacrifice!). Then the last two days we're going to spend in Pizzone exploring the village, checking out the cemetery and church records, taking in all we can.

Then we head home with tons of photos and hopefully some really good stories. As I said, the trip of a lifetime.


the thrifty ba said...

you are so lucky to have ed! have a wonderful, safe time! let me know when you find out how we are related!

Happy Hour...Somewhere said...

You have a fabulous time~! And take lots of pictures, too.

Mellodee said...

I envy you the trip! France and Italy in one "swell foop"! Not only two of prettiest countries in the world, but you find family when you get there! I know that there is German and Polish on my mom's side and Danish on my dad's, but that's all. No idea exactly where any of them came from or if there are any family members still there!! My ancestry seems to pretty much stop at Ellis Island.

judypatooote said...

Have a wonderful time....your very luckey to be able to travel with hubby, and to such a far away place...enjoy, and we'll wait for pictures when you get back...Oh to be able to go some place like Italy with my camera....of course I would love to visit Germany with camera in hand and check out some of my relatives...judy

Anonymous said...

Researching my Pizzonese family roots, I just read your blog.
I stay in France, Le Coteau where some Pizzonese settled at the end of the 19th.(Di Silvio, Savaiano, Di Virgilio). Some of them settled in Chicago after the WW1. Nicola Di Virgilio and his daughter, Angela.
They lived on St halsted St.
Are you relatives with them?

My address mail: cfalcon62@hotmail.fr