A grandmother is a mother who has a second chance

Monday, April 26, 2010


One of the primary adventures of this trip to Italy was to visit the village of Pizzone where my grandparents (my aunt's parents) are from. They, and a lot of Pizzonese, emigrated to the US and other countries to escape poverty and lack of jobs. My family was among those immigrants.

We had booked a couple of nights at a farmhouse close to Pizzone, but our Garmin had trouble finding it. When it said, "you have arrived at your destination" we were on curvy mountain road with nothing insight. We drove a mile or so up the road and stopped at a pizzeria. Now, mind you, this is very rural Italy and not a tourist area. I went inside with a copy of the website for the farmhouse. The boy at the counter spoke a little English but didn't know where the farmhouse was. So he asked a young man who was up to his elbows making pizza dough - his name was Emilio. Emilio knew the farmhouse and said "Paolo?" "Si!" I said - I knew that was the owner's name. Emilio told us to wait 5 minutes and he would lead us there because it was too difficult to tell us directions. We waited and in 5 minutes out he came and off we went. We NEVER would have found the place without his help.

After we unpacked we drove to Pizzone. The town only has 350 residents this time of year - a few more come during the summer. It is a very small and quiet town. We walked up the main street which was lovely and tried to find the church where Grandma was baptized and where she and Grandpa were married. We saw a woman pulling in her laundry and asked how to get to the church. She spoke a little English, said her name was Adele, and told us to wait, she would be right down and walk us there! On the way to the church, she went to get another woman who apparently had the key to the church and could let us in. The five of us went into the church and they turned on the lights.

We got a tour through the whole church including the sacristy and the crypt. My aunt shed a few tears (as did I) - it was pretty emotional to be in this place with so much family history. We took photos by the baptismal font. Then my aunt asked the woman if we could get any info about Grandma's baptism and her marriage. The woman worked at the church and had access to the records so she said she would get those for us! I mean, what are the odds of us finding these people so randomly??

We planned to meet them the next day at 11am. On Sunday we got to the church at 11am and the woman was waiting for us with copies of documents about the baptism, the wedding, and even my grandmother's parents' wedding. It was quite amazing. Then she went into the church and dragged out a man who had just moved back to Pizzone after living in Chicago for 50 years. His name was Pasquale. He not only translated for us, but it turned out that he and my aunt knew a lot of the same people and places.

Mass was starting so we decided to go in. The woman we first found - Adele - gave the liturgy. The other woman passed the basket. We felt like we had friends in the church! It was so amazing to us. After Mass we were introduced to the priest and then Pasquale walked us through the the town showing us the homes of some of my aunt's cousins and friends. He also took us inside his house and introduced us to his wife. Then we went to the very small piazza and he found a man named Mario Grimaldi who turned out to be a second cousin to my aunt1

All in all, it was an amazing day. What could have been just a walk through a small town not knowing what we were looking for turned into a rich experience with charming people and a huge feeling of family.


the thrifty ba said...

what luck! actually, it was more than luck-'someone' was helping you find your family! i am so happy that you have found out so much! and to have pasquale help you out-isnt that your dads/grandfathers name?
let me know when you find some mannos on your family tree!

namaste said...

wow. when i grow up i want to be just like you and ed, real jet-setters you two!

and as usual your pictures and stories are great. as i read the sunglasses story, i was thinking why not just buy another pair, esp. if your aunt is such a shopper. but finding them 2 hours later was great!


Jenni said...

Absolutely amazing how that all worked out! What an experience.

Mellodee said...

I love hearing stories about happenstance that turns out to be more than was ever expected! I've had a few of them over the years, myself! All you can do is shake your head and keep muttering, "Amazing. Absolutely amazing!"

Your whole trip sounds amazing!! :)

Desert Diva said...

Talk about serendipity - what a wonderful experience you had in Pizzone!