Finally!! My First Full Day Back in Castellammare del Golfo

I slept for 12 hours & finally felt human again. I got up, showered & dressed just in time as cousin Bernardo rang the bell to say we were going to visit his Aunt / my cousin Maria. I was thrilled!!!!!!! 

I know this is hard to understand, but when we started walking the streets of Castellammare del Golfo, I felt, as I did 16 years ago, that I was finally home again!!  Only 2 other people understand this feeling.

Along the way, Bernardo pointed out houses where various family members had lived over the decades. When we arrived at Maria’s, the house was the same, including 2 flights up to the main living area. 16 years after my last visit and Maria looked wonderful!!

Cousin Maria
Cousin Maria

She still had the flowers I sent the previous week, along with my note saying that I would be in town. We had “café’ normale” and visited for a short time. Maria was very gracious as I had a standing invitation for lunch during my stay.

As we continued our walk, Bernardo spoke to everyone along the way. I was always introduced this way: ”Cugina Celia dall’America, che di parenti hanno vissuto qui. Lei si sta occupando l’albero genealogico. E oh, lei non parla italiano” [Cousin Celia from America, who’s family lived here. She is researching the family tree. And oh, she does not speak Italian]. I heard this hundreds of times!!  Funny, but many people wanted to speak to me trying out their knowledge of English.  [More on this later.]

During our walk I met the family (Aunt Nina & Mama) of Vito SanFilippo, a childhood friend of Bernardo’s who lives near me in Florida. Another gracious invitation for lunch during my stay.

We walked back to the B&B and Felice walked me to the Café Garibaldi. He introduced me to Vito, the owner, so I could go there in the morning to have my breakfast. Yes, I’m staying at a B&B but the breakfast “B” is off the premises.

Cafe Garibaldi for breakfast, meeting fellow travelers & meeting all the locals.

Bernardo & I continued our walk. This time we walked to his home so I could meet his wife Vincenza. I was invited back for lunch. We continued our walking tour all around town. Back to Bernardo’s house for lunch where I also met his youngest son Alessandro (a young man of few words).  Vincenza made a wonderful lunch – pasta with white broccoli & sausage with oven-roasted potatoes.  This was my main meal for the day, as there was no way I could sit down & have my “normal” American dinner.

We continued our walking tour the rest of the afternoon until around 7pm when Bernardo walked me back to the B&B. I was exhausted but what a wonderful 1st day in Castellammare del Golfo!!!

The next day, I got up around 6am, showered, got dressed & walked up to the Café Garibaldi for my “café normale” (espresso), a cornetto (chocolate) & a glass of ice water (normal with the high-test espresso). I sat outside and watched the parade of people, shops opening & people looking at me (a stranger in town).  I had to be back by 10am as Bernardo & I could go to the car rental shop. When I arrived at the B&B, Felice and his wife, my cousin, Maria Elena were waiting. We drove to the rental place on the other side of town.

 At last, Bernardo & I took off in the car & went to the Cala Marina to watch the fishing boats come in & the folks line up to buy the fresh fish. What a wonderful experience!
Waiting for the daily fishing catch at the Harbour
Waiting for the daily fishing catch at the Harbour

Bernardo, of course, saw many people that he knew & talked & talked.  More espresso. I met a couple from California. Lisa, the wife, tells me that they live here fulltime & her husband travels back & forth to CA to check on his business.

Afterwards, we drove to the cemetery. We visited the graves that he knew. I took photos this time (which I didn’t do 16 years ago).  But no matter where we looked, both above ground & in the underground catacombs, we couldn’t find our great-grandfather’s grave. We went to the office & Maurizio (the manager) had no record of him.  I showed him my notes from my last visit but no record was found. A question for cousin Maria.

More next time!

Finally!! My Long Awaited Trip – Part 1


Finally!! Today’s the day!! And of course it was pouring this morning & Vito was upset because he was driving me to Miami today. My flight to Rome was scheduled for 8:35pm. I wanted to be at the airport by 5ish to go thru TSA security. I heard the lines are very long. I insisted that Vito stay the night in a hotel rather than driving 3 hours back.

Driving south on 95 the rain let up after an hour & the traffic wasn’t too bad. But of course, after we exited for the airport, the traffic at 12:30pm was bumper to bumper & it started pouring again. Plus people in Florida do NOT know how to drive in the rain. Unreal!!

By chance we found the hotel & checked in. At 5pm we took the airport shuttle. Vito wanted to make sure that I was okay & got to Alitalia. I had already checked-in online but had to check my luggage. Alitalia has a section for “Online Check-in Baggage Drop-off”, so within 15 minutes it was done, then through TSA & on my way to Concourse H.

Lots of people traveling & the plane was an Airbus 330 with 40+ rows of 8 seats. It was storming again as we were boarding. As soon as everyone was settled the captain announced that there would be a ½ hour delay and then again another ½ hour delay. I knew it wasn’t going to be good, as I had a 2.5 hour layover in Rome before my flight to Palermo. Finally, after 1.5 hours we were 18th in line for takeoff!!!

The crew was great as was my veggie meals & the onboard digital entertainment. I read, wrote, listened to music and watched a movie (The Intern – very funny). Plus I had an aisle seat so no climbing over people!  BUT, there were 3 small babies on the flight. And yes, I cursed when I saw them as I knew it would be a very bad night for me. [I was right as I did not get 1 minute of sleep!] They cried all night like a relay race – one, then the next & the last one.  12 hours of non-stop crying!! 


By the time we landed in Rome, it was 1:30 pm, I was exhausted!! Because of the delay out of Miami, I had 45 minutes to schlep from the international terminal to the domestic terminal, which was of course, at the other end of the airport!!  I had to go through a TSA check again plus go through customs. The customs line moved like a snail and I was beginning to wonder if I would make my flight!!  I finally got through, in less than a minute, and flew through the terminal. Unbeknownst to me, the gate had changed twice.  Alitalia Gate B is the furthest gate in the terminal!! I arrived at the gate soaking wet from running and got on line to board.

I arrived an hour later in Palermo, had to go through another baggage check for international travelers and then finally exit. Finally!! I saw the sign with my name and was greeted by my cousin-in-law Felice.  We had a lot to speak about on the drive to Castellammare del Golfo.

We arrived at Felice’s Nonna Gio’ B&B

Nonna Gio' B&B Plus Storefront
Nonna Gio’ B&B Plus Storefront
Nonna Gio' B&B - Stairs
Nonna Gio’ B&B – Stairs

 I was shown 2 rooms, one on the 2nd floor & one on the 3rd floor. I took the 2nd floor room.




Cousin Bernardo
Cousin Bernardo


But before I settled in, cousin Bernardo arrived. It was great to finally meet him!  I was exhausted and just wanted to sleep. He told me to rest, as tomorrow he had many plans for me.