My Tribute to Mama Sanfilippo

I met many wonderful people while in Sicily but one woman, Mama Sanfilippo, stands out. I would be remiss if I did not tell the story.

Cousin Bernardo tracked me down, where else? On the Corso Garibaldi! He said “Andiamo, Let’s go. You are going to meet the Sanfilippo family.” I smiled and my mind wandered.

Ahhh! Two years ago, during one of our Skype phone calls, Bernardo said one of his childhood friends lives in Florida. I chuckled as he was always telling me “I know someone in New York City and his name is….” I tried to tell Bernardo that more than likely I wouldn’t know this person. So, I asked, “What is the town?” Much to my amazement, he said “Sebastian.” Sebastian is the next town north of me. So, he gave me the contact information, I called and introduced myself. We made plans to meet for lunch – Vito, his wife Pauline, my Vito and I. We had a wonderful time at Mulligan’s, overlooking the river.

Ironically, last year, while Vito and I were having dinner at a local restaurant, Counter Culture, we were very loud and laughing with the owner Chef Anthony Damiano. I looked across the room and said “Sorry” to a young couple. After dinner, they came over to the table and wanted to speak with Anthony. After introductions, the young woman said “With a name like Vito you can’t be bad. My Dad’s name is Vito.” As we continued talking and laughing, all the towns that our families were from were mentioned. When the town of Castellammare del Golfo was mentioned, my mind was going at warp speed. I asked the young woman, “Is your Dad, Vito Sanfilippo, from Castellammare and a friend of my cousin Bernardo?” She and I were both stunned. Nina knew all about my cousin. Unreal.

“Andiamo, stop daydreaming.” he said again. We drove to Bernardo’s home, stopped in to say “Ciao” to his wife, Francesca, then walked over to meet the family. Bernardo introduced me to everyone and then left. He did not tell me I was invited to lunch! Had I known, I would have brought over a bottle of wine!!

Giuseppina, Vito’s sister, was the hostess and had made a feast for lunch – pasta with meat sauce, salad, scrumptious olive bread, olives, chicken cutlets, fruit, and dolce!! It was like my childhood when everyone was eating, talking, gesturing and laughing, all at the same time! Of course, my lack of language came into play but Giuseppina’s grandchildren practiced their English with me. No need for the dictionary, yet.

The one person who remained calm during the entire afternoon was Mama Nina SanFilippo. She had a quiet grace surrounding her. I can’t think of another way to say it.

While having caffe normale, I asked permission to take some photos for Pauline and Vito back home. The only person I did not photograph was Salvatore, Vito’s brother, as he left right after lunch, which upset his mother.

Soon after, I was asked if I could walk Mama home across the street so she could rest. No problem. As I took her arm, I could feel she was still steaming mad and trembling. When we arrived, she changed her shoes and gestured let’s go. Mama had other ideas and resting was not one of them. Deep in my heart, I knew where we were headed. We walked with our arms wrapped around each other, as I didn’t want her to falter.

When we arrived at Salvatore’s home, we knocked and as he opened the door, I could see that he was stunned. He looked up and down the street for a car but I said “No macchina. Abbiamo camminato, No car, we walked.” I thought he was going to faint. He quickly directed his mother to a big comfortable chair.
After I was introduced to Salvatore’s wife and children and took a tour of their home, Mama Nina insisted the photos be taken. She was a funny and stubborn lady. I had a lot of fun especially when I brought out my dictionary!

Fast forward to August 2, 2017: I was very sad to see the Facebook posts by Nina and her sister Danielle saying a sad farewell to Mama Nina. In the short time I spent with her, I found her to be a very caring, loving, funny and special woman. “A presto Mama.”

Mama Sanfilippo

OMG!! The Restoration of Our Great-grandfather Lorenzo Milanos’ Gravestone

In my last post, I had an ongoing discussion regarding our Great-Grandfathers’ gravestone with cousin Salvatore and my friend Enzo.  This post is the continuation and result of our conversation.

February 4, 2017, Celia to Salvatore
Hi Salvatore, thank you so much for doing this. It is great news!! This past November, I exchanged $’s for Euro, so I have Euros. Please let me know where you want me to send them. If you are able to speak to the head of the cemetery, please ask if he received my 2 letters. I understand that they are not responsible but if I did not have you to contact them, I would not know what the procedure was (communication with the municipality, Fontana, etc).
Ah, your Mother’s birthday.Both she & my sister Laurette were born on March 10th.
Have a wonderful Sunday!! Kisses!

February 4, 2017, Salvatore to Celia
Hi Celia, I’m going to go to Castellammare for my mother’s birthday. It’s incredible your sister was born the same day.
I told Fontana I will give him the money when I will be in CdG. I’m speaking with my friend on Monday. I would ask him if our great grandfather is at risk to be removed from his grave. Send me a copy of your letter. I hope to fix everything. Have a nice week end.

February 4, 2017, Celia to Salvatore
Hi Salvatore, do you want me to send the money to you at the Via F…. address or to you at your home? Here are the 2 letters to the cemetery (they are the same). Only one is specifically addressed to Maurizio Cassara.
Also, by the way, our great-grandfather is NOT listed in the cemetery records. I find this very strange. Tell your friend he will have a big battle on his hands & the mayor’s hands if they move him. I will pay the fee to keep him there. But I know you are a good negotiator & will hopefully fix this. You can claim my ignorance of Italian rules of the community. Have a good weekend.

June 25, 2016 and September 11, 2016
Signor Maurizio Cassara
Cimitero di Castellammare del Golfo
Via Euclide
91014 Castellammare del Golfo, Trapani, Sicily, Italy

Ciao Signor Cassara,
Ti ho incontrato lo scorso maggio, quando mio cugino Bernardo Como mi ha portato al cimitero di pagare i miei rispetti a molti membri della famiglia. (Milano, Vivona, Galatioto, Cartiera, Giliberti).
Avevo chiesto nella posizione del mio bisnonno Lorenzo Milano che è morto 8December1939. I record non hanno mostrato la sua posizione.
Per fortuna mia cugina Maria Ciaravino Milano (vedova di Lorenzo Milano morto 6 ottobre 2010) mi ha mostrato la tomba del mio bisnonno.
[Quando si lascia l’edificio per uffici, girare a destra e proseguire a piedi fino alla fine del marciapiede (al secondo cancello chiuso). È su quel muro. Sono compresi una foto.]
L’incisione sulla pietra è sbiadito in modo che sia molto difficile da leggere.
Le scrivo per informarsi sul processo e il costo per la pulizia e il ripristino lapide del mio bisnonno.
Il vostro aiuto in questa materia sarà molto apprezzato.

Molti saluti,

February 17, 2017, Salvatore to Celia
Hi Celia, how are you? I hope you are fine. Today I spoke with my friend in CdG and I was guaranteed about our grandfather’s place. I will speak next Monday with Fontana to proceed with the work on the tombstone. Next month, when I will go in CdG, I will choose the vase.
Sorry if I have not written to you but I’m very busy with my job. Now some moments of relaxation, as I am going to listen to some live music. Have a nice w. e.

February 17, 2017, Celia to Salvatore
Hi Salvatore! We are doing well. How are you & your sons? I am so happy to hear that our binonno will stay in his grave. I will send the Euro out this week so you will have it in time to meet with Fontana. I will send it to you in care of your Mom. Enjoy the music and have a wonderful weekend.

February 17, 2017, Salvatore to Celia
I think it’s better to send money to my office. Here is the address…

February 28, 2017, Salvatore to Celia
Hi Celia, I received your money a few minutes ago. I didn’t understand the reason about 20 Euros plus. I’m going in CdG next Saturday (10 March). I hope to send you photos of tombstone. Kisses

February 28, 2017, Celia to Salvatore
Hi Salvatore! I am happy you received the mail.
OK. About the 20 Euro. If I hire a company to do work, an employee will come to do the job. I pay by bank check to the company. If the employee (worker) does a good job, I will give that person a gratuity (tip) in cash in their hand (that the boss does not need to know about. HaHa, since you are a boss, you may not like to hear this!!!) The same as when you go for espresso & a cornetto. If it is considered inappropriate, then use it to buy some dolce for your Mom.
I look forward to seeing the photos. Many many thanks!

March 12, 2017, Salvatore to Celia
Tomorrow I’m going to choose the flowers case.

March 12, 2017, Celia to Salvatore
Dio mio!!! Fontana did a wonderful job!!!! Thank you!!! Grazie!

March 13, 2017, Salvatore to Celia
Which do you prefer?

This one? or this one?     


March 13, 2017, Celia to Salvatore
The 2nd one. It will look beautiful on the cleaned tombstone. Thank you so much for doing this.

March 14, 2017, Salvatore to Celia

Great-Grandfather Lorenzo Milanos’ restored gravestone

March 14, 2017, Celia to Salvatore
OMG!! Dio mio!! Beautiful!!! I am crying, I am so happy!! Grazie Salvatore
Salvatore…when I was at the cemetery, Maurizio Cassara could not find the record for our great-grandfather. I do not know why. Possibly from the war, as records could have been destroyed. Do you know, if it is possible to obtain the location or plot # of his grave??

March 14, 2017, Salvatore to Celia
I understand. Today I was with the boss of the cemetery, a friend of mine, and Maurizio. He knows all about our great grandfather. You can take it easy our great grandfather can rest quietly.

March 14, 2017, Celia to Salvatore
Ok. Wonderful!! I am happy that great-grandfather Lorenzo can rest where he is. Thank you!! If it wasn’t for you, this would not have been possible.

“Conversations” with Salvatore & my friend Enzo Regarding Cemetery Gravestones

Continuing our conversation…..I know cemetery gravestones are not a normal topic of conversation, but it is a necessary one.

As I stated before, I told Salvatore the highlights of my trip and what I learned during my visit to Castellammare del Golfo and Calatafimi of the family history. Salvatore was astonished and sad to learn that our great-grandfather was “left at the wheel”, abandoned at birth.

He also didn’t know that his mother had to show Bernardo and I the grave because we couldn’t find it, due to the deterioration of the stone. So now, the grave of our great-grandfather Lorenzo Milano was the main topic.


January 25, 2017, Celia to Salvatore
I am hoping that you can help me solve this issue.

Several times Bernardo & I went to the cemetery in May & could not find our great-grandfather’s grave. I knew it was in a mausoleum but could not remember where your Father took my sister Laurette & me many years ago.

Your Mom said she would show us & she did. When I saw the stone I knew why I couldn’t find it. In addition to being vertically challenged (short), the stone was faded.

When I came home to the U.S. I wrote 2 times to Maurizio at the cemetery. He never answered me. I also asked Felice & I heard from him yesterday via facebook – “I lavori non li farà il Comune. Devi fare tu i lavori, devi pagare tu per il lavoro”. “Work will not be done by the municipality. You have to do the work, you have to pay for the job.”

How can I have the work done to restore the stone? And yes, I will pay the fees. I am attaching the 2nd letter to the cemetery which includes the photo. {Inserting English only}
September 11, 2016
Signor Maurizio Cassara
Cimitero di Castellammare del Golfo
Via Euclide
91014 Castellammare del Golfo, Trapani, Sicily, Italy

Ciao Signor Cassara,
I met you this past May when my cousin Bernardo Como brought me to the cemetery to pay my respects to many family members. (Milano, Vivona, Galatioto, Cartiera, Giliberti).

I had inquired into the location of my great grandfather Lorenzo Milano who died December 1934. The records did not show his location.

Fortunately, my cousin Maria Ciaravino Milano (widow of Lorenzo Milano who died October 2010) showed me my great grandfather’s grave.

[When you leave the office building, take a right turn and walk to the end of the sidewalk (to the second closed gate). It is on that wall. I am including a photo.]
The engraving on the stone has faded so that it is very hard to read.

I am writing to inquire about the process and cost to clean and restore my great grandfather’s grave marker.
Your help in this matter will be greatly appreciated.
Molti saluti,

Great-grandfather Lorenzo Milano’s gravemarker
Gravemarker for Great-Grandfather Lorenzo Milano in Cimitero Comunale (Via Euclide – 91014Castellammare Del Golfo(TP))








January 25, 2017, Salvatore to Celia
Hi Celia, I wanted to tell you that the work to fix the graves is done by relatives and not the municipality. With us, it is so. If you want to do the work inform me. In recent months, my mother told me that the city needs to release the posts and that there could be a risk that he will be moved to the common ossuaries.

January 26, 2017, Celia to Salvatore
Hi Salvatore, Thank you for all the information. Yes, is it possible to have the stone cleaned? Or should I wait until I visit to arrange it??

What does your mother mean by “the city needs to release of the posts and that there could be a risk that they take him away to put him in the common ossuaries.” !@#$%^&*()

Do I need to pay a fee to keep him where he is? If so, please let me know, as I will pay it. I have heard from people in my genealogy group that if fees are not paid, then the bones are dug up and put in a mass grave. Therefore no one knows where their ancestors are buried. I will NOT have that happen.

January 28, 2017, Salvatore to Celia
Hi Celia, how are you? I hope you are fine. I’m going to be calling a person in Castellammare and I hope to know if is better to clean or to do a new stone. I will try my best but I don’t live in Castellammare so isn’t easy planning. I hope to give you some news soon.

I don’t know if is possible to pay a fee to keep grandfather there. I think it’s a good idea to replace the headstone. If the municipality sees that there are relatives who are interested, they will not take him away.
I hope to give you more next week. Have a nice week end.

January 29, 2017, Celia to Salvatore
Hi Salvatore, Thank you!! I would also think that the fact that your mother places flowers every week shows that the relatives care & are still living in town.

While I was in Castellammare, I met a gentleman who knew your Father & knows Bernardo. We had espresso many mornings at Cafe Garibaldi. We have been corresponding via Facebook & his name is Enzo….. Do you want me to ask him for guidance about this?? He may be able to give us more information as he lives in CdelG.

January 29, 2017, Celia to Enzo (translated from Italian)
Hi Enzo, I hope you and your family are well. While I was in Sicily I tried to inquire about the process for cleaning up and restoring my great-grandfather’s stone without success. Shortly after my return from Sicily, I had a wonderful surprise, I received an email from my cousin Salvatore, whom I did not meet. I’ve been corresponding with him. I told him about the tombstone. He said it was up to the family to do the repairs. I said good, please let me know and I will make the payment. But he recently wrote to me and said the following: In recent months, “my mother told me that the city needs to free up places and that there might be a risk that it will not put it in common ossuaries.”

Does this mean that they remove the bones to another tomb? I’m so upset! What can I do? Any guidance from you is so much appreciated.

Celia post scriptum Thanks to God for Google translate!

January 30, 2017, Enzo to Celia
Dear Celia, As regards the question about the cleaning and restoration of the tombstone, the municipal law orders all owners maintenance of the graves, that is, cleaning and restoring the tombstones.

Presently, the Mayor has decided to deprive the bones of the deceased who have not been honored by relatives for a long time. Christian bones are deposited in a common ossuary. I think and suggest that we must anticipate the Mayor’s decision and arrange the cleaning and replacement of the tombstone as soon as possible, hoping that by doing so and noting the maintenance the Mayor will not remove the bones.

I think that you will be in Castellammare again this year and I will be honored to try to solve this problem together. I want to ask you if you have a picture of the gravestone and its coordinates to find it so I can make sure it is still in place. Happy to be helpful with my suggestions, I send you a warm greeting together with your loved ones.

January 31, 2017, Celia to Enzo
Dear Enzo, I never received a reply from Maurizio from the cemetery. Is there a business in Castellammare doing this job? Hugs. Celia

January 31, 2017, Enzo to Celia
Dear Celia, today with the sun and the clear day without rain, I was at the cemetery. I had trouble finding the tomb because of my low vision.

In any case, I have been informed about the maintenance and cleaning of marble gravestones at the cemetery. The right way is to entrust it to the specialist company for these jobs. Only the specialist firm can do these jobs because it is registered with the municipality and is authorized to do all this. The path to follow is as follows: 1) fill out a printed “form” that is already in my possession; 2) Make a deposit of Euro 25; 3) Make the stamp of execution by signing the Mayor; 4) Make a cost estimate by the specialist company and then let him do the job. So only the specialized firm and not the private citizen can do these jobs.

As you need to start your work, you need your signature and identity document, I think it would be appropriate when you’re in Castellammare to complete everything. One of the companies specializing in these works is just beside the cemetery, that is, the Fontana company. He is a very good professional and I think he should be entrusted with the job. A hug, Enzo

February 3, 2017, Salvatore to Celia
Hello Celia, Today I spoke with Fontana and told me the price is 200 euro for cleaning the grave. The price also includes communication with the municipality and a new vase for the flowers. I was hoping to also talk to the director of the cemetery but these days he is not at work. I’m going to CdG on March 11. Kisses

More to follow ……


“Who is this cousin Bernardo? Why didn’t you mention him before in your blog?”

Everyone is asking me “Who is this cousin Bernardo? Why didn’t you mention him before in your blog?”  So in answer to your many questions……. 

2016-May. At the Belvedere in Castellammare del Golfo. Photo by C.M.

After my sister, Laurie and I left Italy, cousin Vera, from Rome, Time To Meet Cousins  and I continued communicating via email.

One email had a request. Vera wrote that another cousin, Bernardo, her mother Maria’s nephew, who lives in Germany, heard about our surprise visit in Rome and was asking for my contact information.  Vera wanted to ask if she could give him my telephone number, as he does not have a computer.  I said “Of course. But you know that I do not speak any Italian nor German!”  Vera told me that he spoke the Sicilian dialect, English and German, so do not worry.  Shortly after, Bernardo called me and we began our continuing conversation about the family.

Also, at this time, I was also beginning a photo scanning project. After Mom passed away, I found a box of old photos that she had stashed away at the back of her closet. I don’t believe she even knew they were there, as she had inherited them from Grandma Milano, her mother-in-law.

Sadly, I never knew about these photos and wished I had. Maybe Mom would have known who some of these folks were.

I told Bernardo about the photos and that most had no writing on the back.  Of course, Grandma Milano knew who all these folks were, so there was no need to identify everyone!  



Bernardo told me to send him copies and he will try to obtain the information. A couple of months later, I received my self-addressed envelope back with the information for the majority of the photos, mostly of the Milano’s.  I believe the other photos, were of various members of Grandma Rosaria’s family (Vivona). Thanks to Bernardo, more pieces of our family history were uncovered.



P.S. These photos have yet to be identified. 








Grandma Sarah Vivona Milano sitting on far left. Everyone else ????

My last full day in Castellammare del Golfo

Up at 6:00am. Walked to the Corso and had cappuccino & a wonderful tort at Café Cucece this morning, as Cafe Garibaldi is closed. Plus I bought some sweets for Maria later today.  I watched the construction crew work on the building renovation and was sad to see the swallows still flying around looking for their nests.

Swallow nests under a balcony
Swallow nests were destroyed during renovation.





After breakfast I walked down the Corso, over the bridge to the castle and beyond and took more photos.

Water View from Piazza Vincenzo Santangelo
Piazza Vincenzo Santangelo





Harbour View from Piazza Vincenzo Santangelo
Lost at Sea Memorial in Piazza Vincenzo Santangelo









Then went to Plaza Europa to the fruit vendor for strawberries. Afterwards, I  saw the fruit vendor truck and purchased peaches for Maria.

Plaza Europa fruit vendor
Traveling Fruit Vendor






Went shopping for a few souvenirs along the way and saw a small shop that caught my eye, as it had large lighthouses out front. It is Sikelia Sicilian Souvenir Shop and the manger is a wonderful young man named Leonardo.

Leonardo and Cristina at their shop Sikelia







 His surname is the same as my cousin Maria’s maiden name and I asked, as all genealogists do, if they were related.  He said no, but aren’t we all related in some way?  A very wise young man. It was a pleasure talking to him. 

I saw Bernardo and he was on his way to go swimming. He asked if I was packed and ready for my return home. NO!

My next stop was to Maria’s for lunch with her & Renzo – macaroni with zucchini sauce and tomatoes, then grilled potatoes and lamb, fruit (those wonderful blackberries) and peaches, cookies (including arancia). TDF!! While eating the pasta (which Maria handmakes fresh everyday), I closed my eyes as I was enjoying the flavors!! Maria thought I needed to sleep (dormire is what I heard). I laughed and told Renzo to please tell Maria that lunch was wonderful and I was in heaven, savoring every bite!! We all laughed!!! I spent most of the afternoon with them. It was a joy to be there. 

Walking back to the B&B, I stopped at the Villa Margherita (Comunale) and took more photos there & along the way.  

View of the harbour from Villa Comunale
Banyan tree in Villa Comunale
Gardens inside the Villa Comunale
Monument inside the Villa Comunale













Plus, since Vernaci is right across the street from the Villa Comunale, I had to stop at Vernaci for a delicious gelato!!

When I arrived back at the B&B, I saw Felice, his parents and my cousin Maria Elena (Felice’s wife). They stopped by the wish me “Buon Giornato”.

Another wonderful day!! I’m sad to be leaving.

A Great Day – Café Garibaldi and San Vito Lo Capo

At this point in time, I did not realize that word had spread throughout the town of my family history search.  Nor that people noticed that I had my coffee at the Café Garibaldi on the Corso Garibaldi every morning but Wednesday, when it was closed.

Corso Garibaldi
Corso Garibaldi
Corso Garibaldi
Corso Garibaldi







So, I was surprised when I arrived at the Café Garibaldi, and was greeted by two older gentlemen. I was asked by one, if I spoke Italian. I said unfortunately no. He introduced himself as Leonardo Galatioto and his brother Felice. They have a sister in Floral Park NY. One gentleman is a retired police officer, who spoke some English. I told them that my “parenti” came from Castellammare del Golfo.

[Note:  My grandfather, Rosario Milano’s mother was Anna Galatioto (daughter of Rosario Galatioto and Catherine Sceusa). I wondered if they were of this lineage. Add to that, I recently received a copy of my parents’ NYC marriage record, which shows a Rosario Galatioto as Dad’s best man.]

Leonardo and Felice asked to see my family tree chart and the book. While perusing, they told me that I may want to check documents, especially the city directories, at the library. But said the archivist is on vacation until Monday.

They were amazed at the amount of information I had. Plus, when they saw the photos, they were surprised to see my cousin Lorenzo, who had recently passed away, as they were friends. They hugged and kissed me.  My friend Enzo also joined us for caffé normale.

Cousin Bernardo also joined us. He said we will take a drive to the sea town of San Vito Lo Capo. I wanted to go back to this town as my sister and I enjoyed it many years ago.  It is beautiful there and very relaxing. 

Plus, I wanted to take photos of the inside of the church, Santuario San Vito Lo Capo.

Inside the Santuario (Church) in San Vito Lo Capo
Inside the Santuario (Church) in San Vito Lo Capo
Grotto inside the Santuario (Church) in San Vito Lo Capo
Grotto inside the Santuario (Church) in San Vito Lo Capo







Back in Castellammare del Golfo that evening for a delicious pizza at Mama Cocha and gelato from Vernaci next door at Villa Comunale Regina Margherita.

Another wonderful day!!!!

Locating the grave of our Great-Grandfather Lorenzo Milano

The only photo that I have seen of Great-Grandfather Lorenzo Milano
The only photo that I have seen of Great-Grandfather Lorenzo Milano

I was excited about today. It was the day that my cousin Maria (Bernardo’s Zia) was going to show us where our great-grandfather was buried. Bernardo and I were at the cemetery 4 times & could not locate the grave. We looked above ground at the mausoleums & below ground in the catacombs. But I remembered the grave being above ground. We even went to the office to inquire of the records but there was no information, nada. How was that possible??

I could kick myself, as 17 years ago when cousin Lorenzo brought Laurie & I to the cemetery, we saw the grave. I even took notes of each grave that we visited. I wasn’t bold enough to take photos at that time. I have since learned to do so.

Cimitero Comunale (Via Euclide - 91014Castellammare Del Golfo(TP))
Cimitero Comunale (Via Euclide – 91014Castellammare Del Golfo(TP))

Bernardo picked me up and we drove to cousin Maria’s home. We had café’ normale and then piled into the car & drove to the “Cimitero Comunale” on the other side of town.  Maria reminded us that each week she changed the flowers at her father-in-laws grave.

Once we arrived, Maria moved quickly through the cemetery. She started rolling one of those huge “library” ladders & started to climb up. All we could do was hold her & the ladder. Bernardo fetched the water & I handed Maria the flowers.

Mausoleum wall where our Great-Grandfather Lorenzo Milano rests
Mausoleum wall where our Great-Grandfather Lorenzo Milano rests

But, there it was. No wonder I couldn’t see it. For those of you who know me, I am vertically challenged, aka short.

Plus the inscription on the stone is faded. 

Gravemarker for Great-Grandfather Lorenzo Milano in Cimitero Comunale (Via Euclide - 91014Castellammare Del Golfo(TP))
Gravemarker for Great-Grandfather Lorenzo Milano in Cimitero Comunale (Via Euclide – 91014Castellammare Del Golfo(TP))






I couldn’t thank Maria enough. After paying our respects, I went with Maria to her husband, my cousin, Lorenzo’s mausoleum. We swept out the dust, watered the plants, changed the water in all the vases & added fresh cut flowers. We visited all the other family graves.

The office was closed when we were leaving but when I returned home, I wrote to Signor Maurizio Cassara inquiring into the process and cost to clean and restore my great grandfather’s grave marker.  I have yet to hear from him.

In & Around Castellammare del Golfo

When I arrived at the Café Garibaldi this morning, I was greeted by the owner Vito & sat outside. A little while later, I was joined by a gentleman, Enzo, who is a childhood friend of my cousin Bernardo.


What a wonderful man. He is a retired IT (Information Technology) professor. When I told him I was a retired mainframe computer programmer & web designer, we both laughed. We had a very enjoyable morning discussing tech. He also asked to see the charts & book I had as people had told him why I was here. I laughed again, as I was brought up in a larger city where everyone did not know your name nor your family.

Cousin Bernardo tracked me down & said “Andiamo”. Today he decided that it was time to go for a drive!! He told everyone we would be gone all day.

So, he drove us to see the Cathedral at Monreale (gorgeous)…..

First view of the Cathedral
First view of the Cathedral
Restoring & cleaning the facade of the Cathedral
Restoring & cleaning the facade of the Cathedral







Fountain in front of Cathedrale of Monreale
Fountain in front of Cathedral of Monreale


Inside Cathedral Monreale
Inside Cathedral Monreale
Another wall in the Cathedral
Another wall in the Cathedral






… then to Palermo to see the Capuchin Catacombs and Theatre Massimo.

Outside of Teatro Massimo
Outside of Teatro Massimo
Foyer of Teatro Massimo
Foyer of Teatro Massimo







We had a wonderful lunch at Spinnato’s (spinach rice cake, tea & sfogliatelle). The sfogliatelle was so delicious – to die for!!

Another exciting day in Sicily!! 

Later that night I took a walk which led me to Mama Cocha for a delicious late night snack – an outrageous small pizza. And of course, one scoop of gelato from Vernaci.

Gelato at Vernaci
Gelato at Vernaci

Finally!! My Long Awaited Trip – Part 2


Breakfast (café normale & a pistachio cornetto) at Café Garibaldi where I met a gal & her Mom. After introductions, I learned that she works with refugees in northern Italy. Her Mom is French, married an Austrian & divorced. They asked why I was here & I showed them my paternal family chart & my book. They were fascinated. The gal said she knows nothing of her father’s family & maybe she should start asking questions. They’re here for 4 days, a long weekend.

Word has gone out that my family is from here & I am researching my roots. So now, folks are stopping by the café as they are interested in seeing my family tree chart & the book.

Bernardo met me on the Corso. He knew I was researching both family trees & tracked down a Vincenzo Vivona, who we met at another café on the other side of town.

Signore Vincenzo Vivona
Signore Vincenzo Vivona

Vincenzo is from another branch of the Vivona’s & gave me his sister’s name & address in Brooklyn, as she may know more info.

Along the drive, we saw lots of motorcycles & heard that there was going to be a blessing of the helmets.

We drove out to cousin Lorenzo’s vineyard. I was very sad to hear that the vineyard was sold as my sister Laurie & I had many happy times there. 

The Vineyard in 1999
The Vineyard in 1999

Bernardo said cousin Maria was waiting at his house, so he drove us there, saw Maria & Vincenza. Maria reminded me that I was invited to dinner today.  She’s such a lovley lady. She said we will go to the cemetery during the week to show us where our great-grandfather is buried.

We left with Maria & drove to both marinas – Alcamo & CdelG. The CdelG marina was packed with cars & you couldn’t get through – unreal – La passeggiata Domenica. So we walked.


Dinner at Maria’s – OMG – what a feast – homemade pasta, salad, grilled meat, potatoes & zucchini, plus many dolce.  I kept closing my eyes while eating & Maria thought I needed to sleep. I told her that I was in heaven & savoring each bite. Nothing like homemade spaghetti!!!   What a day!!!!!  

Maria's homemade spaghetti
Maria’s homemade spaghetti
More dolce - Berries
More dolce – Berries
Maria cooking dinner
Maria cooking dinner

I decided to walk back to the B&B so I could begin to digest that wonderful meal.

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!