Goodbye Rome! Hello Sicily! (Part 2)

We had a great time sightseeing and meeting new people but it was time to say “Goodbye” to Falcone!. It was time to hit the road as we had a very special meeting scheduled later in the day. Laurie was in charge of the maps, kilometers & toll info.

Map starting from Falcone [Euro Atlas; American Map Corporation, Maspeth, NY]
Map starting from Falcone [Euro Atlas; American Map Corporation, Maspeth, NY]
On our drive west, we stopped in the town of Santo Stefano di Camastra, which is famous for its ceramics and pottery. I also wanted to stop in Cefalu to show my sister the town, especially the Norman Cathedral, which she loved seeing. We also went to my favorite jewelry store & bought bracelets.

We continued our drive to Castellammare del Golfo in western Sicily including having to go through parts of Palermo, which as you know from my previous blog, is not my favorite city to drive in. [It’s like driving in NYC but the traffic lights are ignored & the vespas just pop in/out from the sidewalk!]

Map continuing to Castellammare del Golfo [Euro Atlas; American Map Corporation, Maspeth, NY]
Map continuing to Castellammare del Golfo [Euro Atlas; American Map Corporation, Maspeth, NY]
We arrived at the designated bar, had some “café normale” and waited for our cousin Lorenzo. He is the person I referred to in my previous blog “A Reply From A Gentleman”.

Folks coming through the door looked like shadows from where we were sitting. But the minute he walked in the door, I saw the outline of Dad – the shape of the head, the shoulders, hips and height. It was very surreal. After hugs, kisses and more espresso, we were off. Lorenzo and his wife Maria were hosting us and we stayed at their beautiful house in town.  All the balconies had a view of the gulf. Absolutely gorgeous.

The Townhouse 1999
The Townhouse 1999

We were on a whirlwind. Lorenzo took us on a walking tour of the town showing us where all the family had lived.  We all piled into the rental car and went to small mountain towns for the view and to sample local delicacies; the sea town of San Vito Lo Capo; Scopello, Zingaro, and the cemetery to pay our respects.

Maria, Lorenzo and Celia in Scopello 1999
Maria, Lorenzo and Celia in Scopello 1999

He also invited some of the relatives that I had written to in my “mass mailings”. They all went to him when they received the letters asking who I was. He told them that I was Rosario’s granddaughter.

We met his son, Renzo, who speaks English. Most days, when we had dinner at the vineyard, Lorenzo & Renzo would talk about what we did that day. One time Renzo told me that his father was upset as when we was leaving after dinner to return to town, I did not make a full stop at the stop sign.  I said that there was a bull in the road and thought it best not to stop.  He laughed as his father said it was like a pet, very gentle.  Really!! I remembered for the next several days, as he was always in the road.

The Vineyard in 1999
The Vineyard in 1999

One evening cousin Renzo drove Laurie & I to Segesta. What a wonderful Greek temple and amphitheatre!! An absolute treasure!!

We had a wonderful time meeting Maria, Lorenzo and Renzo. They are such warm and loving people who opened their home, arms and hearts to family they never knew. The relationship continues to this day.

Begin Searching in Western Sicily

Simultaneously I had begun researching my paternal side. Based on the birth certificates I was given, I had written to both the Comune in Trapani and Castellammare del Golfo. No replies. Maybe my requests were not communicated properly. But I was not deterred.

castellammaredelgolfo-photo-by-CMilano
Castellammare del Golfo, Trapani, Sicily 1999 Photo courtesy C.M.

So, I went to the online Italian white pages and began entering all the surnames for Dad’s side of the family. There were many names listed, so I began comparing the names and addresses. As there were some duplicates, I eliminated them from the list. I then began composing my letter [introduction, explanation of my research, list of great-grandparents, their children and how I was related (nonno), their knowledge of this family, closing].  I then translated the letter from English to Italian using Babelfish as Google translate did not exist yet.  (Unfortunately, the Sicilian dialect is not available through Babelfish nor Google.)

I printed out 54 letters, signed them, addressed the envelopes and went to the post office. The postal clerks know me so they had the international stamps ready for me. I mailed them and now it was time to wait, again.

On Valentine’s Day 1998, I received an air mail envelope with Dad’s name in the upper left-hand corner. I froze. As I opened it, I saw that the letter was typed and written in dialect.  I tried to translate it as best I could but I knew I needed help.  So, I called The Language School and  got into the car.