During my visit to the Stato Civile in Calatafimi [see my previous blog “Dove sei Giuseppe Maria Vivona??] , I had the impression that word went out that an American was here inquire about her family. The reason I say that is because as Bernardo & I were waiting in line to speak with Signora Serafina, a facebook friend, Salvo, came running down the stairs.
I had texted him prior to my trip but didn’t state when I would be in Calatafimi. It was a pleasure to meet him. Salvo Mucaria, in addition to his friend Rosario Vivona, have posted many photos & histories of the town & its people. A truly wonderful project.
After leaving the Stato Civile, Bernardo & I walked around the mountain town. I really enjoyed the atmosphere there & the smell of fresh mountain air. It was something I missed after leaving Colorado many years ago.
I have been searching for information about my other great-grandfather Giuseppe Maria Vivona for two decades.
I’ll start with what I do know, the pedigree chart:
Here’s more information I found through my research:
As indicated on the above chart, he is the son of Salvatore VIVONA and Agostina BOLENA and was born in May 1865 in Calatafimi,Trapani,Sicily. He was baptized the same day in the San Giuliano Church by the priest Giuseppe Orlando. His godparents were Giorgio and Francesca Scianna.
His occupation was a barber surgeon.
He married Angelina GILIBERTI (born in Castellammare del Golfo July 1867 daughter of Michele and Girolama LaTorre) on 13 Nov 1889 at San Giuliano Parish in Calatafimi, Sicily.
They lived in Castellammare del Golfo and had the following children:
Salvatore VIVONA – born May 1891
Maria VIVONA – born August 1894 – married Antonino Bongiorno in CdelG January 1912
Michele VIVONA – born & died May 1896
Michele VIVONA was born May 1897 – married Anna Frazzitta in Palermo May 1921
Girolama VIVONA was born January 1899
Rosaria VIVONA was born Apr 1901
Giuseppe VIVONA was born February 1906
Elisabetta VIVONA was born on 8 Jul 1908
Angelina Giliberti Vivona immigrated along with her daughters Giroloma Vivona age 14 and Elisabetta age 5 on September 30, 1913 aboard the ship “SS Canada” into the Port of New York. Angelina was listed as a widow on the manifest. Two other children, Rosaria and Giuseppe followed afterwards.
Angelina died in November 1928 at the age of 61 at Harlem Hospital in New York City, NY.
So, what happened to my great-grandfather Giuseppe Maria Vivona???? I assumed that he died in Sicily, as the ship manifest indicated. But in my research I have learned that many women who immigrated listed themselves as widows if not traveling with a male family member. So did he really die in Sicily or did he live his life elsewhere apart from his family?
When I was in Sicily, my cousin Bernardo and I went to the Stato Civile in Calatafimi to speak with the clerk Signora Serafina, who has helped me via snail mail in the past.
She pulled the registry book for him but other than his birth and marriage, there was no other annotation. So he didn’t die in Calatafimi.
Previously I wrote to the Stato Civile in Castellammare del Golfo, as this is where he and Angelina lived and raised their children, but no records were found. But I visited it any way, but to no avail.
I also inquired at the Cimitero Comunale in Castellammare del Golfo with Maurizio Cassara, but there was no record.
During one of our morning coffee meetings, my friend Enzo recommended that I go to the Biblioteca and ask to see the city directory. So cousin Bernardo and I went there but the archivist was on vacation but would be back on Monday. Early Monday morning, before going for my morning café normale, I walked to la Biblioteca.
After being buzzed in, I spoke with a young librarian. I told her who I was looking for, my great-grandfather and gave her all the information I had. I said I didn’t care if he had many wives and other children. She laughed and said it was possible. She then told the archivist. The gentleman looked through from 1908 until 1935 but found no entry for Giuseppe Maria Vivona.
So where the heck is he??
I have written many letters to those with the surname Vivona in and around Castellammare del Golfo, Calatafimi, New York and New Jersey but received no response.
Newly found cousins in north Florida have been gracious in providing me photos of Angelina and her children. Plus cousin Kim and cousin Dede provided the photo of the painting of Angelina and Giuseppe that is posted at the beginning of the blog.
But we still have no clue as to where he lived and where he’s buried. Hopefully you, the reader, would know. If so, leave a comment. One day before I die, I would like to visit his grave.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!!!!
I decided to walk back to the B&B so I could begin to digest that wonderful meal.
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!!
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.
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!
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.
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.
Since my sister Laurie & I went to Rome & Sicily in 1999, and met our wonderful cousins, so many things changed. My youngest niece Lori lost her battle with cancer at age 34. My “road trip” older sister Laurie died the following year. Mom died 3 years later and my younger sister Sarah died 2 years after Mom.
So, for many years, I was deluged with paperwork & lawyers to settle all their life affairs. After my niece died without a will, I begged both my sisters to get wills, living wills, power of attorney for medical & finance. My sister Laurie saw the struggles I had with her daughters’affairs & did get a will, as did Mom, but Sarah didn’t. Things still popup now & then that have to be addressed.
[And as anyone who knows me, will tell you, I am always asking people if they have these 4 documents. I know, it does get embarrassing for my Vito. But it will save their family a lot of heartache & cursing!!]
I had planned 2 trips to Sicily but cancelled after Mom died and again after Sarah died.
Also, 2 years after Sarah died, in October 2010 I received a fax from cousin Bernardo informing me that cousin Lorenzo died. Now, I was devastated. I never saw Lorenzo again which is my biggest regret.
I joined the local Genealogy Society, volunteered to co-chair the Italian Genealogy Interest Group (GIG) & continued researching our family history. But as any genealogist will tell you, there are still many more missing pieces to the family history. As a matter of fact itis a never ending story!!! And Sicily was calling my name.
So, in response to Sicily calling to me, I answered. I told Vito I wanted to go back to do more research. He just rolled his eyes. I sent flowers to cousin Maria with a note that I would see her in May; called cousin Bernardo in Germany to tell him I was going to Castellammare del Golfo to do research; booked a room at Nonna Gio’ B & B (owned by cousin-in-law Felice); and booked my ticket on Alitalia.
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.
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!]
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.
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.
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.
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.
After a whirlwind time in Rome, I was very happy to get to airport, as Laurie and I were flying from Rome to Punta Raisi Airport in Palermo.
Palermo is NOT my favorite city for driving. And yes, I do know how to drive as I learned to drive in NYC. So, to see that traffic lights mean nothing, with vespas driving on the sidewalk to pass and then shoot out in front of you, would give anyone agita!
I was very happy to see the eastbound entrance of the A19, which turned into the A20. We were headed to Falcone (in the provence of Messina), where I booked a week of timeshare, which was a 3 ½ hour ride & 233 kilometers. The strangest part of the ride was when the autostrada ended at a mountain and we had to continue down to the sea road for 45K then back up to the autostrada. A hole wasn’t blasted through the mountain so the road literally stopped!!!!
Once we got to Falcone, we got settled & took off for a drive around. We got caught up in a traffic jam.
Back to the timeshare & we met folks from the U.K. All of us booked a ferry trip to the Aeolian Islands from the port of Milazzo for the next day.
The ferry ride was great as was the company & sea air. Vulcano was the first island that we all explored, including a dip in the sulfur baths!! And then onto Lipari.
We had a great first day & met some wonderful people!!
Well, the day had finally come for us to drive to our paternal Grandfather’s mountain town of Librizzi, north of Patti. It is a very small town of about 2000 people. We were going to meet Signore Cottone, the gentlemen I mentioned in my blog “Surprise From Librizzi Messina”.
Librizzi is about 12 miles from Falcone, with half of those climbing the mountain to the town. As we were driving, Laurie & I wondered how Grandpa Cottone ever got down the mountain in 1910 to board a ship from Naples!
We arrived early I wanted to go to the town hall to thank the clerk for sending documents to me. Plus we wanted time to walk in the town and drink in the atmosphere.
As we walked, we did notice that people kept glancing at us. After walking around, we sat in the shade resting.
At this point, a gentleman approached us to ask who we were. I told him we were of the Cottone family and were meeting Giuseppe today. I had the postal envelope with me which I showed him. He then motioned for us to follow him. He brought us right to the house.
We spent a wonderful day with Giuseppe and his lovely wife and daughter. I thanked him for responding to my original correspondence and sending the documents from the town hall. His daughter, Annalisa, was very kind and took us to the cemetery.
Of course, language was a problem, but Giuseppe solved that with a translation CD on his computer. (Folks: This was in 1999 before all the internet translation options).
To this day, we have not yet established a direct family connection.
Now, onto our adventure in the western part of Sicily.