Goodbye Rome! Hello Sicily! (Part 1)

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!!!!

Traffic Jam in Falcone
Traffic Jam in Falcone

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.

Port of Milazzo (1999)
Port of Milazzo (1999)
Laurie with Brits on Ferry (1999)
Laurie with Brits on Ferry (1999)

 

 

 

 

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.

Vulcano Sulfur Baths
Vulcano Sulfur Baths

We had a great first day & met some wonderful people!!

The next day the tour desk said we may enjoy going to Tindari and so we did. We saw the archaeological excavations and the Church of the Black Madonna. Both were breathtakingly beautiful.

Archeaological dig in Tindari (1999)
Archeaological dig in Tindari (1999)
Church in Tindari
Church in Tindari

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Librizzi, Messina
Librizzi, Messina

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.

 Piazza Catena in Librizzi
Piazza Catena in Librizzi

 

Piazza in Librizzi (1999)
Piazza in Librizzi (1999)

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.

Surprise From Librizzi Messina

Piazza Catena in Librizzi
Piazza Catena in Librizzi

Since we now knew that Grandpa Francesco Cottone was born in Librizzi Messina, I was very eager to find the address for the Comune asap.  So in November of 1998, I wrote to the Ufficio dello State Civile in Librizzi (98064 Librizzi, Messina Italy), requesting birth information for my grandfather and any other family documents. Simultaneously, I did a small “mass mailing” in Librizzi to anyone with the Cottone surname.

In December 1998, I received a letter from a Signore Cottone. He wrote that he was astonished and curious that someone from America was inquiring about the Cottone family.  He believes that we’re 3rd or 4th cousins (still yet to be determined). He also stated that while I waited to hear from the Ufficio, he included 2 birth certificate extracts!!!!  1 was Francesco’s and the other was for Anna Cottone, Francesco’s sister!!!  Another great-aunt!!

I was surprised that he and not the Ufficio was the first to send the certificates.  But the town is very small (recent population search shows approximately 1900 people) and when the letters arrived for each Cottone family, it must have been a surprise for all of them.  Shortly thereafter the Ufficio sent the same birth certificates along with my great grandparents birth, marriage and death information.

Signore Cottone also included a postcard showing the main piazza, Piazza Catena.

Thus began my correspondence with him……

Road Trip

Circa 1950 Laurie, Great-Aunt Carmela and cousin Michael at he farm in Port Jervis NY
Circa 1950 Laurie, Great-Aunt Carmela and cousin Michael at “the farm” in Port Jervis NY

I had called Margaret, introduced myself and spoke about the family and my research. We made a date to meet. Soon after, on a gorgeous Saturday morning, I drove 100+ miles to my sister Laurie’s house. After having coffee and talking, we set out. Laurie wanted to drive! Yikes!! My sister thought she was a great driver. It was a bumpy and terrorizing 100 mile ride to Port Jervis in New York.

Thankfully we found the house. A woman opened the door. He said “Hello, my name is Margaret, and my mother-in-law, Carmela, was the sister of your grandfather Frank”. Incredible!! We had a light lunch with wine and chatted. Margaret told us that there was a trunk in the attic. Then, the door into the kitchen and opened a man and two girls entered. Maragret introduced her son Michael and his two daughters. Incredible!! More cousins!!

After lunch, Michael brought the trunk down from the attic and opened a box nestled inside it. OMG!! There were many documents inside!! The most important – the birth certificate of Camilla(aka Carmela) Cottone!!! The city of birth listed was Librizzi Messina !! So, I know the city where my grandfather was born!! After this discovery, we went to the local cemetery to pay our respects to our relatives.

Later that evening on the way home, Laurie asked me “Now what?” I told her I needed to obtain the address of the Comuni in Librizzi, Messina, Sicily, Italy……