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.
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.
Everyone at the Language School in Red Bank NJ knew of my research. The fact that I was there with an “incoming” letter in hand was unreal. They had all warned me that answers might not be forthcoming and that outsiders are not let in.
But one gentleman did reply. He is Lorenzo Milano and first cousin to Dad!! He said that he and many other family members [with the same and different surnames] received letters. They all went to Lorenzo to see if I was legitimate. He vouched for me as I had included information not included in official records.
Thus began a many year correspondence between us. But as time rolled on, I decided it was time to meet this wonderful man.
So, in April of 1998, I wrote to Lorenzo to tell him that my sister Laurette and I were planning a trip to meet him and his family. Really, I was planning it, as Laurette had never been out of the country!! I told Lorenzo that we would be in Rome for 4 days, then fly to Palermo and drive to my timeshare Falcone for a week [to visit Signore Giuseppe in Librizzi and see the town] and then drive to Castellammare del Golfo.
Everything was set, we left and arrived in Rome. But a funny thing happened while at the Hotel Quirinale.