Road Trip – Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily to Miami, FL

I know that I should have written this entry a while ago but…I’ve been trying to block it….you’ll understand when you read it….a bumpy road trip….

Corso Garibaldi

My last morning in Castellammare del Golfo and I was up at 3:30am, so I would be ready by 5:15am.  The first leg of my road trip. Felice, my cousin-in-law, was bringing me to the Punta Raisi aka Falcone-Borsellino airport in Palermo. He drove by Corso Garibaldi for me. By 6:00am, I said “A presto” (see you soon) to Felice and went through TSA in no time. On the quick flight to Rome, I had an espresso and cornetto.

Arrived in Rome, went through TSA and passport control then trekked to the farthest international terminal, of course!! Thankfully my checked luggage would have its’ own trek.

Once I arrived at the Alitalia gate, I checked on my seat assignment and waited to board the flight to Miami. A little while later, there was an announcement of a delay due to a strike of the French air traffic controllers. Really??

Now, those of you who have traveled know all about these strikes, especially in Europe!! They can be a P.I.T.A (rompicoglioni) and cause all kinds of travel nightmares.

As I waited, with another espresso, I thought of the time my younger sister Sarah and I went to the Seville Expo (Spain) eons ago. The day of our return to NY, via Madrid to JFK, there was a strike by Spanair in Malaga.  We had to re-book our flights and unfortunately had to stay in Torremolinos, on the beach, another two days!!!  A very big inconvenience! Vito laughed when I called him to ask him to call my boss and tell her the news. Mmmmm….maybe an extra day or two in Rome wasn’t a bad idea….

Two hours later, an announcement was made stating that the Spanish air traffic controllers will be taking over and we could board. Once everyone was settled and Alitalia turned on the in-flight entertainment, I turned my favorite news channel – BBC.

That’s when I heard that EgyptAir Flight MS804 crashed in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.  Holy #$!)  All  you could hear was gasping all around the plane. Except for a  young couple sitting across from me, who were still complaining about the delay. When I told them what happened, they continued complaining. I then said “Stop complaining. It could’ve been you”.  They finally shut up!!

Finally arrived in Miami!!  Then a 3 hour trek home!!

Time to Meet Cousins in Rome

Yesterday Laurie & I took the tours of St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican Museum & Sistine Chapel. We also went to the Trevi Fountain and the Roman Forum.  All the places Laurie said she wanted see. We also went to every espresso bar and many cafes to sample all the delicious food.

Trevi Fountain in Rome
Trevi Fountain in Rome

So, today we’re getting ready to take a cab to the train station to meet Alfonso. We’re excited and nervous at the same time. The young hotel concierge just told us that there is yet another train strike but “no problem getting a cab”.

We arrived at the designated station and shortly thereafter we were approached by a gentleman identifying himself as Alfonso, son-in-law of cousin Maria & accidental interpreter for the day. Alfonso is a Professor who teaches English!!!  Introductions were made – cousin Maria (sister to Lorenzo in Sicily & another 1st cousin to Dad), Giuseppe (husband of Maria), cousin Vera (daughter of Maria & Giuseppe & wife of Alfonso). We spent the day in a whirlwind!! We spent time in the town of Castel Gandolfo for sightseeing, lunch and had a wonderful time.

We also spent time at the home of Giuseppe & Maria. Maria was very excited to show us her photo album.  As we were perusing it, we saw a very familiar Polaroid photo – Laurie’s graduation from grammar school with me standing in front of her at the house in Yonkers!!! I remember seeing the photo at my parents’ house. So now we were curious as to how our photo made its way to Rome. Maria told us that SaSa (Grandma Milano) always sent photos of the family. I remember Grandma always had Daddy take extra photos but we thought maybe it was “just in case they didn’t develop correctly”. But the Polariod photos were the best as you could watch them develop right there!! But now we know better. Grandma was sending them to the family in Italy!!!!!  Who knew??

Laurie's grammar school graduation - with Grandma & Grandpa Milano
Laurie’s grammar school graduation – with Grandma & Grandpa Milano

No problem, but there was another reason: For all of my life Laurie kept telling me was that she had a Godchild in Sicily. Yeah, right!! I could never figure it out, since she never traveled there. So, over the years, when I inquired she told me that Grandma Milano said that if little Mariuccia came to visit us in New York, Laurie would be her hostess/sponsor “la madrina”. So Grandma was sending photos to Maria so she would know about Laurie’s life.

So now 50 years later, Laurie has finally met little Mariuccia!! She couldn’t believe it!!  She was ecstatic!!  Unreal!! I was very happy, as now the mystery of “little Mariuccia” had been solved. A great way to end a very beautiful day.

Maria & Laurie finally meet in Rome!!
Maria & Laurie finally meet in Rome!!

Another day in Rome then off to Sicily!!!

A Funny Thing Happened at the Hotel Quirinale in Rome!

I told my sister to select her bed, get freshened up and then we had things to do. She balked as her head was still spinning with all the sights and sounds coming from the Rome airport. She was eyeing the bed and giving me the evil-eye at the same time.

Two things were needed: First, strong coffee and then I wanted to speak with the concierge about how to obtain tickets for the St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican Museum & Sistine Chapel tours. These were the places Laurie said she wanted see.

St. Peter's Square - Preparing for 2000 celebration.
St. Peter’s Square – Preparing for 2000 celebration.

Ok, we’re out the door and on our way to the Espresso Bar. You’ve got to love the Romans – cars & scooters are lined up & running while folks run in, gulp down a shot of espresso & then are out the door!!

We found the ticket office and purchased tickets for the next morning’s Vatican tour. Laurie finally understood that, as a tourist, you cannot procrastinate while in Rome. You need to have your plans set and then you can pace yourself. We walked around the city and arrived at the Colosseum!!  Unbelievable!!

Laurie in the Colosseum in Rome
Laurie in the Colosseum in Rome

After our morning excursion, we head back to the hotel to rest. As soon as we entered our room, the phone rang. We just looked at each other, as only 3 people knew we were in Rome – my Vito, my niece Lori and our cousin Lorenzo in Castellammare del Golfo.

I answered the phone and a lady was speaking to me in that very fast-paced Italian. I said “Signora, no parlo Italiano”. She hung up. A few minutes later the phone rang again. This time it was a gentleman named Alfonso who was speaking English and was explaining to me that the Signora who called was the sister of Lorenzo in Sicily!!! She wanted to meet us and so arrangements were made.

When the call ended, Laurie just looked at me and asked what just happened. I told her that we will be meeting Lorenzo’s sister, Signora Maria and her family the day after tomorrow.

Little did we know what other surprises awaited us!!!!

A Reply from a Gentleman

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.

View from our room at the Hotel Quirinale in Rome
View from our room at the Hotel Quirinale in Rome