OMG!! The Restoration of Our Great-grandfather Lorenzo Milanos’ Gravestone

In my last post, I had an ongoing discussion regarding our Great-Grandfathers’ gravestone with cousin Salvatore and my friend Enzo.  This post is the continuation and result of our conversation.

February 4, 2017, Celia to Salvatore
Hi Salvatore, thank you so much for doing this. It is great news!! This past November, I exchanged $’s for Euro, so I have Euros. Please let me know where you want me to send them. If you are able to speak to the head of the cemetery, please ask if he received my 2 letters. I understand that they are not responsible but if I did not have you to contact them, I would not know what the procedure was (communication with the municipality, Fontana, etc).
Ah, your Mother’s birthday.Both she & my sister Laurette were born on March 10th.
Have a wonderful Sunday!! Kisses!

February 4, 2017, Salvatore to Celia
Hi Celia, I’m going to go to Castellammare for my mother’s birthday. It’s incredible your sister was born the same day.
I told Fontana I will give him the money when I will be in CdG. I’m speaking with my friend on Monday. I would ask him if our great grandfather is at risk to be removed from his grave. Send me a copy of your letter. I hope to fix everything. Have a nice week end.

February 4, 2017, Celia to Salvatore
Hi Salvatore, do you want me to send the money to you at the Via F…. address or to you at your home? Here are the 2 letters to the cemetery (they are the same). Only one is specifically addressed to Maurizio Cassara.
Also, by the way, our great-grandfather is NOT listed in the cemetery records. I find this very strange. Tell your friend he will have a big battle on his hands & the mayor’s hands if they move him. I will pay the fee to keep him there. But I know you are a good negotiator & will hopefully fix this. You can claim my ignorance of Italian rules of the community. Have a good weekend.

June 25, 2016 and September 11, 2016
Signor Maurizio Cassara
Cimitero di Castellammare del Golfo
Via Euclide
91014 Castellammare del Golfo, Trapani, Sicily, Italy

Ciao Signor Cassara,
Ti ho incontrato lo scorso maggio, quando mio cugino Bernardo Como mi ha portato al cimitero di pagare i miei rispetti a molti membri della famiglia. (Milano, Vivona, Galatioto, Cartiera, Giliberti).
Avevo chiesto nella posizione del mio bisnonno Lorenzo Milano che è morto 8December1939. I record non hanno mostrato la sua posizione.
Per fortuna mia cugina Maria Ciaravino Milano (vedova di Lorenzo Milano morto 6 ottobre 2010) mi ha mostrato la tomba del mio bisnonno.
[Quando si lascia l’edificio per uffici, girare a destra e proseguire a piedi fino alla fine del marciapiede (al secondo cancello chiuso). È su quel muro. Sono compresi una foto.]
L’incisione sulla pietra è sbiadito in modo che sia molto difficile da leggere.
Le scrivo per informarsi sul processo e il costo per la pulizia e il ripristino lapide del mio bisnonno.
Il vostro aiuto in questa materia sarà molto apprezzato.

Molti saluti,

February 17, 2017, Salvatore to Celia
Hi Celia, how are you? I hope you are fine. Today I spoke with my friend in CdG and I was guaranteed about our grandfather’s place. I will speak next Monday with Fontana to proceed with the work on the tombstone. Next month, when I will go in CdG, I will choose the vase.
Sorry if I have not written to you but I’m very busy with my job. Now some moments of relaxation, as I am going to listen to some live music. Have a nice w. e.

February 17, 2017, Celia to Salvatore
Hi Salvatore! We are doing well. How are you & your sons? I am so happy to hear that our binonno will stay in his grave. I will send the Euro out this week so you will have it in time to meet with Fontana. I will send it to you in care of your Mom. Enjoy the music and have a wonderful weekend.

February 17, 2017, Salvatore to Celia
I think it’s better to send money to my office. Here is the address…

February 28, 2017, Salvatore to Celia
Hi Celia, I received your money a few minutes ago. I didn’t understand the reason about 20 Euros plus. I’m going in CdG next Saturday (10 March). I hope to send you photos of tombstone. Kisses

February 28, 2017, Celia to Salvatore
Hi Salvatore! I am happy you received the mail.
OK. About the 20 Euro. If I hire a company to do work, an employee will come to do the job. I pay by bank check to the company. If the employee (worker) does a good job, I will give that person a gratuity (tip) in cash in their hand (that the boss does not need to know about. HaHa, since you are a boss, you may not like to hear this!!!) The same as when you go for espresso & a cornetto. If it is considered inappropriate, then use it to buy some dolce for your Mom.
I look forward to seeing the photos. Many many thanks!

March 12, 2017, Salvatore to Celia
Tomorrow I’m going to choose the flowers case.

March 12, 2017, Celia to Salvatore
Dio mio!!! Fontana did a wonderful job!!!! Thank you!!! Grazie!

March 13, 2017, Salvatore to Celia
Which do you prefer?

This one? or this one?     


March 13, 2017, Celia to Salvatore
The 2nd one. It will look beautiful on the cleaned tombstone. Thank you so much for doing this.

March 14, 2017, Salvatore to Celia

Great-Grandfather Lorenzo Milanos’ restored gravestone

March 14, 2017, Celia to Salvatore
OMG!! Dio mio!! Beautiful!!! I am crying, I am so happy!! Grazie Salvatore
Salvatore…when I was at the cemetery, Maurizio Cassara could not find the record for our great-grandfather. I do not know why. Possibly from the war, as records could have been destroyed. Do you know, if it is possible to obtain the location or plot # of his grave??

March 14, 2017, Salvatore to Celia
I understand. Today I was with the boss of the cemetery, a friend of mine, and Maurizio. He knows all about our great grandfather. You can take it easy our great grandfather can rest quietly.

March 14, 2017, Celia to Salvatore
Ok. Wonderful!! I am happy that great-grandfather Lorenzo can rest where he is. Thank you!! If it wasn’t for you, this would not have been possible.

“Who is this cousin Bernardo? Why didn’t you mention him before in your blog?”

Everyone is asking me “Who is this cousin Bernardo? Why didn’t you mention him before in your blog?”  So in answer to your many questions……. 

2016-May. At the Belvedere in Castellammare del Golfo. Photo by C.M.

After my sister, Laurie and I left Italy, cousin Vera, from Rome, Time To Meet Cousins  and I continued communicating via email.

One email had a request. Vera wrote that another cousin, Bernardo, her mother Maria’s nephew, who lives in Germany, heard about our surprise visit in Rome and was asking for my contact information.  Vera wanted to ask if she could give him my telephone number, as he does not have a computer.  I said “Of course. But you know that I do not speak any Italian nor German!”  Vera told me that he spoke the Sicilian dialect, English and German, so do not worry.  Shortly after, Bernardo called me and we began our continuing conversation about the family.

Also, at this time, I was also beginning a photo scanning project. After Mom passed away, I found a box of old photos that she had stashed away at the back of her closet. I don’t believe she even knew they were there, as she had inherited them from Grandma Milano, her mother-in-law.

Sadly, I never knew about these photos and wished I had. Maybe Mom would have known who some of these folks were.

I told Bernardo about the photos and that most had no writing on the back.  Of course, Grandma Milano knew who all these folks were, so there was no need to identify everyone!  



Bernardo told me to send him copies and he will try to obtain the information. A couple of months later, I received my self-addressed envelope back with the information for the majority of the photos, mostly of the Milano’s.  I believe the other photos, were of various members of Grandma Rosaria’s family (Vivona). Thanks to Bernardo, more pieces of our family history were uncovered.



P.S. These photos have yet to be identified. 








Grandma Sarah Vivona Milano sitting on far left. Everyone else ????

Finally!! My First Full Day Back in Castellammare del Golfo

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!!

Cousin Maria
Cousin Maria

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.

Cafe Garibaldi for breakfast, meeting fellow travelers & meeting all the locals.

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!
Waiting for the daily fishing catch at the Harbour
Waiting for the daily fishing catch at the Harbour

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.

More next time!

Finally!! My Long Awaited Trip – Part 1


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.

We arrived at Felice’s Nonna Gio’ B&B

Nonna Gio' B&B Plus Storefront
Nonna Gio’ B&B Plus Storefront
Nonna Gio' B&B - Stairs
Nonna Gio’ B&B – Stairs

 I was shown 2 rooms, one on the 2nd floor & one on the 3rd floor. I took the 2nd floor room.




Cousin Bernardo
Cousin Bernardo


But before I settled in, cousin Bernardo arrived. It was great to finally meet him!  I was exhausted and just wanted to sleep. He told me to rest, as tomorrow he had many plans for me.  


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.

Sardinia, Palermo, Cefalu and Messina

Signora Rosa
Signora Carolina

A year before the Road Trip with my sister (1996), I had to book our timeshare for the next year. Since the timeshare is in Spain, we usually returned to Fuengirola for at least 2 weeks and had a wonderful time with Monika, Freddy, Zala, Seb, Gerardo and a cast of other characters.

But the next year I wanted to go to Sicily. I had never been there but something was pulling at me to go. Vito, not so much, as he enjoyed Spain. Plus a former colleague wanted to go.  So, I booked a week in Sardinia and a week in Cefalu.

So, in my Journey to Discovery episode (2nd), I mentioned writing to the Stato Civile in the Commune of Messina. Simultaneously, I went to the Italian white pages and did a search on the surname Cottone in Messina. I sent out some letters (what I call a mass mailing) and hoped I would receive at least one reply.

Fast forward, to May 1997: 2 days before we left for Sardinia and Cefalu, I received a reply to one of my letters!!!  I couldn’t believe it!!!  I wanted to reply, but decided that I would try to contact the Signora when we were in Sicily.  That letter burned a hole in my pocket the whole time we were in Sardinia.  The Emerald Coast is absolutely gorgeous!! We stayed at a wonderful timeshare in Cannigione (Sporting Hotel Tanca Manna).


After a week of soaking up the sun, time at the beach, finding great restaurants and exploring the island, it was time to fly from Olbia to Palermo. Since we had a 1 day lag between checking out of 1 timeshare and checking into the 2nd one, we booked into the President Hotel overseeing the port of Palermo.   How we got there was a miracle!!  There are NO street signs in Palermo, as they are embedded into the cornerstones of buildings!!  So, unless you drove on the sidewalks, which vespas were doing, you had no clue!!  As Vito was driving around in the city, an angel in the next car asked “Dove stai andando?” We all replied “Il porto”. She asked “l’aeroporto”. “No, porto”. She said “Vieni seguimi!” [Follow me]. Thankfully we arrived at the hotel.

During the course of the day, Vito, who is in the hotel business, did his networking among the staff. In speaking with the maitre d’, Giovanni, he happened to mention the letter I received right before we left. Giovanni took the information and called the family in Messina.  He told us that we were invited for Sunday dinner at their home!!!  OMG!!!  We couldn’t thank him enough.  I was stunned!!!!

Checked out the next day and drove to Cefalu to the Mazzaforno Sporting Club, our home base for the next week. We spent the day exploring in the town of Cefalu, especially the Piazza Duomo where the Norman Cathedral is located. It is absolutely breathtaking.

Norman Cathedral
Piazza Duomo


So, on Sunday morning, we started our trip to Contessa, a municipality of Messina. We drove on the A20 highway until the road was blocked by a mountain (yes, a mountain with no tunnel)!! We then had to take the sea road (a single land in either direction) for about 140 kilometers. Then back up to the A20 highway, which you can see from the sea road. Too weird!!

We stopped at an Agipe (petrol station) to ask for directions, but instead the attendant called the house for us and lo & behold our rescuer told us to follow him. When we arrived at the house it was a street party!!  They were barbecuing in front and the whole family was there to welcome us!!!  It felt like Christmas!! What a wonderful day with a loving family. After dinner, we then went to another cousin’s home on the Straits of Messina. What a fantastic day!! Grazie Signora Carolina e Signora Rosa.



Folks have been asking me about my research on my family tree. They want to know how long does it take? Shouldn’t be too long, no? I laugh….

It all started when I received a small package in the mail from my mother. When I opened the envelope, there was a note from my mother explaining the contents. It was a continuation of an old conversation regarding that timeless question “where did we come from” in Sicily? So, now I was intrigued. I had a million things going through my mind.  As I opened the envelope I saw a bundle of tissue paper. I gingerly opened it and found very old documents. I was so excited!!! It was like hitting the jackpot at Harrah’s!! (Maybe not to those who love the excitement of the casinos!!)

I carefully began to look through the documents. A few of them were so old and had been scotch taped (yes, I said that) together, that I was afraid to touch them. But what a treasure trove of information my mother had gifted to me. Included were birth, immigration and death certificates for my grandparents.

So, that was the beginning of my journey to try to answer the age old question of “where did I come from?”.  It has been over 20 years that I have been seeking relatives and asking questions of those both near and far.

Librizzi, Messina
The mountain town of Librizzi in the province of Messina

More next time…..