For us to go to Italy and to penetrate into Italy is like a most fascinating act of self-discovery back, back down the old ways of time. Strange and wonderful chords awake in us after many hundreds of years of complete forgetfulness.D.H. Lawrence
When I messaged the host of a Facebook group from the village of Volturara Irpina, it was a long shot. I was hoping to find someone who knew about my grandfather who had lived there about a century ago before immigrating to America. We were visiting Italy in a few weeks, and I thought a local connection would be helpful in driving to and touring his village in a remote and mountainous part of Italy.
To my surprise, I got a quick reply from the host, Edmondo Marra, the town historian, who was also a doctor and the former mayor. I gave Edmondo the facts–the names of my great grandparents, my grandfather’s birthdate and the approximate year they left Italy. He looked up the family records and confirmed that my branch of the Nardiello family had lived in Volturara for hundreds of years. He also offered to be our tour guide when we visited and most surprising of all, he told me that we were in fact cousins.
The trip to Volturara took us through Naples and further inland, deep into the mountainous province of Avellino.
It’s one of the poorest regions of Italy, decimated by successive waves of migration in the 19th and 20th centuries. During this time, over 1,000 people left my grandfather’s tiny village.
The paesani (the locals) say this part of Italy is unique, filled with legends and mysteries.
My new cousins Edmondo, his wife Elena, and daughter Maria Stella, gave us a warm welcome.
As we toured of the village, they introduced us to other relatives who invited us to their home for cake and coffee. The families are gracious and charming.
I’ll end this post with a moment from our visit when Elena took us on a hike to the highest point in town to see the ruins of a Lombard castle (San Michele) and the sweeping view of the valley (Piana del Dragone–the Plain of Dragons). Here, thousands of cows and sheep graze on the lush, green grass.
But where were the animals? We didn’t see any.
Then, we heard music and asked Elena where it was coming from. She laughed. “It’s the cow bells,” she said. “The cows roam free here.” One mystery solved.
I will always treasure our visit to these wonderful people in this remote and enchanting town. I am happy that we completed the immigration circle by connecting to the part of the family “left behind” in Italy. It gives me a greater appreciation of the sacrifices my ancestors made when they crossed the Atlantic, never to return home again. It’s my task to understand their world, their culture, their language, awakening, as D.H. Lawrence says, “strange and wonderful chords…after many hundreds of years of complete forgetfulness.”
My special thanks to Ann-Christine for giving us a wonderfully inspiring theme this week. You don’t want to miss her stunning images of the Sahara Desert. Last week, you delighted us with dozens of interesting objects! What a treat. I loved the variety, beauty, creativity, uniqueness, and quirkiness of your choices. Next week, it will be Amy’s turn to lead the challenge, so be sure to stop by The World is a Book next Saturday at noon to get the details.
In the meantime, I hope you have a safe and inspiring week!