Personal accounts, by
James C. Mancuso
Los Angeles, CA
with addenda by
| This account of the visit to Comunità Montana del
Lambro e Mingardo (located in Il Cilento region of the Italy's Provincia
di Salerno) is totally the responsibility of the authors, and does not
necessarily reflect the official views of any of the organizations associated with
the exchanges of visits and this world wide web site.
This account is divided into three sections. The first section was written by James C. Mancuso. That section contains a report of the beginnings of the effort to set up a Sister Cities relationship between the people of Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo and the people of Hazleton, up until the end of the first visit of the Hazleton delegation to Il Cilento region The second section, written by Molly Blasko, reports on reactions to the first visit of the delegation from Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo to Hazleton. The third section, also written by Molly Blasko, details the second visit of a Hazleton delegation to Il Cilento region.
For the convenience of the readers, many hypertext links have been built into the text of this account. By clicking the mouse on any of the links, the reader may connect to those world wide web sites that give more information on the topic that is linked. Some of the sites to which the links connect provide excellent photos of the locations under discussion. In some cases, more than one site contains relevant information. In such instances, the same term is linked more than once.
Millions of the citizens of The United States of America have responded to the announcement that they can go into the Ellis Island World Wide Web site to find information about their ancestors. Interest in studies of family genealogy has grown astronomically over the past decade. Books about the search for family origins have become best sellers. In effect, citizens of The USA have determined that they can enjoy the process of "reconnecting" to the history of their forebears. Citizens of The USA have concluded that their family history did not begin on the day that their forebears arrived in The USA. In short, citizens of The USA are discovering the benefits of "reconnecting" to their family's pre-immigration history.
The specific "reconnection" adventure that I will describe in this essay began in the spring of 1999. My wife, Susan, and I had arranged to have our three young ones and their families gather in the region of Southern Italy (known as Il Cilento) from which my mother's parents had emigrated. All three of our young ones had had the opportunity to visit the region prior to 1999. We concluded, however, that we would take advantage of our situation and would gather the family for another visit to Il Cilento.
The pleasing outcomes of our planned visit emerged in
ways that we had not predicted when we made out intitial plans. In the end, I
have increased the enjoyment of our family's "reconnection" by having
participated in and having witnessed the pleasures experienced by the members of
the special group of "reconnecters" that I describe in this essay.
My mother, Dolores (Addolorata) was the first child born to her parents, Antonio Carrato and Angelina Carrato (born Chirco). My grandfather, Antonio, had left Cuccaro Vetere, in 1905. Grandfather Antonio settled in Lattimer Mines, Pennsylvania. Grandmother Angelina left for Lattimer Mines from Eremiti, a "frazione" (associated village) of the Commune (town) of Futani. Cuccaro Vetere and Eremiti are located in the southern end of the Province of Salerno, Italy, in the region that is known as Il Cilento.
My mother was born in 1908, the year after Angelina had joined Antonio in Lattimer Mines. In 1925, my mother married Vincenzo Mancuso, an immigrant from Sersale, Calabria, who had worked in the coal mines with her father, Antonio.
Vincenzo died in 1939. Owing to arrangements for the family made by Dolores, as well as the upheavals of World War II, my siblings and I had little opportunity to maintain connections to the members of the families that had remained in Italy.
In 1973, Susan and I traced out members of both my mother's family and my father's family.
In the Cilento region we established contact with three brothers - Nicolà, Mario, and Antonio Carrato - who were the grandchildren of Nicolà Carrato, a brother of my grandfather, Antonio. In addition, they were the grandchildren of Giuseppina Chirico, a sister of my grandmother, Angelina. When we met these cousins, they still lived in Cuccaro Vetere, the town that was the base of the various enterprises they had developed.
Our relationships with our cousins have allowed us to develop very strong connections to the region of Il Cilento. We always have been greeted warmly and have received the most gracious hospitality. Over the decades of our renewed connections we have totally enjoyed our associations with the Carrato family and Il Cilento, the region in which they live.
In 1999, after we had decided to gather our family in Palinuro, the historic and beautiful seaside resort town nearest Cuccaro Vetere, our cousins made arrangements to locate us in an apartment on one of the idyllic beaches along the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
The Start of a Special Adventure
Shortly before we left our home to travel to the region of the southern end of the Province of Salerno, my friend, who served as barber at University at Albany, visited the town of his birth in Il Cilento. Dan Gatto had immigrated to Amsterdam, New York, from the commune of Pisciotta. Pisciotta is located about ten kilometers north of Palinuro. While in Il Cilento, Dan needed to make travel arrangements. He consulted with Luigi Gatto, the dire ctor of CilentoViaggi. Luigi Gatto's travel agency is located in Palinuro, the thriving resort town on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Fortuitously, Luigi Gatto asked Dan Gatto (no relative) if he could suggest a person in The USA who could assist with an initiative that the leaders of Pisciotta had begun to explore. The mayor and town council of Pisciotta wished to develop a formal arrangement with a city in The USA. Those developing this initiative wished to establish a relationship with a city in The USA to which people from Il Cilento had immigrated during the height of the l'avventura - The Italy-to-The-USA immigration.
In that Dan Gatto and I had shared a professional and friendly relationship that stretched over at least 25 years, Dan knew of my association with our family in Il Cilento and of our several visits to the region. Dan also knew that I managed a World Wide Web site on which I had posted several articles and essays about the history of immigration of people from Il Cilento region. Thus, Dan suggested that I might act as informal consultant to the Pisciotta initiative.
Following Dan's suggestions, Luigi Gatto, who speaks English rather well, explored our WWW site, and then sent me an e-mail message to request my assistance with the Pisciotta project. I did not hesitate to offer my help, and I notified Luigi of the imminent visit of our family.
While in Palinuro, I consulted with the Pisciotta leadership as they laid out their plans of action and as they wrote their proposal for the development of an association with a city in The USA. The proposal that emerged emphasized the long-standing, but rather obscured, connections between the target city in The USA and Il Cilento. The mass emigration from the once-impoverished Il Cilento region had resulted in the development of communities of Cilentani in several USA cities. The people of Pisciotta wished to promote a reconnection with the descendants of the people who had emigrated from their region. The year 2000, which marked the end of the millennium as well as the hundredth anniversary of the mass emigration, would serve as a time period during which to promote that reconnection. With the formal proposals in hand, the Mayor of Pisciotta, Aniello Mautone, began to explore the possibilities of forming associations with a selected, suitable city.
After a year of many communications and explorations of various possible alternatives, I returned to Il Cilento in August, 2000. During that visit, I strongly urged that efforts be directed toward forming an association with Hazleton, Pennyslvania. I knew that many descendants of the immigrants from Il Cilento still reside in Hazleton. Their forebears, like my grandfather and my father, had settled in the Hazleton area, where they found work in the coal mines. In addition, I knew that ethnic connections remain strong in the Hazleton area.
Gatto, Sindaco (Mayor) Mautone, and the vice sindaco (Deputy Mayor), Pasquale Splendore, rewrote Pisciotta's proposals and addressed them to the Mayor of Hazleton, Louis Barletta. The proposals arrived in the office of Mayor Barletta during December, 2000.
As Mayor Mautone awaited a response from Mayor Barletta, I recieved clippings from the Hazleton newspaper, Standard Speaker. My sister, Marie Falvello, sent me an article announcing that The Sister Cities Association of Hazleton had been moving toward developing a Sister City relationship with a part of Il Cilento region - the part of Il Cilento known as Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo. Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo is a political unit of 14 commune (towns), one of which is Pisciotta.
By a total stroke of coincidence, The Hazleton Sister Cities Association had been planning to initiate almost exactly the project that the people of Pisciotta had hoped to set into place. The members of the association, led by its president, Thomas Kopetskie and its vice president, Molly Blasko, had done extensive research to select a location in Italy with which the city of Hazleton might form a meaningful relationship. The article in Standard Speaker echoed, almost verbatim, some of the language in the proposal sent to Mayor Barletta by Mayor Mautone.
Another reason for the "regional partnership concept" of the proposed union developed when it was determined that much of the local Italian-American community can trace its ancestral heritage to the [Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo].
Local families easily pointed to the map to indicate that over the past 100 years their grandparents or parents had immigrated to the Hazleton area, so the regional partnership idea allows all to inclusively share in the partnership.
After receiving the news stories from Standard Speaker, I telephoned Mayor Barletta, and found, not surprisingly, that he had received the proposal from Mayor Mautone and had assumed that the communication was related to the Hazleton Sister Cities Association project. When I explained the coincidence, Mayor Barletta said, essentially, "This demonstrates that the implementation of the project has been predestined."
Thereupon, the Pisciotta project managers and Thomas Kopetskie began to communicate. Translation assistance for the communications was provided by Professor Francesco Pierucci, who had already made contact with some of the key leaders in Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo and in Vallo della Lucania - the major city associated with Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo, but not a part of the Comunitá.
Despite the complications in making arrangements, owing particularly to the major elections held in Italy on May 13, 2001, the process moved forward with exceptional speed.
By mid-May, a ten-member Hazleton delegation had made arrangements to depart from Philadelphia on June 4 so that they could arrive in Palinuro on June 5. On the afternoon of June 4, I joined Thomas Kopetskie, Molly Blasko, Maurice Fierro, Pasco Schiavo, Angeline Umbriac, Joseph Umbriac, Richard Molinaro, and Keary Molinaro to board the van that would transport us from Hazleton to Philadelphia. We would be joined in Philadelphia by Juliann Rafalli. Professor Pierucci would join us in Palinuro. Nine members of the 11 person delegation, anticipated meeting relatives and experiencing the adventure of becoming acquainted with the ambiance and culture of Il Cilento.
Experiencing the World of
the People of
Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo
Those who organized the excursions and adventures for the Hazleton delegation - principally Luigi Gatto and Giulio D'Arienzo, President of Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo - gave the delegation a superb opportunity to learn about the hospitality, geography, history, culture, and economics of the region. (In naming Gatto and D'Arienzo I do not intend to overlook other very active citizens of the region who contributed to the immense value of the visit. I know that the success of the visit required the coordination and cooperation of scores of other persons.)Hospitality
Immediate and continued hospitality . The generosity of the hospitality of the people of Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo became apparent from the moment that the delegation reached the baggage retrieval area at Rome's Leonardo da Vinci airport. Luigi Gatto and the driver of the bus that was to deliver the delegation to Palinuro had arrived. Their warm and enthusiastic greeting of the weary travelers softened the anticipation of another six hours of travel. Gatto's foresight in having available and distributing delicious Italian pastries, as a prelude to the espresso that we were served at the airport bar, gave us a foretaste of the hospitality we would continuously receive during our visit.
At an appropriate distance from Rome, the delegation enjoyed an introduction to one of the special features of travel on the Italian autostrade (superhighway). We took a lunch break at one of the outstanding autostops. At an autostop on the Italian autostrade a traveler can choose from a wide variety of foods, ranging from a simple panino imbottito (sandwich on a crusty roll) to a complete dinner. Additionally, one can load his/her auto with blocks of any variety of breads, cheeses, or prosciutti, or rolls of prepared meats. Under Luigi Gatto's generous guidance, most of the party chose to order an authentic Italian-made pizza.
On our trip from Rome to Palinuro the delegation needed to experience two reminders of tragic events involving USA citizens in Italy. On the trip south, travelers on the Autostrada del Sole (Superhighway of the Sun) pass close to the city of Cassino. On the high mountain above Cassino, visible from the highway, one can see clearly the famed Abbey of Monte Cassino. The buildings of the abbey and the lives of thousands of young allied soldiers perished during the terrible battle that raged around the site in 1944. Tom Kopetskie, who retains strong ties to his Polish heritage, had promised to remember prayerfully the young Polish soldier -- a youthful associate of one of Tom's friends -- who died, along with 2,500 other members of the Polish 2nd Corps, in assaults against the German forces that held Monte Cassino.
Our bus also detoured from the autostrada to take us to a second location of bitter memory -- The Sicily-Rome American Cemetary and Memorial, near Nettuno. This very well tended cemetery is located south of Salerno, near the site at which USA troops landed during World War II, in 1943. In that cemetary, row on row of grave markeer commemorate the tragic deaths of 4,402 casualties of the Battle of Salerno and other World War II battles in Italy. I appreciated our hosts' well-meaning efforts to take us to view that cemetery, despite needing to face my discomfort at the grim reminder of the vibrant, brave young men who died in Italy, so far from their families and friends.
As our bus wound around the road hugging the coastline along which we eventually found Palinuro, we viewed one after another panorama of beautiful natural scenery. As we crested one of the hills on the coast, Luigi directed our attention to the hook of mountain that forms Capo Palinuro. We could see the town of Palinuro, built as if nested in the protective crook of the arm of the cape.
When we arrived at GrandHotel San Pietro, I - like other members of the delegation - gratefully fled to our rooms to enjoy a relaxing shower and the opportunity to stretch out on a bed for the several hours until our evening meal would be served.
The reception given to us on that first evening by the staff of the hotel, particularly the staff of the dining room, foretold the exceptional hospitality that would be extended to us during our visit to Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo.
Every account of a visit to Italy will inevitably include a description of the hospitality that Italians demonstrate in their sharing of food and drink. My description of that hospitality would, of course, echo those that are found in the numerous chronicles written by tourists and visitors. In presenting our account, of course, I can engage in a kind of special exaggeration. Everyone whom we met knew immediately that our group was composed largely of descendants of people who had emigrated from Il Cilento. We were questioned immediately about the origins of our forebears. We would respond: "My great grandfather left San Mauro la Bruca in 1907." "My grandparents left Cuccaro Vetere in 1905." Whereupon the person who had inquired would respond, "Oh, there still are many Fierro's in Rodio." "My cousin is a Molinaro. He lives in San Nazaro." On the basis of these kinds of incidents, an added bond was immediately formed between members of our delegation and individuals whom we encountered as we toured the region.
Joe Umbriac, noting one of the indications of the familial connections between Hazleton and Il Cilento, wrote, "I managed to get a Salerno phone book from a storekeeper. The telephone book for the Province of Salerno looks like the Hazleton phone book. We met [people with the names of] Cusati, Marsicano, Lombardi Dianese, Carrato, Chirico, DeCusatis, De Marino, DiBlasi, Greco, Romanelli, etc."
Thus, in addition to enjoying the special hospitality extended by our official hosts, each member of the delegation experienced one after another highly personalized welcome. In that my immediate family had had a long-standing acquaintance with the second cousins of the Carrato family, I received the usual embracing welcome from their families. Other members of the delegation needed, on numerous occasions, to regretfully reject invitations to accept hospitality in the homes of new-found acquaintances.
Three special dinners stand out from the exceptionally hospitable pranzi which were served at our hotel.
The banquet at Azienda Agriturismo Principe Vallescuro. Our hosts had arranged for the delegation to become acquainted with the agriturismo movement in Italy. I cannot imagine a more grand introduction to agriturismo than was the banquet at one of the local agriturismo establishments - Azienda Agriturismo Principe Vallescuro. The agriturismo movement represents a superb extension of Italian hospitality. Any Italian-American who has maintained connections with his/her family in Italy has experienced, at one or another time, the show of pride that accompanies one of the abundant dinners served in the household of a family that still retains ties to the land. It is not unusual for the host to proclaim, "Almost everything on this table comes from our land." My cousins, for example, who are but one generation removed from their contadini forebears, continue to maintain large gardens and orchards. The people of Il Cilento, like the people of other parts of Italy, take great pride in being able to serve the products of their agricultural activity and to give those products as gifts to visitors.
Under government encouragement, the agriturismo movement has burgeoned. An enterprising person can dedicate a section of his/her land to maintaining the traditional agricultural practices - practices which one might describe as "sustainable agriculture." Additionally, several rooms or suites are made available for tourists who wish to book a stay for themselves and their families. The tourists are encouraged to participate in the agricultural work, as well as in the preparation of the meals that are built around the farm's produce. Judging from the number of such establishments that have sprung up, the movement has become very popular with tourists.
Our hosts had arranged for our agriturismo banquet to be held at Azienda Agriturismo Prinicipe di Vallescura. Signor and Signora Carmello Marsicano own and operate this establishment. The building that houses the restaurant had been an olive press and stable. After renovation and restoration, this stunning building stands as a tribute to Italian stone-masonry. Additionally, the views from the restaurant and the surrounding overlooks, into the valleys and out to the sea, provide a stupendous setting for the kind of hospitality that we enjoyed.
One can describe the succulence of the items on the menu and the service by resorting to the cliche: "The meal was almost beyond description." Nothing that could be put into words would allow an outsider to experience the pleasures that we enjoyed - particularly if the outsider had little acquaintance with the very best of Southern Italian cuisine. The meal - all accompanied with varieties of crusty bread, local wines and mineral water - began with generous servings of the traditional Cilentani antipasto items: giardiniero-style condiments, marinated artichoke hearts, thin slices of various prepared salami, prosciutto, broiled slices of eggplant, cheese-filled slices of eggplant, several varieties of olive preparation, etc. The serving of the primi piatti gave us the opportunity to sample the fusilli style pasta that is the favorite of the region, as well as gnocchi. As secundi piatti we ate finely-herbed, roast kid goat, as well as a local-style polpettone (meatloaf). Then two different local desserts, followed by fruits and samplings of eight different local cheeses. The finale of the meal: The popular digestivi - limoncello and crema di limone - that capitalize on the abundance of huge, highly fragrant lemons that grow all over the coastal areas of Provincia di Salerno.
Throughout our visit to Agriturismo Principe Vallescuro, Mr. and Mrs. Marsicano performed as if they were hosting a gathering of relatives who had come to their home, after a long absence, to celebrate a reunion. And, certainly, we were privileged and grateful to be welcomed as friends and near-family returning to reestablish our connections.
The farewell banquet at Ristorante Luna Rossa . The delegation reveled at a similar banquet, hosted by the Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo. Like the banquet at Agriturismo Principe di Vallescuro, the food served at the banquet held on our last evening in Palinuro represented the best of the culinary skills of the Cilentani applied to the products of their region.
When I think of the skillful kitchen masters of the Cilento, I immediately assemble an image of Grandma Angelina Carrato, sipping a sample of the dish she was preparing, and pronouncing, "Ancora un po' più sal'" ("Yet a bit more salt"). Throughout the banquet at the Ristorante Luna Rossa, located in the Riviera Hotel, I imagined the cooks in the kitchen of the restaurant as copies of Grandma Carrato, my mother, and Aunt Millie.
In addition to the splendid meal, an immense conviviality enhanced the revels. Members of the delegation exchanged messages and announced their hopes for a strengthening and an elaboration of the contacts made during this initial visit. Participants engaged in an exchange of generous gifts. Each mayor of each town received a packet of literature and mementos from Hazleton. The Comunitá accepted a flag of The USA and a flag of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Tom Kopetskie presented President D'Arienzo a very symbolic item - a lump of Pennsylvania anthracite coal. Though that particular lump of coal has little monetary value, it symbolized the sacrifice and diligence of the people of the Cilento who immigrated to the Hazleton area and poured their sweat, and often their lives and bodies, into producing the crucial element that fueled the growth of industry in The USA. Further, that symbolic lump can serve to remind the people of The Cilento that many, many dollars - dollars earned by the sweat of the coal miners - were sent back to relatives by the immigrants.
Aside from the exchange of communal gifts, each member of the delegation was presented with a package containing four of the important products of Il Cilento region - a ball of tasty provolo-like cheese (caciocavalle), a bottle of olive oil, a bottle of limoncello, and a jar of tuna packed in olive oil. Two special souvenirs added to the trove (1) a poster showing scenes of the town of Pisciotta, signed by the painter - Mario Romano - who had created the images on the poster; and (2) a T-shirt imprinted with an image of the full delegation and representatives of Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo.
Pranzo at the Chirico household. A third banquet stands out among the many excellent meals that were served to the delegation. Aniello (Neil) Chirico joined the delegation during the delegation's visit to the city of Vallo della Lucania. Neil immigrated to Hazleton from the tiny town of Eremiti. In Hazleton, Neil and his wife, Renée operate the Alta Restaurant. Neil's parents maintain a commodious home in Vallo della Lucania. Following our tour of some of Vallo's highlights and a visit to the office of the city's sindaco (mayor) - Sindaco Antonio Sansone - Neil invited the delegation; the driver of our van - Aniello DiMarino - and our guides - Dottor and Avvocatessa Pisapia - to dinner at the home of his parents. Thus, 14 guests descended on the home to join the Chirico family for its main meal. How does one explain how such excellent food - to serve about 20 people - emerged from that kitchen?
At the end of our visit, I thanked Neil's mother for the hospitality and complimented her preparation. She in turn apologized for the improvisation!!!
As noted, hospitality in Il Cilento region invariably involves food. But food was but one part of the hospitality that was arranged by our hosts. Everyone with whom we came into contact seemed willing to satisfy any need that was expressed by one of the delegation. Our hosts, the hotel staff, and the operators of all other kinds of services courteously offered advice about the many kinds of issues that confront and confuse travelers. Transportation to and from localities, points of interests, and the towns of Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo allowed the delegation to move smoothly from place to place in considerable comfort. Aniello DiMarino did most of the work of driving the vehicles in which we were transported. His presence added a special dimension to the hospitality. He was familiar with every back road and with every sight in the region. He also was a wealth of information about the lore and status of the working people of the region.
Though the city of Vallo della Lucania is not officially a part of Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo, the Hazleton delegation received the standard Cilentano hospitality in the offices of the Mayor of Vallo, Antonio Sansone. We particularly appreciated that hospitality when we understood the conditions under which it was extended. The Vice Mayor of Vallo della Lucania is a pediatrician attached to the busy hospital in Vallo. It turned out that he could not greet us in the mayor's office at the time that he had planned to greet us, for he was called in to attend to an emergency. The meeting was postponed to a later time.
When we arrived in Mayor Sansone's elegant office, the Mayor and his staff made every effort to pack a mountain of hospitality into the short visit. Greetings and gifts were warmly distributed. They enthusiastically explained mementos and art work in the office. At one point, the vice mayor - a pediatrician - rushed into the office, excusing his having been delayed, bringing with him a gift copy of a 1928 book about the failed 1828 revolution against the Bourbons. The members of the Hazleton delegation gratefully received this hospitality, declaring their desire to reciprocate, particularly on the occasion of the visit of Vallo's delegates to Hazleton, along with the delegates of Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo.
Such interchanges of greetings took place on larger and on smaller scale in every town that the delegates visited. In Cuccaro Vetere the delegates met a member of Cuccaro's Carrato family, whereupon the lady insisted on buying her guests ice cream. In Rodio, young members of the local pro loco ("booster" club) met the delegation and escorted its members on an informative tour of the ancient town. After demonstrating and explaining the operation of an ancient frantoio (olive press) our guides led us to an adjacent courtyard in which they had set up tables loaded with samples of local beverages and delicacies. Mayor Mautone, an architect, greeted us at Pisciotta's municipio (town hall) and gave us the benefits of his expertise as he led us through the town to show us the highlights of its ancient architecture. After our tour of ancient San Severino, Presidente D'Arienzo led us to a bar in the modern town, where he asked the standard inviting question, un caffé? - a question that I must have heard one hundred times during our short visit.
Anyone who experiences the kind of hospitality that our hosts and the people of Il Cilento extended to the Hazleton delegation must come away convinced of the abundance and sincerity of that hospitality. Additionally, the kind of hospitality that the people showered on us leaves us with images of the smiling faces with which they responded to our wholehearted expressions of appreciation. No wonder that millions of tourists finish their visits to Italy with an intense desire to return again and again!!!
Geography and the Culture of
Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo
As a part of Il Cilento region, the culture of the Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo, like the culture of all the region, was shaped by its geography. The mountains and the seashore stand as the dominant features of the physical geography. One can easily see that the mountains and the sea blend into one integral mass. The mountains do not lie in seried ranges separated by valleys, as they do in Pennsylvania. The mountains undulate in haphazard assemblies behind which valleys appear and disappear. At some points along the seashore, the mountains plunge precipitously into sea. At some points, where the sea laps at gorgeous beaches, mountain torrents - through eons of erosive action - have deposited alluvial fans.
A common interpretation of passages in Homer's Odyssey allows one to speculate that Homer's reference to the sirens - the creatures whose singing lured sailors to the dangerous shores - refers symbolically to the sea/landscape of the southern end of Italy's Campania region. Odysseus' sailors looked out at that stunning panorama and were tempted to succumb to the attraction to explore the shore. If, however, they attempted to do so, in their small ships, they could become entrapped in the unknown rocks and could become swamped by the sea that would be churned up by the sudden changes of unpredictable wind currents that resulted from the cooling and warming of the air passing over the high mountains and steep seaside cliffs.
Indeed, the unpredictable winds, some authorities believe, are the source of the name Palinuro given to the town and the cape. The syllables forming the term pali, one can assume, derived from the Greek term poly, meaning many. The overall term might refer to the "many winds" that churn unpredictably around the high mountain that forms Capo Palinuro.
The town and cape figure into another famed classic legend. In his masterpiece, The Aeneid, Virgil tells that the town was named by Aeneas, in honor of his helmsman, Palinurus. As Aeneas' ship approached the peninsula, after having rounded Sicily, Palinurus had fallen overboard after he had fallen asleep at his post. According to Virgil, Palinurus was able to grasp and cling to the ship's rudder, which has torn loose from the ship; and he arrived at Palinuro, where he died of exposure and exhaustion. In Virgil's account, Aeneas found the location of Palinurus's landing and held funeral rites for Palinurus and named the site for his steersman.
Considering its location and geography, one can easily understand the importance of Il Cilento region in the legends and history of the Greek colonization of Southern Italy and Sicily. The people of the eastern Mediterranean traveled along the western shore of the Italian peninsula to obtain a commodity that held a crucial place in the economy of the 8th Century B. C. E - the iron found in the area of modern Tuscany. Then, facing overpopulation in the Aegean area, the Greeks began to colonize Sicily and Southern Italy. As one would expect, the ancient Greeks established their most important colonies along the sea routes that they had used in their travels to Tuscany. They established three of the most important and prosperous colonies - Poseidonia (Paestum), Agropoli, and Elea (Roman Velia, near Ascea) in Il Cilento region. Additionally, Greek settlements were established at each of the places where the Greek sailors could beach their small ships - Marina di Camerota, Acciaroli, Marina di Pisciotta, etc. .
The cultural life of those colonies and settlements still echoes in the cultural life of Il Cilento. The Greeks brought the earliest cultivars of the famed Pisciottani olives to the region. Bacchus - the Roman version of the Greek god of wine, Dionysius - has held a place of honor throughout the history of agriculture in Il Cilento. Many words and terms that are part of the local dialect derive from Greek vocabulary. Knowledge of the sea, fishing practices, and navigation lore have developed from the base of Greek seamanship.
By the early Christian era, the Romans had incorporated the seaside Greek settlements into their empire. The apostles Peter and Paul necessarily stopped at the ports of Il Cilento as they traveled by ship toward Rome. Certainly, Paul would have used the Greek language to communicate with the many inhabitants of Il Cilento who had continued to use the Greek language. And, he certainly would have planted the seeds of Christianity among those inhabitants. Today, the members of the delegation from Hazleton would be able to witness the long term consequences of Paul's preaching. Many churches in Il Cilento have been named "The Church of Peter and Paul," and those members of the delegation whose forebears had emigrated from Cuccaro Vetere or Rodio would know that June 29 is the celebration of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul - the patrons of the main churches in those towns.
Our hosts gave us many other opportunities to observe the ways in which the geography of the region has shaped its culture. The difficulties involved in modern travel between towns inform a tourist of the extreme difficulty of communicating between towns in the days before engine-powered machines allowed the building of roads and relatively easy communication over the roads that wind over and around the steep mountains. As a motorist travels on those roads today, he/she can frequently get a glimpse of the long stretches of very high viaducts that have been built to provide a highspeed highway (superstrada) through the mountains.
The remains of the watch towers that were built at intervals along the coast remind us of two plagues that the Cilentani suffered for century after century. Wherever there is a good beach - a beach on which seafarers can land their boats - there also would be a bit of a coastal plain where one would find swampy land. Where the plain was large, there would be more likelihood of swamps. Thus, the best agricultural land would be mosquito infested, and mosquitos meant malaria. When the powerful landlords needed labor, the people who had lived away from the lowlands, in the villages built on high, mosquito-free locations, had two broad choices. They could forego the meager wages they would be paid and refuse to go into the mosquito-infested areas, or they could choose to earn a few pennies and risk contracting debilitating malaria.
The second plague came through the raids of Saracens, arriving from Sicily (during the years 878 to 1091) or from North Africa, who would land their boats on the beaches and would fight their way into the interior to take slaves and to loot whatever they could carry off. The watchmen on the watch towers could, at least, give the populace some advance warning, and the people could prepare to defend their hill-top towns from the invaders. Nevertheless, the more determined Saracens could lay siege to the towns, and many towns fell to those plundering looters.
In a way, the idea that Il Cilento sings a seductive siren song to those who visit that part of the world can signify a very broad set of meanings. The sea and the mountains are utterly beautiful; the inviting climate will match that of any part of the world, and the entire ambiance induces relaxation. But, without careful stewardship a community in the region can face one after another disaster. A succession of dry years, with no opportunity to import food, will bring on famine. The lack of mosquito control will bring on the plague of malaria, and poor sanitary measures will promote the spread of other contagious diseases. The limited amount of arable land will not support a fast-growing population. And, a lack of the kind of well-intentioned government that can organize communities and offer protection from envious invaders, will subject the population to constant threats.
By the latter part of the 19th Century (1880 onwards) centuries of poor stewardship produced the conditions that motivated thousands of Cilentani to leave that sun-blessed geography and to make their way to the new countries of the western hemisphere. Happily, the delegation from Hazleton - most of whom are descendants of some of those emigrating Cilentani - could return to the region to see the ways in which that seductive geography has benefitted from responsible and imaginative stewardship.
Some History of Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo and its Culture
A reader should have, by now, surmised that the spectacular geography of Il Cilento and the strategic location of that geography have been core elements of the history of the region. The availability of caves in the steep mountainsides gave easy access to shelter for the pre-historic peoples who wandered into this inviting territory. The native chestnut trees would provide an easily prepared, easily preserved, basic, nutritious food. The abundance of deer, boar, and bears attracted hunting peoples. Investigators have found evidence that Neanderthal man had inhabited areas near Il Cilento region. Another type of human, homo sapiens, inhabited the area between Marina di Camerota and Palinuro as far back as 35,000 years ago.
The delegation from Hazleton was given a comprehensive tour of the caves that can be reached by a motor launch at sea level. In addition to enjoying the fascinating beauty of the interiors of those caves, we could observe many other caves in the high cliffs above the sea. It is not difficult to imagine prehistoric humans living in similar, but more accessible, caves in the area; enjoying feasts of easily harvested seafood.
When, in about 800 B. C. E., the inhabitants of the eastern Mediterranean began to establish the sea routes by which to reach the iron mines of Tuscany, the harbors on the Cilento coast became very convenient resting places. By the VI Century B. C. E., the Greek colonists had turned these harbors into settlements, and began to build grand temples - temples that attested to the wealth of the commercial cities. Three of the cities - Poseidonia/Paestum, Elea/Velia (near Marina di Ascea) and Agropoli - became especially powerful and prosperous.
Our hosts arranged for the Hazleton delegation to have a lengthy visit to the archeological site and the museum at Paestum. Additionally, we were provided with an excellent guide - Dr. Nunzio Daniele. Dr. Daniele used the time that we could spend at Paestum to concentrate on the Greek phase of the development of the region. Thus, we had an excellent summary introduction to the artifacts in the museum, and we were given a clear overview of some of the salient aspects of Greek life during the nearly 800-year period between the founding of the city in the VI Century B. C. E. and the Roman conquest in 273 A. C. E.
The well-preserved remains of three magnificent doric temples provide the highlight, of course, of a tour of the archeological area of Paestum. It is difficult to imagine that the city had declined through the centuries following the Roman occupation, and that by the IX Century A. C. E., the city was totally abandoned. It is even more difficult to imagine that those three imposing temples, whose tops rise to a height of about six modern stories, had "disappeared" from human knowledge and then were "rediscovered" in the latter part of the 18th Century, nine hundred years after the city was no longer inhabited.
When one considers the current location of those temples, relative to the sea, he/she can begin to understand how specific aspects of human behavior brought about the decline of the region of Il Cilento. The temples, which once stood at the edge of the sea, are now far inland. Over centuries the inhabitants of the region stripped the mountains of the native trees, using the wood for construction and for fuel, and then pastured sheep and goats on the cleared land. The rivers carried thousands of tons of the exposed earth toward the sea, depositing that earth at the mouths of the rivers - at the mouth of the Sele River, in the case of Paestum. As the silt accumulated, the harbor area would become useless. Additionally, the mosquitoes, the carriers of the organisms that caused malaria, would find excellent breeding conditions in the pools in the stagnant swamps. To survive in the region, the people needed to move to high ground and to build their towns at the tops of steep hills.
Ironically, a major human achievement contributed significantly to the decline of the great cities on the coast of Il Cilento. During his principate (98 - 117 A. C. E.), the Roman emperor, Trajan, extended The Appian Way to the city of Brindisi, on the Adriatic Coast. With the road completed, a traveler could go from Rome to Brindisi (540 kilometers) in 13/14 days. Thus, the overland trip provided a much faster and safer way to reach the eastern Mediterranean than did the sea route along the coast of Il Cilento. The once great ports along the coast of Il Cilento lost their status as trading posts and became the favorite landings for invading armies, the marauding pirates, and the plundering Saracens.
Giulio D'Arienzo, President of Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo, guided the delegation on a tour of two locations that figured significantly in the history of Il Cilento - the mountain that forms Capo Palinuro and the abandoned town of San Severino. From the high point on Capo Palinuro, one gets a superb view of the coastline of Il Cilento. Toward the north, one sees the town of Palinuro tucked into the "elbow" of the "arm" formed by the cape, and then the long stretches of sandy beaches that lie between Palinuro and the mountains that drop down to the sea. Toward the south one sees the high cliffs that border the sea between Capo Palinuro and Marina di Camerota. Viewing that terrain, one can imagine the sighs of relief expelled by the ancient sailors who had safely passed that stretch of cliffs and the cape to pull into the well protected landing place at the town of Palinuro.
San Severino is an extraordinary example of one of the towns that grew up in an effort to take to the high ground to escape the assaults of mosquitos and marauders. The town is now abandoned. In that motorized vehicles could not ascend to the heart of San Severino, the inhabitants, over the last 100 years, relocated on the lower ground beneath the town. The remains of San Severino typify the architecture and layout of a town that was established 1,000 years ago. The town occupies the crest of a very steep hill that rises out of a particularly narrow portion of Gola di diavole (The Devil's Gorge). The Mingardo river flows through the gorge, which starts in Palinuro. Even a total novice in tactics of war would be able to see that warriors who occupied San Severino would control the access to the broader valleys at the interior end of the gorge. Today, tourists who are interested in the history of Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo can visit the abandoned town to have a first hand view of how such towns played a part in the history of the region.
President D'Arienzo informed the delegation that Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo had been awarded a substantial grant that will finance the restoration of the town to replicate its state during the XI Century. Additionally, the planners are discussing the possibilities of a project to create a living museum in a part of the town. That museum will represent, according to the visionaries promoting the plan, the status of San Severino at the time (1880-1910) of the height of l'avventura.
If the planners realize the plan to create the living museum, a visitor might be led to speculate about whether towns such as San Severino had changed significantly during the 1000 years preceding l'avventura. For over 1,500 years after the fall of The Roman Empire, the beautiful land of the sirens sank deeper into la miseria (the misery): suffering under constant invasion by military forces and marauders; its population physically debilitated by the plague of malaria (and other diseases due to poor sanitation); subjected to natural disasters such as earthquakes and drought, and dominated by one after another ruling class that seemed unable to visualize and to put into effect the kinds of programs that would raise the well-being of the people.
Even after the rise of republican, constitutional governments in other countries of Europe and the Americas, the Bourbon dynasty (1734-1860) exercised one after another maneuver to forestall efforts to diminish the power of the royalty and its supporting nobles. Members of the Hazleton delegation could observe numerous memorials to the insurgents who had tried to force the Bourbons to institute more democratic forms of governments. Plaques mounted in many public locations, as well as street names, commemorate men like Canon Antonio DeLuca and Carlo Pisacane (leaders of failed revolts against the Bourbons) and Gioacchino Murat, who served as King of the Kingdom of Naples during the Napoleonic period. (The members of the Hazleton delegation were guided by Pantaleo Pisapia on a tour through an apartment in Vallo della Lucania that is reputed to be the apartment that Murat used when he visited that city.)
After Giuseppe Garibaldi swept through Sicily and Southern Italy (1860), defeating the forces of the Bourbon dynasty that had headed The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, the population of Il Cilento, like the population of other parts of the newly unified Italy, began to discover routes by which to escape la miseria. The floodgates of the emigration began to open shortly after the many separate governing entities on the peninsula were united in the new Italy. At first, the new government, like previous governments, discouraged emigration. When the new leaders discovered the benefits of the emigration - lessening of pressures for improvements, a flow of capital sent back to families by the emigrants, and an increase in foreign markets for Italian goods - they began to encourage immigration.
The descendants of the emigration - the great avventura (the adventure into a new land and new future) - who toured Il Cilento with the Hazleton delegation and were given the opportunity to increase their awareness of the course of the region's history could also increase their awareness of why their forebears marshaled the courage, the energy, and the financial resources to risk so much to escape la miseria by abandoning their families and that beautiful land of the sirens.
Religion and the Culture of Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo
The veneration of two important Roman Catholic saints connect the Hazleton's descendants of the emigrants from Il Cilento to the region from which their forebears emigrated. Each August, Hazleton's Our Lady of Grace RC Church celebrates Saint Mauro. In the same month, Hazleton's Most Precious Blood RC Church celebrates La Madonna del Monte. The feast of Saint Mauro connects to the commune of San Mauro la Bruca. Saint Mauro is the patron saint of the church in that commune. The feast of La Madonna del Monte connects to the important sanctuary located at the peak of the highest mountain in Il Cilento region - Monte Sacro.
Saint Mauro takes a special place in the religious history of Southern Italy. Mauro was a disciple of the founder of the Benedictine Order, Saint Benedict. The Benedictine Order demanded strict adherence to Benedict's major rule - Ora et Labora: Pray and Work. The Benedictines not only provided a model to counteract the worldly status of the RC Church of the early 500s, they also provided a model for the everyday people of Southern Italy. They made work "respectable." According to tradition, the Benedictines reinstituted the great Roman trilogy of Southern Italian agriculture: grapes, wheat, and olives.
Though tradition indicates that Saint Mauro was a trusted aide to Benedict, little else about his life can be ascertained. According to legend, Mauro miraculously saved a brother of the order from drowning. Saint Mauro also frequently is given the title Abbot, following a belief that he became an abbot of a Benedictine abbey in France.
The delegates from Hazleton visited the commune of San Mauro la Bruca to attend the Sunday mass. They discovered that the church also has ties to Poland. The pastor of the church is a young priest from Poland, Father Nyc.
For over 2,000 years the inhabitants of Il Cilento have regarded the peak of Sacro Monte, or Monte Gelbison (to use the name that derives from an Arabic root), as a holy place. From primitive times, humans have believed that their gods lived in an upper world, so that the mountain that most nearly approached that world would inspire wonder and awe. When Christianity became well-rooted in Il Cilento, Sacro Monte became the point at which Christians honored their most venerated saint: Saint Mary, the mother of Jesus. And, as often happens, the veneration became associated with a particular image of Saint Mary, and the image is now recognized in places like Hazleton's Most Precious Blood RC Church as La Madonna del Monte.
Dottor Pantaleo Pisapia, Minister of Culture and Education of Vallo della Lucania, acted as our guide during the trip over the very winding road from Novi Velia to the Sanctuary of La Madonna del Monte. As our very able bus driver, Aniello DiMarina, deftly navigated over that road, a passenger could not avoid wondering about how the people traveled to the peak of the mountain in the days before motor vehicles came into use. The laboring people, of course, walked the ancient foot and mule trails to the peak. It was customary to begin the hike in the evening before feast days. The pilgrims might catch a bit of a nap during a rest stop along the way. The way would be lighted at night by the candles that women carried on their heads. Dottor Pisapia pointed out a number of the special features of the trails leading to the top of the mountain. At one point we could leave our van on the paved road and could easily walk along a trail through the chestnut groves to a very inviting fountain around which a rest stop had been built. It was easy to imagine the festive atmosphere that would permeate the area when a group of pilgrims reached that point and stopped for a picnic and a rest.
Once at the top of the mountain, we could wander around the splendid architecture that crowns the peak; or, as did some of our party, we could climb the stairway in the steel superstructure that forms a huge cross atop the sanctuary. From every point we could look out over the whole of Il Cilento - a stunning scene. The Hazleton delegation was the only group visiting the sanctuary on that afternoon, so that we could closely inspect any part of the site. Under those conditions, we had the opportunity to inspect closely the icon of The Madonna. The members of the delegation could immediately note that the images in the churches in Hazleton exactly replicated the image on the altar of the sanctuary. The icon, too, was a awesome scene for those of us who had, throughout our lives, seen the replicas in the churches in Pennsylvania.
Our host at the sanctuary was the RC priest, Don Carmine Trocoli. Don Carmine not only could lead the group in a moving benediction, he also could take part in a lively toast around a bottle of the premium scotch whiskey that he had opened to share with the delegates.
During our visit to Vallo della Lucania Dottor Pisapia led us on a visit to the church of San Nicola. A view of some of the art work, especially the marble intarsia, gives some indication of the very accomplished art work that can be found in every community in Italy. That brief visit, however, was but a small foretaste of the quality of art, particularly the religious art, that is enjoyed by the citizens of Il Cilento region. Don Carmine once again treated us to his extensive knowledge of the art and architecture of Il Cilento as he guided us through the Diocesan Museum. The museum is housed in attractive rooms that were once a part of the diocesan seminary. The curators of the museum have brought together a collection of paintings and liturgical artefacts originating from the churches of the diocese. One must marvel at finding in a museum in a small city like Vallo a collection that would be displayed proudly in a museum in a large city in The USA. Additionally, the quality of the restorations, the ways in which a guide as knowledgeable as Don Carmine can use the displays to explain the restorations, and the quality of the displays attest to the tremendous respect given to artistic creation by the Italian people, governmental units and church officials.
Considering these highlights of the Hazleton delegation's explorations of the current and historical religious life of the region, the delegates could return to Hazleton with a greatly expanded appreciation of their current and historical religious practices that can be traced back to their origins in Il Cilento. When they participate in religious rites and celebrations they will, certainly, locate those practices into the centuries of religious practices from which those rites and celebrations evolved.
Family in the Culture of Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo
The events that occurred on the morning during which the delegation visited the commune of San Mauro la Bruca neatly illustrates the place of family in the culture of Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo. When we arrived in at the office of the commune, we were escorted to a conference room where we met the vice mayor, Signor Mauro Cusati, and several staff members. Our hosts had prepared to help members of the delegation to find records of births of forebears.
Before the members of the delegation began the explorations, Signor Cusati began to question Molly Blasko, the vice president of the Hazleton Sister Cities Association. After tracing out several of Molly's relatives, Signor Cusati exclaimed, "We are cousins," and embraced and kissed Ms. Blasko.
After this emotional beginning, other members of the delegation began their searches of the well-kept records. They delved into records from as far back as 125 years ago, and excitedly discovered one after another of their relatives who had left San Mauro to immigrate to the Hazleton area. At the same time, other members of the delegation found their efforts to be frustrated. The common practice of naming the first son after the father of the father creates a very confusing situation for searchers. If, for example, Giuseppe DiLuca had fathered four sons, each of those sons would name his first son Giuseppe. Thus, the records would show four Giuseppe DiLucas who were born during the same generation. Having the date of birth of the target of the search provides one guarantee that a searcher would find the birth record of the Giuseppe of interest. And, though several of the searchers did have a birth date of a forebear, it turned out that the searcher could not find the record of a grandparent, for example, that was born on that date.
Many applicants for passport for emigration, in the early days of l'avventura, were required to first satisfy their military service. It appears that occasionally a person would manage to emigrate and would then falsify his birth date so that he would avoid questions about whether or not he was eligible for military service.
Another complication arose from changes in spellings and pronunciations of names. The name Umbriac, for example, had evolved, in The USA, from the name Imbriaco. In the new world, the name DiScianni had evolved into a variety of spellings and pronunciations, because the SCI combination in Italian is pronounced as SHE is pronounced in English. Further, the prefixes to names did not figure into the alphabetization in the town records. The record keepers would list the name DiLuca, for example, among the names beginning with the letter L.
Those members of the delegation that did manage to make a family connection quickly found themselves attached to welcoming relatives. The major problem of the day involved efforts to convince the new-found relatives that the hosts of the delegation had made plans for the day, and that it would be difficult to alter those plans. In those cases, the delegates were sent off with the perpetual parting phrases, "Come back again. Be prepared to stay a couple of weeks. We have plenty of room in our home, and we will be pleased to have you as our guests!!!"
Molly Blasko invited me to join her and her new-found cousin, Mauro Cusati. Signor Cusati wanted us to visit his home and to meet his mother. We walked to his home, and there were introduced to Signor Cusati's frail and bed-ridden mother. Though the lady showed clear signs of debilitation, she became quite animated as Mauro explained Ms. Blasko's relationship to the family.
Signor Cusati then led us on a tour of the town. At one point on the tour, he hailed an elderly gentleman, saying, " I want to introduce you to a distant relative." The man responded, "What do you mean by 'distant relative.' If it is a relative it is a relative."
One feature of our introduction to the views of the area's citizens regarding family became apparent after the first several introductions to local people. As soon as a member of the delegation gave his/her surname, the local person would immediately identify the town where most members of that family originated. "Oh, Chirico! They are from Eremiti." Or, "Imbriaco? They are from Massicelle." It seems that every adult in the region could identify which family name went with which town!!!
Those of us who had made contacts with our families prior to the visit of the delegation faced a special dilemma. The members of our family with whom we had become acquainted could not easily accept the claim that our obligations to our hosts and to the delegation took priority over our visits to their families. I managed to squeeze in visits to two of my three cousins. Chaaracteristically, when I insisted that I must depart from the home of Cousins Mario and Inez so that I could meet the members of the delegation that had come to Cuccaro Vetere by van, Mario said, "You tell them that visiting your cousin is more important than meeting them!!"
The long-standing tradition of intense family loyalty still holds in Southern Italy. The family, after all, had served as the rock foundation of support in face of the adverse conditions that prevailed for centuries. That tradition, as it was transplanted to The USA, has been belittled and denigrated. Scholars have made their academic fame by writing very negative appraisals of "amoral familism" - their term to designate, the practice of putting the well-being of family above the well-being of the community, often to the detriment of the well-being of the overall community. The entertainment industry and the functionaries in the criminal justice system have connected that intense family loyalty to the their mythical creations; the so-called "crime families."
Many Italian-Americans have accepted those negative evaluations without doing the careful analysis of the historical functions of the ways in which family life has been organized in Southern Italy and Sicily. Fortunately, the extremely adverse conditions that generated the family structures in the Southern Italian culture no longer exist, in either The USA or in Southern Italy. Those structures have been dying away in Italian-American culture. The total death of those structures has been forestalled because of persisting ambivalence about those structures. On the one hand, the positive aspects of those intense family bonding has a great appeal. One still finds meaning in the old sayings, "Home is where you go when no else wants you," or "Blood is thicker than water." At the same time, young people resent the control implied by the demands that they meet obligations to family tradition and values.
Perhaps professors in Italy's universities do not offer sociology courses in which students are taught that such relationships represent "amoral familism." The people of Il Cilento still give very high positive value to intense family relationships. The members of the Hazleton delegation surely have found that, if they wish, they can go to Il Cilento to enjoy the benefits of such relationships.
The Economy in the Culture of
Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo
An economic analysis of any region would immediately lead to a focus on available resources. At the same time, an economist must include in his/her analysis the ways in which people develop attitudes regarding available resources. The delegation from Hazleton could not avoid making an analysis of the ways in which these two factors - resources and attitudes - interlock to drive the economy of Il Cilento.
Certainly, the major economic activity of the region - tourism - involves this interlocking combination. The climate, the historical artifacts, the natural beauty can be singled out as the basic resources involved in tourism. Attitudes toward hospitality, in general, stand as the cultural/human side of a successful tourist economy. Do visitors meet courteous and helpful hospitality workers? Can the promoters of tourism assure visitors that they will find inviting, comfortable accommodations?
In my judgment the members of the Hazleton delegation had the opportunity to discover that the people of Il Cilento have very effectively meshed together a combination of resources and attitudes that guarantees the success of their tourist industry. From my observations, each member of the delegation can attest to the pervasive courtesy, helpfulness, and good cheer of every person with whom we interacted. I can recall only one after another pleasant interaction, from the moment that Luigi Gatto met us at Rome's Leonardo da Vinci Airport (carrying a supply of delicious Italian pastries) up to the moment of our being dropped off at the hotel in Rome at which we would spend our last day in Italy. The personnel at Palinuro's GrandHotel San Pietro responded to our often confusing requests for help with unceasing good cheer. The drivers of the vehicles in which we rode did everything possible to make us comfortable in the novel situations into which they delivered us. The maitre d'hotel and the wait staff in the hotel and at other places at which we were dinner guests showed unremitting patience with our efforts to understand the character of the items on the menu. Our hosts had arranged to assign us guides who impressed us with their knowledge and competence - the kind of guides who have become the standard guides throughout Italy. We observed the use of modern machinery to prepare the beaches that will be crowded with visitors as the high season approaches. We visited ports facilities that are prepared to receive hundreds of the kinds of private and tour company boats that take visitors around to the ports of the Mediterranean. We saw gangs of workers completing projects to improve the port at Marina di Pisciotta. Francis Pierucci, who had traveled by rail to join us at Palinuro, witnessed the ease with which one can use rail service to reach Il Cilento. A promise has been made to complete within two years the superstrada (limited access highway) that that will punch through mountain tunnels and cross over the high viaducts that will cross the deeper valleys. When completed, a visitor will be able to drive from one point to another in less than half the time that one uses to travel from point to point using the existing, ancient roads. The shop keepers in the towns that we visited did create problems for us: They insisted on engaging us in very friendly conversations which we needed to disrupt in order to follow the schedule of activities that our hosts had outlined.
Though the members of the delegation could immediately assess the place of tourism in the economy of Il Cilento, they also could, with only a bit of probing, discover that agriculture remains a core element in that economy. Anyone who dines regularly in Il Cilento soon discovers the tremendous pride that the local population expresses when discussing the food products produced in the area. One would find it difficult to ignore the economic importance of the production of olive products. Huge, ancient olive trees grow out of every possible piece of land that is level enough to raise a tree whose olives can be harvested. In many places one can observe that over the centuries the agricultural workers have built semi-circular terraces on steep hillsides into which an olive tree has been planted. When I had first observed this technique, I asked, "How do the workers get the olives down from those hillsides," forgetting that mules once supplied the main means of transporting heavier loads. With modern machinery, and with the world-wide demand for olive oil - which the Italian consortia market very effectively - agricultural workers are covering more and more of the hillsides with olive trees.
A simple application of modern technology - plastic netting - has increased the efficiency of olive production. At one time the task of harvesting of the olives put a heavy burden on the area's labor force. Harvesting directly from the trees would be very time consuming and eventually that method would be extremely expensive, relative to the income from the products. If the olives were allowed to ripen on the tree and then drop to the ground, from where workers would harvest the fruits, the olives would become dirty and would be unfit for producing edible products. Up until recent times owners of olive trees practiced a sharing of the olives that a worker collected as a means of paying the worker. Under this method, people who did not own trees would harvest the fruits and would collect their pay in the form of a certain percentage of the products produced from their harvest.
A common method used today involves spreading a large plastic net under the trees and then collecting the olives that are captured as they drop. Though a worker can beat the branches to encourage the dropping of ripe olives, use of that method entails the risk of damaging branches. A shaking device can be used on some trees. There are other forms of more sophisticated machines that can be used to harvest directly from the trees. Considering the importance of the olive in the economy of Il Cilento, one can understand the constant discussion of improvement of technology related to the olive culture. Considering the ancient resourcefulness of the Italians, one can be sure that they will turn even that technology into products that they will market to other olive growing countries.
The members of the delegation could assess the place of olives in the economy of the region in another way. Over the course of our stay, we enjoyed sampling the dozens of olive preparations that are possible - salt cured dried black olives, green olives in brine, black olives in brine, tiny green olives, large green olives, and on. And, we had the opportunity to sample the many varieties of dishes in which olives are used. The region of Il Cilento is simply an olive lover's paradise.
The products of three other trees figure heavily in the economy of the region. Fig trees grow like weeds throughout the region. Chestnut groves cover whole mountains. And lemon trees are constantly loaded with the huge, fleshy, juicy lemons that grow everywhere in the lower areas of the region. I can remember my grandmother's unhappiness when World War II disrupted communications between Italy and The USA and her sisters could no longer send her a large package of dried figs. She could not have been more pleased when I returned from the Mediterranean, at the end of my tour in the post-war navy, carrying about 15 pounds of dried figs. Few delicacies surpass a dried fig with an almond or a half walnut embedded in its center. To our pleasure, the young people of the local pro loco group in Rodio had prepared and then graciously offered members of the delegation the opportunity to sample this nutritious taste treat.
Anyone who buys a bag of chestnuts during the holiday season could be buying chestnuts that originated in Il Cilento. And, anyone who pays three dollars per pound for his/her chestnuts can understand that those nuts are important to the economy of Il Cilento. Again, the harvesting of the chestnuts represents a labor problem. The chestnuts, which grow on huge trees, must be harvested from the ground after they drop from the trees. The work is labor intensive.
If a visitor were to go into the mountains where the chestnut trees grow, he might come across a building that has been built in an apparently isolated place. He/she might observe that two wings are built around an oven-like structure between the wings. At one time, it took hours to hike from the villages to the chestnut groves. To save time, a group of villagers would prepare to remain at the building for a number of days. The women would occupy one wing of the structure and the men would occupy the other wing. Many of the chestnuts that were gathered would be peeled, and then would be slow-dried in the ovens. Dried chestnuts may be stored for long periods. Dried chestnuts could be consumed in a variety of preparations. Children enjoy popping a dried chestnut into their mouths, to suck on the chestnut to taste its slightly sweet flavor, until it was soft enough to chew and swallow. Dried chestnuts could be ground into a flour that was used in pastry recipes. In short, one could eat chestnuts in one or another form at any time of the year.
My wife, Susan, and I have bantered about the rapid rise in the popularity of the liqueur known as limoncello. We first sampled limoncello when we visited the Amalfi Coast and Il Cilento about 25 years ago. Since that time, limoncello has become a standard after dinner digestivo in Italian restaurants and in homes all over the world. Our light-hearted theory is that limoncello has been promoted in order to provide a profitable market for the excess lemons of the Province of Salerno, just as ameretto has been promoted in order to market the excess almonds of southern Italy. More power to whoever can promote a market for so pleasing a product! We would be happy to know that in the freezer of every household that we visit there stands a bottle of limoncello from which the host will offer us a pleasing drink!
Besides observing the economic importance of the products of these trees, a visitor to Il Cilento finds that the Cilentani have inherited centuries of technology that can be applied toward making the most of the available land suitable for growing. Italian-Americans who have helped, and then learned from, their parents and grandparents would be familiar with the ways in which a gardener can prompt a bountiful harvest out of every corner of a plot of land. Those techniques, in conjunction with the advantages offered by modern technology, allow the people of Il Cilento to grow, sell, and enjoy a rich variety of fruits and vegetables.
Though hundred of springs of delicious water spout out of the surrounding mountains, Il Cilento often was subjected to drought, while the fresh water from those springs would find their way out to the sea - often adding to the force of the torrents that carried off the silt that would eventually drop at the mouth of the rivers. With dams, and inexpensive plastic tubing the Cilentani have ingeniously arranged all kinds of irrigation systems to direct water to their gardens and orchards. Additionally, acres of the low-lying agricultural land are covered with greenhouses constructed of plastic sheeting. Our group visited the region in early June, and we found the grocery shops stocked with beautiful, shiny eggplant, zucchini, romano beans, etc. One can easily imagine that similar vegetables could appear in markets in Milano and Torino within a day or two of their having been harvested in Il Cilento.
As noted above, the delegation totally enjoyed one other example of the way that agriculture plays a part in the economy of Il Cilento. People from all over Europe have discovered the pleasures of staying at an azienda agriturismo - an agricultural tourism establishment. The government tourist promotion bureaus have recognized the importance of promoting the growth of that sector of the agricultural economy. Not only does the agriturismo movement bring in a flow of tourists, the movement also promotes the preservation of the kinds of traditional agricultural practices that can thrive without the drawbacks involved in factory farming. An azienda agriturismo must serve food produced on its own property. The guests are encouraged to participate in the production and preparation of that food. Parents of urban families who wish to introduce their children to the origins of the family's meals can rent the rooms which are a part of the azienda and can have the entire family become acquainted with animal and crop growing. Considering the kind of banquet (described above) that the delegation enjoyed at Azienda Agriturismo Principe Vallescuro, and considering the moderate prices of full board and lodging at that azienda, one can understand why any family would want to plan a vacation at an agriturismo in the region of Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo.
As noted above, our banquet at Azienda Agriturismo Principe Vallescuro introduced us to the exceptional skill which local inhabitants take into the production of cheeses. Those of us who had the opportunity to watch our parents and grandparents practice that skill as a part of the everyday life of the immigrants from Il Cilento would not be surprised that cheeses represent a key element in the economic life of Il Cilento. Though milk-yielding animals do become meat on the table, such animals have been valued for the milk used in making tens of different kinds of tasty cheeses. Local pecorino cheeses rival some of the best pecorinos produced in Italy. Local people consume quantities of caciocavallo. Cheese makers usually form a ball of caciocavallo into a pear shape. Caciocavallo (the name alludes to the shape of a bag commonly carried by a horse rider), like mozzarella, is produced by the "pasta filata" method - gathering the warm curds and pulling and stretching them (stretch cheese). Cheese makers still hand-mould the ball, tie a loop around the neck of the "pear," and then hang the cheese in a maturing room. The end result, whether fresh or smoked, provides a tasty, nicely textured cheese that enhances fresh fruit, or nicely complements a slice of prosciutto in a crusty panini (roll). Anyone who has been "hooked on" cheese, will find that cheese-tasting in Il Cilento provides taste thrills that can rival those experiences in any part of the world.
Knowing that I must ignore many other elements of the economy of Il Cilento, I must mention the place of sea food harvesting in that economy. Like many other places in the world, the fishing industry in the Mediterranean has suffered a serious decline. The region has been over fished. Additionally, the use of fishing technologies that hamper reproduction of fish has interfered with the ecological relationships that guarantee a constant restocking of sea life. Nevertheless, one can look out over the sea from one's hotel window and see fishing boats moving back and forth in search of the sea life that will go into preparation of the dishes that one finds on the tables in the region.
At one time anchovies represented a staple seafood for the people of Il Cilento. The significant advantage of anchovies came about because fishermen could find large populations of anchovies, and with a relatively small investment one could acquire the fishing gear needed to harvest anchovies. Furthermore, preserving anchovies did not require high tech equipment or high skilled labor. With a knife adapted to deft cleaning of the anchovies, small barrels, and salt a person could prepare large quantities of salted anchovies. One can still find, in the area to the north of Palinuro known as Saline, the basins hewn from the rocks which the workers repeatedly filled with sea water that then evaporated and left behind the salt. People throughout the region used salted anchovies in numerous food preparations. To people who grew up accustomed to the taste of anchovies, an anchovy adds a special enhancement to many dishes.
During our visit to Marina di Pisciotta several young fishermen gave us an overview of the status of anchovy fishing as they practice that career. They highly endorsed the continued use of ancient practices. The use of their special nets allows the small anchovies to pass through the openings in the nets, while the larger anchovies are trapped in the stands of the net. Thus, the younger anchovies are free to grow and to breed. The fishermen need to develop considerable skill in locating the schools of the anchovies, and they must successfully gauge the depth to which the nets must be sunk in order to intercept the schools of the fish. The young men who explained their practices deserved to have the pride they showed in having developed their skills.
Following the fishing demonstration, the young men escorted us to a bar on the lungomare (seaside promenade), and set out a variety of anchovy preparations. At this tasting, most of the members of the delegation had their first experience of eating an uncooked, marinated, fresh anchovy. The experience proved pleasant to those of us who have eaten anchovies all of our lives, even if the experience differs considerably from eating anchovies on a first-rate slice of pizza!
In sum, then, the hosts of the Hazleton delegation provided ample opportunity to explore the main elements of the economic life of Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo - tourism, olive products, chestnuts, figs, lemons, other agricultural products, and sea food. In limiting this discussion, I have passed over other important products of the region. The area along the coast of Pisciotta has immense areas where quarrymen can easily work a deep strata of beautiful black, white-streaked stone. Vintners have been adapting cultivars of wine grapes to the microclimates found on the slopes and in the valleys. The building industry has capitalized on the long history of Italian skill and innovation in architecture.
The experiences of the Hazleton Sister Cities Association, as its members finalized the plans and arrangements for their visit to Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo, verify the effectiveness of communicating with the people of that region by means of the internet. A steady flow of e-mail messages presented to each party the questions of concern and, in turn, confirmed and clarified plans for arrangements. Additionally, the members of the delegation could access information about the communes that make up Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo by visiting the World Wide Web sites maintained by the region's government units, organizations, businesses, and so forth. Similarly, the people of the Cilento region could find information on the Hazleton region by accessing the WWW sites of The City of Hazleton and various entities in the Hazleton region.
One must recognize that the forward looking initiatives that brought into being the government entity known as Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo further certify the attractiveness of forming a relationship between the Comunità and The City of Hazleton. The Comunità brings together fourteen comuni (towns) in the south end Provincia di Salerno. (Ascea, Alfano, Camerota, Celle di Bulgheria, Centola, Cuccaro Vetere, Futani, Laurito, Montano Antilia, Pisciotta, Roccagloriosa, Rofrano, San Giovanni a Piro, and San Mauro la Bruca) A comune might be compared to the entity known as a township in Pennsylvania or a town in New York. A comune might incorporate a central town and several frazioni (smaller villages). A commune holds its organizational status through constitutional definition of the rights and duties of the comune and the citizens of the comune, as well as through definition of the relation of comune and citizens to each other. As a result of the constitutional definition of a comune, a town the size of San Mauro la Bruca has the same political status as does a city the size of Milan. It is clear that this arrangement creates problems that decrease the potential efficiency of offering community services. Laws have evolved, particularly in the mountain and hill sections of Italy, to require association of the smaller entities into entities known as Comunità Montana. The president of a comunità is elected by the mayors of the comuni. Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo is one of the comunità montana. Thus, the fourteen comune of Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo can act as a single political entity in order to pursue goals that individual comune would not easily achieve.
The formation of Parco Nazionale del Cilento e Vallo di Diano also illustrates the ways in which the formation of a broader entity can facilitate cooperation and improvements. Parco Nazionale del Cilento e Vallo di Diano encompasses territory that extends to the north up to Paestum, to the South to include Marina di Camerota and all the coastline between, and to the east, over the coastal mountains, into the Valley of Diano. Parco Nazionale del Cilento encompasses all of Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo. Parco Nazionale incorporates a wealth of historic and cultural sites, as well as some of the Earth's most beautiful natural formations. Anyone who has visited the area enclosed in the park, over the period of the last ten years, can easily see the benefits achieved by directing resources into regional activities in order to coordinate effort. In turn, a commune can see gains from its association with Parco Nazionale del Cilento e Vallo di Diano. The historically valuable baronial palace in Pisciotta, for example, has been falling into ruin. The palace is currently under restoration. It will be used as the archive and library for Parco Nazionale del Cilento e Vallo di Diano.
One must assume that a vibrant educational system underlies the many positive elements that the delegation directly observed. If one reads many of the reports that appear in the popular press, he/she could be influenced to believe that the population of Italy is being "overeducated." The educational system in Italy allows any motivated young person to pursue an education to match the highest level of his/her potential. As a result there are many young persons who complete a high level of education and then find it difficult to gain employment in their desired profession. One could wonder at the ironies involved in turning out lawyers who become restaurant owners, and engineers who enter local politics. At the same time, one can admire the adaptability of well-educated persons who find a way to express their talents and knowledge in ways that benefit the society. One can admire a high school mathematics teacher who turns his skills toward writing a history of his town. A person trained in literature who holds an office in a government bureau and then assembles a book of poetry written in the dialect of his region has bestowed a major benefit on the young people of the community who wish to understand the lives of their forebears. One can also admire a retired engineer who devotes his time and financial resources to publishing novels in which the people of Il Cilento become protagonists. Knowing that these kinds of persons complete these kinds of projects, an outsider will not be suprised at the level of activity and the accomplishments of Il Centro di Promozione Culturale per il Cilento, which is based in Acciaroli. Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo does not encompass Acciaroli, but the work of the persons attached to Il Centro di Promozione does extend to coverage of matters related to la Comunità. For example, the works assembled by Domenico Chieffallo provide an excellant source of data and information about the emigration from the entire Cilento region.
It should be clear, then, that, from the base of a well-educated population, coupled with the ongoing improvements in governmental organization, communications and travel, the area has a diverse economic life which can support an appropriate level of population growth - and even the personal regulation of population growth has benefitted from extensive changes in attitude and technology. In short, the already high quality of life of Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo can only improve as the region's well-educated and far-sighted leadership envisions and implements appropriate use of the resources and encourages the development of attitudes that will capitalize on the region's resources.
the City of Hazleton
and Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo
As noted above, a project aimed at establishing a formal relationship between Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo and the City of Hazleton had motivated the delegation's visit to the region. After the delegation's members had spent six days in intensive exploration of the region and its culture, the members of the delegation firmly concluded that the Sister Cities Association of Hazleton had made a very appropriate decision when, after its at-home research, it had decided that the two communities should solidify a formal relationship.
The quality of life in Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo would be envied by most of the world's population, and easily matches the level of that of most of The USA. The hospitality of the people of the region allows pleasant and effective interaction. The economy of the region, like that of Hazleton, already rests on solid foundations and promises to improve steadily. Additionally, the important element of long-standing, but somewhat obscured, relationships will infuse the relationship with a special element.
In one of the several meetings of representatives of Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo and members of the delegation, President D'Arienzo expressed their wish that the establishment of a relationship with the people of Hazleton will represent the bridge between the region and the whole of The USA, with Hazleton being the "head of the bridge." During the banquet that closed the visit of the delegation, President D'Arienzo signed the English and Italian versions of Hazleton's City Council Resolution 2001-52 - the resolution that formalizes the pledge to intensify efforts to enhance economic cooperation and contact in the fields of science, education, culture, health, sports and tourism. Tom Kopetskie and Molly Blasko, as President and Vice President of the Hazleton Sister Cities Association, also signed the copies of the resolution.
During the Fall season of 2001, a delegation from Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo will visit Hazleton. In the meanwhile, the leaders of the city of Vallo della Lucania will confer and deliberate on whether to accept Hazleton's invitation to join Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo in the formal relationship.
The modern bridge will have been built. The travel across that bridge, which historically has moved emigrants from Il Cilento to the Hazleton area, will increase - but henceforth the travelers will move in both directions. Visitors from Il Cilento can now travel to Pennsylvania to enjoy the ambience to which the immigrants from Italy and other countries have contributed in large measure. In turn, the citizens of Hazleton, whether or not they be descendants of those immigrants, can enjoy the stupendous beauty, the hospitality, and the resources found in the land from which the forebears of Italian-American citizens' of The USA had emigrated.
A Thank You to the People of
The Greater Hazleton Area
Molly Blasko; Hazleton, PA
|An eight-member delegation from the Comunità Montana
del Lambro e Mingardo (located in Il Cilento region of the Italy's
Provincia di Salerno)visited The City of Hazleton, Pennsylvania (USA) to
continue the process of forming a Sister Cities Associaton between the
Comunità and Hazleton. The delegation spent nine days, from April 10, 2002
to April 19, 2002, in Hazleton. The delegation was led by the President of
Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo, Giulio D'Arienzo. The remaining
seven members of the delegation, representing varied aspects of life in
Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo were: Luigi Gatto, Pietro DeBellis,
Domenico Pandolfo, Giuseppe DeVita, Francesco DiScianni, Gaetano
D'Arienzo, and Pasquale Splendore.
The success of the visit cannot be measured.The piece below, authored by Molly Blasko, Vice President of the Sister Cities Association of Hazleton and a lead person in the formation of the association between Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo and Hazleton, reflects the success of the visit as she offers her thanks to the numerous persons, businesses, and agencies that reciprocated the hospitality that the Hazleton delegation received during their visit to Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo. Molly Blasko's piece appeared in the Hazleton newspaper, The Standard Speaker on May 20, 2002.
For the convenience of the readers, some hypertext links have been built into the following text. By clicking the mouse on any of the links, the reader may connect to those world wide web sites that give more information on the topic that is linked.
We are truly proud. The people of the Hazleton area and many local businesses hosted a group of eight members from the Mountain Communities of Lambro and Mingardo, in the Cilento region – the southernmost section of the Province of Salerno, Italy. The Cilento region is encompassed within the national park known as Parco Nazionale del Cilento e Vallo di Diano.
This delegation from Hazleton’s Sister City Region, in Southern Italy, spent nine days touring our city and it's environs. They visited many restaurants and homes of local residents. Here they dined; and stories of their country and ours were exchanged. Giulio D'Arienzo, the leader of the Italian delegation, aptly expressed the special flavor of this developing association when he said, “Coming here is like ... being reunited with a friend you haven’t seen in a long me. It's like a journey into the past that they've forgotten, but it's important."
The acceptance by the Hazleton residents has been indescribable and unforgettable. The delegates and the citizens of the Hazleton area experienced many emotional moments.
Both sides were interested in learning from each other. The Hazleton people were interested in learning of ancestral origins, and the delegates from Cilento – the Cilentani – were interested in learning the fate of those who left their homeland many years ago and went to the new world.
An interesting observation made by Professor DeVita, of the University of Potenza, was that the Cilentani dialect was still spoken in Hazleton in its original state and had not been diluted in America’s melting pot. The professor was very impressed that the Cilentani culture, history, arts and foods were so preserved here, in Hazleton. The delegation and the Sister Cities Association of Hazleton have set the foundations for an imaginative and stimulating series of projects.
Their visit engulfed cultural exchanges and a proposed program of work, which includes: a) student exchanges on high school and college levels, b) promotion of tourism between the Hazleton area and the Cilento area, c) commercialization of typical Cilentani products, d) restoration of a medieval village which would house an ancestral heritage museum and e) language exchange via TV media.
We would like to thank all who assisted in making this visit a success. To those (restaurantstank you and individuals) who extended their exceptional culinary hospitality to our guests, at no cost:
* Anna and Angelo Belucci of Angelo's Italian House;
* Rita and Benito DiBlasi of Benito's Restaurant;
* Father Angelo of Sacred Heart Church and Shrine;
* Linda, Gene, and Pasco Schiavo;
* Sophia and Bernard Byorek of Byorek’s Knotty Pines;
* Mark Evans of Evans Road House;
* Rose Esposito;
* Doris and Maurice Fierro;
* Father Cappelloni,
* Angie and Joe Umbriac - Mother of Grace Church Reception;
* Renee and Aniello Chirico of the Alta Pizzeria and Pasta House;
* Tom Kopetskie and the Polanaise Society - Polish Easter Fair Dinner;
* Claudia and Ovidio Alfano
* Joseph Petruce and Citterio’s
* Lawrence Caniglia and the Philadelphia Sons of Italy;
* Toni and Richie Molinaro;
* Senator Ralph Musto;
* Rep. Todd Eachus;
* Rep. Keith McCall;
* Culinary Arts Department at Keystone Job Corps;
* Dr. John Maddon of Penn State University, Hazleton Campus;
* Joe Cerullo of Hazleton UNICO;
* Joe Manganaro, and the Berwick UNICO.
For thorough media coverage of the visit:
* Hazleton Standard-Speaker.
For the cordial reception given to our delegation by the following:
* Mr. George Pishko, for a very informative tour of Eckley Miners Village;
* Father Angelo for a tour and very moving experience at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart;
* Father Maurice Raymond for a friendly and warm reception at Most Precious Blood Church;
* John Hallas, Assistant Park Manager, for an enlightening briefing of Nescopeck Park;
* Paul Cerula for a tour of Humboldt Industrial Park and Polyglass;
* Father Thomas A. Capelloni of Our Lady of Grace Church for a special welcoming Mass and use of Madonna Hall;
* Consulate General of Italy, Lorenzo Mott and Secretary Lanza, located in Philadelphia, for advice and guidance concerning cooperative projects;
* Superintendent of the Hazleton Area School District Dr. Geraldine Shepperson for allowing in the Italian delegation to visit the Hazleton Area High School and her cooperation and collaboration during the dialogue concerning student exchanges;
* Sen. Ralph Musto, Rep. Todd Eachus and Rep. Keith McCall for their personal tour of the Pennsylvania State Capital and the time they spent with our delegation reviewing the Italian proposed projects of cooperation and their advice;
* Ross Valenti of the Keystone Job Corp for the tour of the Center;
* Professor Francis Pierucci of Penn State University for his presentation of a Tour of Italy in building a bridge to Cilento and for his time and translation skill;
* Lena Kotansky for her translation skills and cooperation;
* Sal Manfredi for his translation skills, his time and the use of his vehicle;
* Joe Umbriac for his time and use of his vehicle;
* Professor James Mancuso, of Albany, N.Y., for his translation and insights into the ltalian culture;
* Robert Fiume, Transportation Director, City of Hazleton, for his assistance and use of the trolley;
* Daniel Minor, of Sargent Art, for contributing art supplies;
* Barbara Gyrko of Hershey Chocolate for mementos from Hershey;
* Renee Pozzessere and the Luzerne County Tourist and convention Bureau;
* Bob Skulsky of the Greater Hazleton Civic Partnership;
* Attorney Pasco §chiavo for the reception at the Top of the Eighties, which was a very successful fund raising event.
*All the wonderful people who made financial contributions that helped finance the hosting of the Italian Delegation.
Special thank you to Kevin O'Donnell of CAN DO, Joseph DeBias of CAN Do, and Legacy Bank; Dr. Maddon of Penn State, University; William Shurgalis of MMI Preparatory School; Dr. Ed Lyba of Partners in Education; and Nina Campagne of the Hazleton Area High School, for taking time out of their busy schedules to attend and participate in meetings and establish the Sister Cities Association of Hazleton to form a venture program of work between the Hazleton area and the Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo (encompassed in Parco Nazionale del Cilento e Vallo di Diano in the Province of Salerno, Italy).
A special thank you also to Donna Palermo, president of the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce for facilitating business meetings with various organizations and officials.
And an extra special thanks to you, Mayor Lou Barletta, who welcomed our guests to the City of Hazleton.
It was a monumental undertaking and we feel inspired by the cooperation and acceptance received. We feel that it will be a long term venture and benefit to both communities.
The Hazleton Sister Cities Association will be visiting Cilento in July, 2002. Now is the time to Visit. You are welcome to come and join us in this interesting, stimulating and exciting venture. Please call Molly Blasko for information at 454-6922 or Joe Umbriac at 459-1832.
Thank you. Tante Grazie.
Molly A. Blasko
Sister Cities Association of Hazleton
A Hazleton Delegation Returns
To Continue Building a Bridge
Molly Blasko; Hazleton, PA
September , 2002
delegation from Hazleton returned to Il Cilento Region in July, 2002.
Molly Blasko wrote an account of the visit of the second delegation. Ms. Blasko's piece appeared in the Hazleton newspaper, The Standard Speaker in September, 2002.
For the convenience of the readers, some hypertext links have been built into the following text. By clicking the mouse on any of the links, the reader may connect to those world wide web sites that give more information on the topic that is linked.
On Sunday, July 21st we left Hazleton for the Philadelphia airport. Everyone was filled with excitement as we started on our journey to the beautiful Cilento Region of Campania, Italy. Upon arrival in Philadelphia, we met with three more members of our group and together we boarded the plane for Roma. Our flight was over eight hours non stop to Roma; but time went by swiftly. With meals, and snacks, and drinks and television; we were in Roma early the next morning.
Upon arrival in Roma; we met with Professor Francis Pierucci, the last member of our group. As we looked thru the airport, we saw two familiar faces; Pasquale Splendore, Vice-Sindaco of Pisciotta and Gaetano D'Arienzo. After some warm embraces and some refreshments, we boarded the bus to take us to Palinuro. We enjoyed the beautiful scenery as we traveled to Palinuro. Arrived at our hotel at four o'clock in the afternoon. After a brief rest, we enjoyed a tasty dinner at our hotel, a wide assortment of vegetables and antipasto, pasta, veal and fish; which quickly brought back memories of our last visit. After dinner, we me with Luigi Gatto in the hotel lounge and had a welcome toast and made plans for our excursions. We left the hotel for a walk in Palinuro and stopped at the Luna Rosa Ristorante, we met Giulio D'Arienzo, Consigliere for the Provincia of Salerno and his wife, Rosalba and his son, Gaetano. The meeting was very emotional, we greeted each other as close family members.
Tuesday, after breakfast at our hotel, we traveled to San Mauro to visit with cousin, Mauro Cusati and other town officials. Sindaco Gabriel Romanelli and Consigliere DeLucca were at the municipal building waiting for us. We went thru official records and had some photocopies made. Sindaco Romanelli stated that they would like to establish a journal of emigration from San Mauro La Bruca and San Nazarius. Visited the Chruch of Saint Euphemia, and reaffirmed our devotion to San Mauro La Bruca. After visiting with some other people and seeing other points of interest, we left for Rodio.
When we arrived in Rodio, we were greeted by Pietro Debellis. We visited the town and stopped at the home of Mrs. Dianese, Claudia Alfano's mother. We had some refreshments and were on our way. Stopped for lunch in Vallo della Lucania and traveled to the Monastery on Montesacro. We went as far as possible with the bus and then we traveled on foot as the pilgrims did so many years past. Slowly, we reached the top and you are really above the clouds. We visited the church of the Madonna and was escorted thru the chapels and museum by Don Carmine Troccoli, the priest in residence. We shared some refreshments and spent some interesting time with Don Carmine. We were extended exceptional hospitality from everyone we met, which caused our schedule to vary. We returned to Palinuro and the Luna Rosa Ristorante for a Welcome Reception.
Upon arrival at the Luna Rosa, we were greeted by our hosts, Giulio D'Arienzo, his wife, their son and all the members of the Italian Delegation, who had visited us in Hazleton in April. We met Dominic Serra, the newly elected Presidente of the Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo, other officials, wives and families. Our circle of friends just keeps growing. After a dinner of delicious food, typical of the Cilento Region, we shared stories and songs, with our accomplished musician Domenico Pandolfo leading in the musical enjoyment. Molly Blasko received from Professor Giuseppe DeVita a presentation of Immagini Dalla Civilta' Contadina which contained a collection of beautiful sketches depicting the Cilento Region and reproductions of several of his poems relating to the Cilento Region and his obvious love for his homeland. "I am honored to receive this presentation and will treasure it always" stated Molly Blasko. The agreement between the Hazleton Sister Cities and the Comunità Montana del Lambro e Mingardo and the Cooperation Agreement between the Mountain Communities and the Hazleton Chamber of Commerce were presented to Giulio D'Arienzo and Dominic Serra, representing the Mountain Communities. A small token gift was given to each member of the Italian Delegation from the Hazleton Sister Cities Delegation. A really full and exciting day.
Wednesday, starting very early in the morning, we traveled by private bus to Salerno. We marveled at the lush orchards and picturesque villages as we traveled north to Salerno to board the boat to Capri. Just the name Capri stirs excitement and wonderment. We traveled along the Amalfi Coast and really got a wonderful view of the coast line. Professor Pierucci, who is very knowledgeable about the area, called our attention to various points of interest. Arriving in Capri after a two and a half hour boat ride, we soon were caught up in the activity of a heavily traveled tourist area. Our guide met us and we toured Capri and the many shops, had lunch and then proceeded by bus to AnaCapri, a separate community atop the Island of Capri. There were lush gardens and beautiful terraces, perfume factories which produce perfumes from the flowers, which grow exclusively on Capri. An incredible road, literally cut into the rock, the famous Via Krupp, which leads from the Gardens of Augustus along a tortuous path to the Marina Piccola. It really is a shoppers paradise, well worth the visit. We left Capri and returned to the mainland by hydrofoil to Sorrento. Traveling thru Sorrento briefly, we returned to Palinuro for a late dinner at our hotel.
Thursday, we traveled to Ascea Marina, hoping to meet a couple from Hazleton, who were vacationing there. Upon stopping for directions at a local real estate agency, we met a person who joined our group and took us to the couples home. Our efforts were not fruitful, they were not at home. The gentleman, who accompanied us, made a phone call and found that they were at the beach in Ascea Marina. As we had a scheduled appointment in Pisciotta, we left Ascea. Arriving in Pisciotta, we headed for the municipal building for our meeting with Sindaco Aniello Mautone and the other members of the city government. At the meeting, Molly Blasko represented the Hazleton Sister Cities and the Hazleton Chamber of Commerce. Hazleton Sister Cities delegates were Steven A Blasko Sr. and professor Francis Pierucci; who, also, served as interpreter. After a very informative discussion between Sindaco Mautone and Molly Blasko, via Professor Pierucci's translations; agreement of co-operation between the two groups was realized. An Italian flag was presented as a gift for Mayor Lou Barletta of Hazleton. A toast was made for the success of the joint endeavor and photos were taken. Also in attendance at the official meeting were the following Pisciotta officials; Pasquale Splendore, Vice-Sindaco, Ass/re Clutura; Carlo Festa, Ass/re Sanita' Raffaele Cobellis, Ass/re Ambbiente; Antonella Trama, Ass/re Turismo; Pietro DeBellis, Consigliere.
The officials from Pisciotta were instrumental in the formation of the Sister Cities affiliation; as they had approached Mayor Lou Barletta concerning some type of affiliation at the same time we had sent out our research letters to the Cilento Region communities.
We left Pisciotta for our dinner at Principe di Vallescura, an elegant agrituristismo ristorante overlooking Pisciotta and the Gulf of Palinuro. Upon arrival at the ristorante, we were greeted by Mr. & Mrs. Carmine Marsicano, proprietors of the establishment. We were treated like returning family members and talked of what had happened since our visit last year. The meal was a sumptuous banquet, pleasing the most discriminating gourmet palate. Antipasto, cheeses, vegetables, pastas, fish, veal, poultry, breads, wines and a toast of lemoncello liquor. The meal was excellent, the view was breathtaking truly an unforfeitable experience.
Returning to Pisciotta for the Fiera di Mezza Galera, a street fair held along the street running parallel to the beach and the piers. Festivities started with a parade of people wearing medieval attire and pirates clothes and a band marching thru the street. Stands lined the street and anything imaginable was available; paintings, food products, jewelry, wood products which were hand carved, leather goods, perfumes, fine linens and so much more. Vendors took pride in their products and spent time with any interested person. The Master of Ceremonies was a relative of a friend , we had dinner with in Palinuro and she ushered us up to the front of the grandstand. The festivities ended with exciting dance performances by the participants in the parade. Everyone was in a very happy mood and we were, soon, clapping to the music and became a part of the festivities. Before leaving Pisciotta for our hotel in Palinuro, our host, Pasquale Splendore led us to a pizzeria for a late evening snack. After ordering pizza and soda, we soon had a pan each brought to our table. We were all amazed, but, as the pizza had a very thin crust and it was delicious, nearly everyone finished their pizza.
Friday, we spent the morning in Palinuro relaxing and shopping. At noon, we set out for Rofrano and an appointment with Domenico (Mimo) Pandolfo for a picnic in the National Park of Cilento. At Rofrano, we received directions and headed for the mountains. After driving for a while into the park area, we met Mimo and he guided us to the picnic area. The area was lush and green, similar to our Pocono Mountains. The weather was not ideal, as it started to rain; but our host anticipated inclement weather and had a large tarp over our picnic area. With gas burners for the pasta and sauce and a wood open fire for the steaks, the help of his wife, daughter and friend, our picnic took shape. We started with home-made wine, capicola, cheese and bread. Our first course of pasta with meat sauce and our second course of veal steaks were delicious. Fresh salad and watermelon, which was cooled in a bubbling spring finished off our picnic meal. Lots and lots of conversation, singing and a good time was had by all. Truly a picnic to be remembered for a long time.
We left our picnic and headed for Futani, where there was a church festival honoring St. Ann. We arrived just as the procession was starting and we joined with the towns people. At one point, we looked up and saw familiar faces. The Tombasco family from Hazleton were vacationing in the area and came to attend the procession. A sudden shower brought the procession to a halt, and we returned to Palinuro.
Saturday morning was free time for everyone and time for some last minute shopping. In the afternoon we set out for Centola, a community where relatives of Joe Cerullo lived. Gloria and Joe met with their relatives and we took off for a visit thru the town. We visited the church and the square and met people. Some of the people tried to help Joe Umbriac trace his ancestry. We returned to our hotel in Palinuro for lunch and then headed off to Vallo della Lucania. It was the Feast Day of St Pantaleone and the whole town was lined with archways of lights and street vendors on every street. The whole town was celebrating.We arrived at the church and watched as the families prepared to carry their patron saint thru the streets to the Piazza. The statues were brought from nearby community churches. When they were ready; the procession started. There were at least twenty-five different statues in the procession with Saint Pantaleone coming out of the church last. Following the parade of saints was a band and then the people. We joined in the procession and all the people along the way did the same. To see that amount of devotion was a very moving experience. At the Piazza, the statues were placed on a balcony overlooking the people. Everyone walked around and talked to each other. We met Renee and Aniella Chirico and Rose Esposito in the Piazza, they wer vacationing in the area. There were some stands nearby and we had some roasted chestnuts, Italian nougat candy and fresh lupine beans, as we strolled thru the piazza.
We really had a good time, it was a night, which reminded you of the church festivals in Hazleton long ago. We headed for Palinuro and arrived near midnight. We had promised Guilio D'Arienzo and his wife, that we would stop and say farewell, as we were leaving Palinuro for Roma early the next morning. We had a farewell toast and sampled his home-made wine. After trays of meats and cheese and breads, we, reluctantly, said our farewells to each other and returned to our hotel.
The people we have met are so kind and generous, we have been made to feel as if we are part of their families. The closeness of the homes in the villages, the beautiful people, the lush country side, the olive orchards, the cliffs, which drop off into the Mediterranean and the blue, blue of the water. To truly appreciate the beauty of the Cilento Region, one has to spend time in the area and experience all that makes this region unique. Reality and legend mix in this beautiful land. Ulysses stopped here to listen to the siren's song and Virgil tells os Palinuro falling into the sea, lulled asleep by the stars suspended in the night.
Leaving Palinuro we headed north to Roma. En route, we stopped at Pompeii, the city which was buried under a rain of ash and volcanic stone in 30 hours, when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in the year 79 A.D. Archeological excavations have brought the entire city to light. we traveled thru the streets and homes and temples and private gardens. We viewed the Temple of Apollo, The Temple of Jupiter, a grandiose Ampitheatre and the Civic Forum. Our English speaking guide was very informative and offered insight into life as it was before the eruption. We had lunch at the beautiful Victoria Hotel and then proceded on our journey. We made a stop at the Monastery at Monte Cassino. As our bus climbed up the steep mountain side, you could visualize troops trying the scale that mountain side during the war. The Monastery was beautiful and the view overlooking the valley below was awesome. There was an exhibit containing relics and religious articles that were exceptionally beautiful. Well worth a stop on anyone's schedule.
We arrived in Roma and after a brief rest, headed for a nearby piazza for a late supper. The piazza was alive with people and everyone was having a good time. We relaxed and enjoyed our dinner. Visited a few shops and returned to our hotel.
In Roma, you could leisurely visit two or three points of interest in a day or you can set out to see as much as possible. We chose to see as much as possible, and planned an early start.
In Roma, we started our day with a visit to the Vatican. No matter how many time you visit there, you are always in awe of it's beauty and it's majesty. Some toured the Vatican Treasury, which had a collection of such magnitude, to fully appreciate it all, you would have to spend hours just on one segment. Some more adventurous in the group took the tour up into the Dome. After climbing 320 steps, the view below was well worth the breathtaking effort.
While in Roma, we walked and traveled all day and night. We saw the Colosseum, The Forum, Circus Maximus, The Pantheon, Castel Sant'Angelo Museo Nazionle. The Palatine Plains, The Spanish Steps, The Trevi Fountain, Piazza Novana, The Borghese Gardens, Constantine's Arch, so many basilicas and churches; one more beautiful than the next. There is never enough time to see it all. We experienced all modes of transportation; we walked and walked, traveled on buses, cabs and the underground. We sampled the delicious food and luscious wines in beautiful side-walk cafes and plush restaurants. Trying new dishes but always the first course of pasta. It was a whirlwind two days. Arising early Wednesday morning, our private shuttle arrived at the hotel to take us to the airport and our trip back to Hazleton and home. The flight home was filled with wonderful memories of good friends, good times, good food and a beautiful country.
Our Sister Cities affiliation with the Cilento Region has opened doors to a beautiful part of our lives that has been left unopened for too long. The doors are open, now we travel towards a closer, long lasting relationship with the people and the Cilento Region.
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|We would appreciate hearing your reaction to our account. The author, Jim Mancuso died on June 10th, 2005. We maintain this site in memory of all the things that he did for us.|
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