A Painter Reconnects to
Family Heritage in Italy and Sicily

Kathleen Citrolo Gwinnett

January, 2002  

The first section of the piece, below, presents an account of the "reconnecting" experience of Kathleen Citrolo Gwinnett.
Kathleen Citrolo Gwinnett, a career painter, traveled to Italy and to the places of origin of her family, in Sicily. Since her reconnecting she has developed a large portfolio of paintings that record her vivid impressions of her encounters with the world of her forbears.

September, 2002

In the second section of the piece Kathleen Citrolo Gwinnett reports on a Spring, 2002, trip to Sicily and Italy, telling of how she continued to trace out her family'sorigins. She and her husband, Charles, also explored the south end of the west coast of Italy.

See images of Kathleen Gwinnett's paintings and further accounts of her travels at her WWW sites



Kathleen Citrolo Gwinnett may be contacted through e-mail at


My parents had very little interest in seeing Italy. Their parents came to New York City at the turn of the century. They settled in "Little Italy."

Since I was a young girl, I always dreamed of traveling to Europe, but it was not until I reached my 50th birthday and experienced my bout with breast cancer that I had the determination, finally, to travel there. In 1991, I accompanied a French native - a friend - to France and then to Italy, visiting Florence, Venice and the Italian Riviera. I was enchanted with the culture of Italy and the beauty of its land and its people. Although I had studied Italian art in my art history classes (at Parsons School of Design, New York City), I didn't realize how the antiquity of the country would envelop me. There was so much I wanted to capture in my watercolor paintings.

I began studying Italian language tapes and listening to Italian music on my return from that first trip. I hadn't realized how much Italian vocabulary I knew from listening to my grandparents. Finally, in 1998, I convinced my husband to take me to Italy: this time, with the goal of reaching Sicily and the places where my grandparents originated. When I called Palermo to make hotel reservations I was so delighted to hear the Sicilian voices of my father's aunts, which I remembered from my childhood.

I have always been interested in my family history, so my goal was to find the places where my ancestors originated. I was not able to find much information in Palermo, on our first visit there. We thought it would be easier to go to the small town of Belmonte Mezzagno, the origin of my grandmother, Catherine Buttacovoli Citrolo. At the municipal building we were given a copy of my grandmother's birth certificate, and we met people with the name of Buttacavoli, and Allota, my great grandmother's name. We were told there were no Citrolos listed, or, the persons we spoke to, didn't remember seeing that name in the records of the town.

On my second visit to Palermo I visited a municipal building where birth certificates were available. I received one for my grandfather, Vito Citrolo, and one for his, father, Giovanni. Unfortunately, I was not able to view any of the old files where I might learn the addresses of the births, so that I might locate the houses where the family lived. My father had told me that my grandfather went to the market every morning to sell his butchered meat. I can only guess this is the old Vucciria , close to San Domenico church. I was really excited to visit this market on my last trip to Palermo, and of course, I painted a scene from it. On my next trip I hope I can find another municipal office in Palermo that will give me more detailed
Street in Belmonte Mezzagno
Sicily, showing ancestral home
of Kathleen Gwinett's grand-
mother. Watercolor by K. C. Gwinnett
information. I have painted my grandmother's house in Belmonte Mezzagno. The painting can be found on my web site. The web site also displays paintings from my maternal family's town of origin, Resuttano in the Madonie Mountains.

Arriving back in America, I continued to paint the Italian and Sicilian locations I had photographed. For the first time in my painting career, I felt so attached to my original paintings; I decided to keep them for a while, and make prints for sale. I subsequently created a website to display and sell my paintings and prints, and also to relate my travel experiences and my connecting with my Sicilian family history. This exposure has resulted in my acquiring painting commissions of peoples' ancestral homes and churches in Italy.

I have made many new friends, who after visiting my sites have emailed me to share their Italian heritage. My only regret is I spend too much time at my computer and away from my watercolors. As a full time artist, painting has always taken up a good part of my day. My husband, Charles, however, always enjoys answering inquiries about our Italian voyages. We can be reached at: kgwinnett@triad.rr.com.

September, 2002

Our twenty-one day trip in April, 2002 to Sicily and mainland Italy was great. It has been a busy summer with my painting and family activities.

I finally located my paternal grandfather's house in Palermo and did a painting of it. After 4 days in Palermo, we then stayed at two different agro-tourist farms, one close to Siracusa (Limoneta)and the other at the eastern most part of Palermo province (il Feudo Tudia ). At these two locations, I spent a few afternoons painting in the warm Sicilian sunshine.

We visited Noto for the first time - a truly beautiful place in the Siracusa province. From Il Feudo Tudia we were able to again visit my mother's first cousin and his family in Resuttano , whom we had located on our Sept., 2000 trip. We took a day trip with my cousins to Santa Caterina Villamosa where their children live and have photography studios. In Resuttano, I located the street where my maternal grandmother was born.

We departed Sicily, but not before again visiting Giardini-Naxos and Taormina. It was more beautiful then I remembered it. The afternoon ferry from Messina to Calabria, which docked west of Reggio-Calabria , was a pleasant ride and left us only about a ten minute from the Autostrada.

This was on the 16th of April and there was a national strike in Italy. Therefore, all the toll booths in Sicily, and on the mainland were closed-no tolls. .

The scenic drive through Calabria was an exhilarating experience. We stopped at Pizzo, on the coast , a lovely, small town. It has a castle overlooking the sea, which has historical significance. It was here that Napoleon's brother in-law, Joachim Murat , the former King of Naples, was executed by the Spanish after his failed invasion with a small military force from Corsica.

Our next stop was in Sorrento for four days, where we were taken by distant relatives to visit Pompeii. We spent our final three days in Rome. On Wednesday we attended the Pope's weekly audience in Saint Peter's square. It was a moving experience. Our accommodations at a nearby convent was a great choice.

Please revisit my Italian web sites as I have added new pages with paintings and stories of our travels through the Madonie Mountains, Siracusa , Calabria, Pompeii and Rome. http://www.geocities.com/gwinnettcf


This essay was developed as a part of the effort of The Albany (NY) Area Lodge of The Sons of Italy to make available material that will develop an appreciation and understanding of The Italy-to-USA Avventura. Nevertheless, the writers of this essay and other text found on this world wide web site claim sole responsibility for the content of their productions.


       Anyone interested in obtaining a printed copy of this essay may change the print size by going to the view menu, and then instructing the program to print the text. It would be advisable to set the printer to print in black ink.  

. 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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