Connecting Our Family to its
Southern Italian Origins

James C. Mancuso
Los Angeles, CA
January, 2003

        This account describes a trip through a part of Southern Italy that the author and his son, Martin, completed, during December, 2002. During this trip the travelers continued to elaborate their perspective on the history and culture of the region, with particular emphasis on developing a braod view of how the history and culture of the region relates to their family, who are descendents of emigrants from that part of Italy.
       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.

Arriving in and Briefly Visiting Roma

           What father would turn down the proposal that Martin, our son, had made to me? We would meet in Roma , Italy, on December 12, 2002, and we would then spend eight days traveling through Southern Italy. During those eight days we would visit Italian relatives as well as some of the historic and artistic attractions of Italy south of Rome. During this trip, unlike other Italian trips that we had shared, we would have each other’s undivided attention. Further, we would need to consider the needs and wishes of only two persons, rather than those of a variety of fellow travelers.

           After the eight-hour flight, with its standard discomforts, from John F. Kennedy Airport, Long Island, New York, to Leonardo da Vinci Airport, Roma, Italy, I took the train from da Vinci to Stazione Termini, Roma’s main railroad station. Rather than wait in the long lines for a taxi, I purchased a bus ticket, and walked through the heavy rain to the stop at which I could board a bus that would take me to the street on which was located the pleasant hotel at which we had reserved a room.
           The man with whom I had made plans for the evening’s dinner had left a message instructing me to telephone so that we could make final arrangements. After having decided that Fabio would meet us at the hotel at 7:00 P. M., so that we could comfortably join Roma’s 8:00 P. M. dinner crowd, I stretched out on the bed to take a nap while waiting for Martin to arrive.
           To my surprise, the telephone rang and the desk clerk informed me that I had a phone call. To my disappointment, Martin was on the line to tell me that due to a series of delays, he was still in Amsterdam. The flights which he and his family had taken to reach Amsterdam had been delayed. Fortunately, his wife, Pernilla, and their two children, Emilia and Melina, had been able to proceed to Göteborg, Sweden, where they would be met by Pernilla’s parents. Unfortunately, Martin had missed his flight to Roma, and would be routed through Milano to Roma. At earliest he would arrive at 8:30 P. M., but at worst, he would not arrive in Roma until 10:00 P. M. There was no chance that he could join Fabio and me or dinner.
           Fabio had contacted me through e-mail after having explored the internet sites that I manage. He had written a major essay on immigration of Italians to The USA, and had inquired into my interest in having a copy of the essay – which he had written in English. I certainly wanted to have the opportunity to read an essay that would give an Italian’s perspective on what I call l’avventura. I informed Fabio that I would be traveling to Roma, and that I would enjoy having an opportunity to meet him and to discuss his essay in a face-to-face meeting. He graciously made arrangements to meet me and to share a Roman dinner and lively discussion.
            Our hours-long dinner and conversation gave me the opportunity to cover a wide range of topics. Fabio easily helped me to elaborate my views on Italian society and history. He brought to the conversation a perspective that he had developed through his experiences as a member of an ancient Italian family, through the formal education that led to his having been awarded a doctorate level degree, and through his business associations with the banking industry of Italy. In turn, Fabio enthusiastically explored the perspective of the son of an Italian immigrant to The USA. He was able to link elements of that perspective to aspects of his knowledge of Italian history and society. Through the conversation we were able to gather information that allowed explicit and implicit evaluations of the contrasts in our perspectives. We could explore the bases of converging and diverging views on political and social functioning. We could discover points of contact between the history of Fabio’s family and the histories of my family. We could discuss my perspective on the views that current Italian-Americans have of Italy and Italian life. I was especially stimulated by Fabio’s interest in creating opportunities for people to build a comprehensive perspective about the interconnections between the history of Italy and the history of Italian immigration to The USA.
           One barely notices the passage of time when one spends an evening in total immersion in the kinds of stimulation offered by lively conversation accompanied by excellent Roman food – an evening such as that which I spent with Fabio. Unhappily, we needed to part without making definitive plans for another meeting. I know that I can easily foresee a plan to return to Roma at some time in the future. I hope that I can foresee Fabio’s visit to New York State.
           After I had returned to our hotel room, I tried to read in order to remain awake until Martin arrived. I had selected two books as material that would allow me to while away the more tedious hours of travel. The books I had chosen, I judged, would offer enough stimulation to entertain me, while not making strenuous demands on my attention. A biography of Louis Prima, the flamboyant Italian-American trumpeter/entertainer, had suitably shielded me from the discomforts and boredom of the long plane trip to Roma. I had begun to read my second companion book, A Couple of Cops , a fine tribute to two cousins of the writer, George Cuomo. When I returned to our hotel room, I stretched out to resume reading Cuomo’s book. As I might have expected, I bolted awake when, an hour later, Martin came through the door of the room. 
           The Church of Saint Paul Within the Walls . Whatever time readjustments might have been required by our having shifted through six time zones, we managed to rise feeling rather refreshed to resume our travels. We decided to walk along Via Nazionale to reach Il Termini. In that way, we would stretch our legs before boarding the train for Napoli. Additionally, we would take the opportunity to stop to view the interior of the church of Saint Paul’s Within The Walls. The congregation of Saint Paul’s follows the precepts of the Anglican Communion. The church was built during the decade of the 1870s. Thus, a tourist in Roma could view Saint Paul’s as a “modern” protestant church, built shortly after the Pope lost political control of the city of Roma. The interior of Saint Paul’s contains art and architectural features to which Martin and I could connect. The elaborate tile work that covers the lower parts of the interior walls of the church was created by William Morris. The dramatic mosaics covering large sections of the interior walls were created by Edward Burne-Jones, who was one of the outstanding artists associated with the Pre-Raphaelite movement and, thus, an associate of the more famous painter, Dante Gabriele Rossetti. When Martin was fifteen years old, he had visited Kelmscott Manor, the country home of William Morris. There he had been introduced to an array of the results of Morris’ prolific life. My connections to Morris included my interest in the close association between Morris (1834-1896) and Dante Gabriele Rossetti (1828-1882).
           Further, a person interested in the history of Southern Italy would find stimulation by tracing out the history of the Rossetti family. Gabriele Rossetti (1783-1854), an Italian poet and liberal political activist, needed to leave Southern Italy rather than face the consequences of his having played a part in a reform movement aimed at diminishing the power of the repressive Bourbon king of Napoli and Sicily, Ferdinand I. Specifically, during the year 1820, the elder Rossetti had taken an active part in forcing Ferdinand to adopt a constitution, which, characteristically, Ferdinand soon revoked. Without doubt, Rossetti the poet passed on to his children, Dante Gabriel, William and Christina, his inclinations to challenge current approved thought. As founders of and participants in the activity of the Pre-Raphaelite movement , they profoundly influenced the arts of Great Britain, which was then at the zenith of its status as a world colonial power. Their association with Morris, also an influential innovator, was based not only on their shared personal and artistic work, but also on their political ideologies. Morris, who is credited with founding and supporting the English Arts and Crafts movement, also wrote prolifically in his effort to promote socialism.
           As visitors to The Church of Saint Paul Within The Walls, Martin and I could see physical evidence of coalescing of the principle ideologies that came together through the lives of the Rossettis. One can easily associate the tiled walls – an unusual feature of a major church – with the arts and crafts movement that William Morris had solidly established in England. The art work, reflects not only the radicalizing techniques of the Pre-Raphaelite painters, but also the kind of liberal social philosophies espoused by Morris and the elder Rossetti. In one grouping of figures Burne-Jones adopts a practice used by some of Italy’s Rinasciamento artists. Burne-Jones executed the portraits of some of his contemporaries to represent, symbolically, the Christian warriors who established good government. A viewer can easily identify political heroes of his time, U. S. Grant, G. Garibaldi, and Abraham Lincoln, among the warriors.
           Unfortunately, Martin and I had not made plans to remain in Roma to enjoy another appealing aspect of Saint Paul’s Church. Brochures we picked up announced the schedules of the various concerts that promoters had scheduled for the concert season. On a previous visit to Roma, my wife, Susan, and I had attended a concert of opera arias given in the church. Unhappily, in order to follow our planned itinerary, we needed to move on to Napoli. As happens frequently during our Italian travels, we could only hope to be in Roma to attend a future concert.
           When we checked the schedule of trains that would leave Il Termini, bound for Napoli, we found that something like luck had favored us. A Eurostar express would leave the station within fifteen minutes of our having entered the station. At the ticket window, the agent could assign us reserved seats on that train. During the one hour and forty-five minutes of travel that took us from Roma to Napoli, Martin and I savored the pleasures and comforts of efficient railroad travel. The train rolled smoothly out of the station and cruised through the appealing landscape of Lazio and Campania. From our very comfortable seats we could observe the features of the countryside through the expanse of the car’s windows. Though we were happy to have arrived in Napoli, we did so without experiencing any impatience to conclude our pleasant ride.

Napoli (Days Three and Four)

           We arrived in Napoli and we immediately encountered a harbinger of our coming enjoyment of the city. At a kiosk that occupied a prominent position in the lobby at the end of the track platforms, we learned of an imaginative program that would fit very well with the agenda of our visit to Naploi. A consortium of regional and city agencies had organized an imaginative program known as Campania > ArteCard . For the highly reasonable fee of thirteen Euros, we purchased a packet that gave us extensive information about the program, a three day pass for all public transportation, admission to two museums of our choice, and a fifty percent reduction in ticket price to all other participating museums.
           We left the train station, and made our way to the Piazza Garibaldi stop of Napoli’s Metropolitana. The fast, comfortable trip from Piazza Garibaldi to the Leopardi stop of the Metropolitana gave us an opportunity to appreciate the huge building project that will result in the expansion of the subway and commuter rail system in the Napoli area. In that Napoli is a city built on precipitous bayside hills, the building of the system represents a major challenge to construction engineers. The possibility using a completed section of the Metropolitana gave us the opportunity to take a room at the recently renovated Hotel Leopardi. The hotel is located in a neighborhood out of the center of the city, and is reached by a very short walk from the Leopardi stop on the Metropolitana. In less than twenty minutes after our boarding the Metropolitana, at the Piazza Garibaldi stop, we were checking in at the Hotel Leopardi. In another hour we were back at Piazza Garibaldi, the point at which the city’s busses converge. Our first task was to find a bus that would take us Museo Archeologico Nazionale.
           Before finding the bus that would take us to the museum, we first found a tavola calda at which we could order a light meal. Of course, once we were exposed to the large variety of dishes that, by visual contact alone, could stimulate the flow of digestive processes, we were forced to select more food that we would ordinarily order for a lunch. Could we pass up our first opportunity to savor an arancini? The grilled eggplant would neatly complement the arancini. Then, a balanced meal must include the sauteed rapini. And, how could a person fail to end his first meal in Napoli with a sfogliatelle napoletane – that classic, crisp pastry filled with a lemony pudding, served slightly warmed? And all the while that we were making our selections, our involvement was accelerated by the vivace of the crowd of equally hungry clients who surrounded us and who, with amusement, watched gli americani fumble through the process of selecting and paying for the food and drink.
           After our very satisfying experience at the tavola calda, we boarded a bus that would take us to Museo Archeologico. The bus was crowded with Friday afternoon riders – a cross section of Neapolitan society. As we proceeded I asked one of the riders for information about the best stop at which to alight in order to reach the museum. At that, Martin and I could enjoy the amusement provided by a group of animated Italians, each of whom tries to offer his/her advice as the best response to a query. Each of several of our co-riders debated the benefits of following his/her suggestion. In the course of the interchange, of course, we needed to give information about our place of origin, our reason for being in Napoli, why I could speak Italian fairly fluently, and a variety of details about our visit to Italy. The middle aged woman to whom I had first addressed my question ended the conversation, as we followed her out of the bus, by warning me to keep a close watch on Martin. She predicted that he would prove attractive to the young women of Italy, and that he might find it tempting to disrupt our travel plans in order to explore the outcomes of an advance by one of her more aggressive young compatriots.
           Though I had visited Museo Archeologico several times during other visits to Napoli, Martin had not visited the museum. Like many museums in Italy, the museum has been thoroughly refurbished over the past years. The rearrangement and elaboration of displays, during this opportunity for re-exploration, enhanced my appreciation for the stupendous creativity that humans can and have achieved.
           If one tries to review human history, he/she can easily become overwhelmed by the great tragedies and the ruin that humans have perpetrated on each other and on human achievements. A museum such as Museo Nazionale, however, can allow us to contemplate the significance of the small collection of creative works that have survived those tragedies. The works of genius collected in the museum can remind us of the folly of the destruction of huge numbers of similar creations. How, after viewing the surviving works of the geniuses that worked in Italy and in the Mediterranean area, can one fail to consider his/her obligation to work toward avoiding the destruction of the creations of architects, sculptors, and other visual artists? What would our world be like if there still survived every statue by Praxiteles, Phidias, and Polyclitus, along with every ancient copy of a statue by these sculptors? How much richer would our lives have been if, through the ages, political leaders, scholars, and fellow artists had worked to create the ambience that would have assured the preservation of the frescos and mosaics that covered the floors and walls of the buildings of the Mediterranean world during the period that Rome exercised its hegemony? What might the world be like had curators preserved innumerable examples of the work displayed in Museo Archeological Nazionale in Napoli so that those examples could have been dispersed through museums throughout the world to inspire further expressions of creative genius?
           Contemplation along these lines prompts me to feel gratitude. In a world that does not come close to the ideal that I could envision, I must selfishly offer my silent thanks to all those people who made it possible for me and my family to visit places where we can relate to the great achievements that are humanly possible.
           A visitor to Napoli’s Museo Archeologico Nazionale, despite his/her level of knowledge of art history, would be forced to give special thought to the meaning of the term Rinascimento (Renaissance would be the French term) – rebirth. The deliberate destruction of “pagan Roman” culture choked off the transmission of knowledge of the techniques that Greco-Roman artists used to create the kinds of frescoes and mosaics that are on display at Museo Archeologico. Even a cursory study of the frescoes reveals the level of mastery of spatial representations, color, and shadings that the Roman painters had achieved as they frescoed the walls of villas.
           That same mastery guided the production of the astounding mosaics that one can view in the Museo Archeologico. By use of thousands and thousands of tiny tesserae the mosaic artists could create images that could completely absorb a viewer. Martin called my attention to a small mosaic portrait of a young woman. The artist worked his skill to portray a woman whose appealing expression attracts studied attention. A modern portrait painter, using oil on canvas would be challenged to produce a work that would create the same effect. Indeed, a viewer standing back from the portrait, so that the individual tesserae could not be isolated, would believe that the portrait was done with oil paints.
           Any art history course would include a discussion of the most celebrated mosaic in Museo Archeologico: Alexander the Great Confronts Darius III at the Battle of Issus . The mosaic covered a floor in The House of The Faun, one of the grand villas excavated at Pompeii. The complete mosaic covers an area that measures, roughly, nine feet by fifteen feet. Scholars have estimated that the artists used one and one-half million tesserae to complete the mosaic. One can find several book length discussions of this marvelous work. In those discussions a student can follow a variety of hypotheses about the history and origins of the scene. Those discussions have recently generated special interest, since some scholars would support the claim that the original wall painting that is duplicated in the mosaic had been painted, some three centuries B. C. E., by a woman artist – Helen of Egypt. Whoever painted the original knew something about convincing the viewer that he/she is observing a mad battle in which the warriors clearly show determination, fear, and skill in handling weapons. How does one explain the disappearance of the techniques of depicting the wide-eyed fear that Darius shows as a determined Alexander advances toward him with upraised spear? Considering the complete disappearance of that skill, one can understand the awe experienced by those people of Firenze who witnessed the reappearance of that skill in the paintings that the innovating painter, Massacio (Tommaso Cassai, 1401-1428?), completed in the famed Brancacci Chapel.
           Our absorbing tour of Museo Archeologico needed to come to an end as we were warned that the Museo was about to close for the day. We had not yet toured one of the recently opened displays that we had wanted to visit. The Museo’s curators, moving with the changing ideologies of our time, had organized a display of artifacts from the so-called secret rooms. Martin inquired whether we could return at another time to use our admission ticket to view the display of erotica unearthed at Pompeii. We were assured that we could return the next day, and that the personnel at the admissions gate would recognize us and would allow us to re-enter the Museo.
           We decided to walk toward the center of Napoli, rather than to ride the buses to our destination. Had we adhered to the routines we followed at home, we would already have had our dinner. In Napoli, as elsewhere in Italy, restaurants are not prepared to serve the evening meal before 8:00 P. M. As we walked toward the historic center of Napoli, we stopped at a bar to replenish our supply of Italian caffeine with a delicious cappucino. We asked the barista if he could suggest a restaurant that would offer a menu based on traditional Neapolitan cuisine. He enthusiastically advised us to have our cena (dinner) at Osteria da Carmelo, and he gave us the directions to follow to reach that restaurant. His suggestions suited us well, because the restaurant was located on the route that we had intended to follow as we headed for the famed section of Napoli in which, during the holiday season, shopkeepers sell the traditional items to build the presepe – the elaborate Christmas nativity scenes for which Napoli is famous.
           Following the directions given by the bar man, we located the theater next to which we would find Carmelo’s. Approaching the theater, we realized that we had come to the famed Bellini Theater: a theater renowned for its beauty and for its productions. Viewing the billboards announcing the evening’s program at the theater, we again became aware of how our limited command of the Italian language constrained our full participation in the stimulating life of Italy. The billboards announced that evening’s performance of Luigi Pirandello ’s Enrico IV. The production had originated in Messina. The evening would surely be a celebration of the Sicilian playwright by a Sicilian company, performing in a theater named for the famed Sicilian composer, Vincenzo Bellini. Pirandello’s masterpiece has not received the attention that scholars and performers have given to his Six Characters in Search of an Author, but, as a theater fan and as a psychologist who has dedicated professional attention to the concept mental illness, I regard Enrico IV as a superb study of how people use the concept designated by terms such as madness, mental illness, emotional disturbance, and so on. I have studied the drama, and I have written an unpublished essay in which I analyze Pirandello’s perspective. I have seen a movie version of the drama, starring Marcello Mastroianni. I have seen a stage performance of the play in which Rex Harrison interpreted the part of Enrico. Unhappily, I cannot offer ultimate tribute to Luigi Pirandello’s genius by attending and fully appreciating a performance of Enrico IV given in the language in which the master wrote the drama.
           Having found the theater, we found Carmello’s, and we stopped to assure that we would have a reserved seat when we returned for our evening meal. We proceeded through the narrow, crowded streets of the historic center, winding our way through the Friday evening crowds of people of all ages whose holiday animation added to the vivace of a standard Neapolitan scene. We planned to explore Via San Gregorio Armeno – a street that, during the Christmas season, is dedicated to satisfying the Neapolitan passion for building elaborate nativity scenes.
           On the way to Via San Gregorio Armeno we passed one of the tiny workshops in which master craftsmen expertly ply their craft. The shop caught our attention, because several men were loading a very elaborately crafted setee on to a small truck. We stood at the wide door of the small shop admiring the several pieces that were in various stages of completion. Intricately carved pieces, perfectly matched, lay on tables next to a vise which held a sister piece in the making. The older gentleman, easily identifying us as foreigners began to explain the project on which he and his son were working. When he became aware that I could carry on a reasonably elaborate conversation in Italian, he became particularly effusive, and began to point out the beautiful pieces on which he and his son were working. He retrieved a thick photo album, and explained the photos showing him as a young man with his father, from whom he learned the craft that he was now teaching his son. Much of their work involved restoration of antiques or fashioning replicas of antique pieces.
           As we continued on toward our goal, I wondered if the local young people who passed that shop would admire the products of the skill of the father and son as we had admired their products. I thought of the denizens of modern suburban malls who rarely would have the opportunity to see small workshops in which generations of craftsmen have produced beautiful pieces. From where might a young mall crawler get the inspiration to develop the skills that that father and son had mastered? Does a society need such master craftsmen?
           The ambience in the area of shops and stalls on Via San Gregorio Armeno matched the ambience that my pre-arrival imagining had created. Many of the shops displayed their own complete, elaborate presepio. Though the scenes centered on the stable featuring Joseph and Mary and the yet-empty cradle of straw, the surrounding space was crowded with figures, dressed as I imagine that18th Century citizens might have dressed, representing every kind of person that one might have found on a busy Neapolitan street. Such elaborate scenes served to stimulate the admiration and envy of the viewers who visited the street to buy pieces that they could add to their own private presepio. The actions of the children were not unfamiliar to any parent who has taken his/her child on a shopping trip. A figure, especially one that the creators had designed so that it could move, would attract a child, and then the parent would need to respond to the child’s insistent plea to purchase the attractive figure. Everyone carefully examined each prospective addition to his/her personal presepio, judging the level of craftsmanship expressed in the piece. Martin had some special help as he tried to make his selection. He wished to buy two figures of angels that hung from thin wires so that they appeared to be flying through space. When he began to examine one of the available figures the young woman in charge of the stall directed him to compare his choice to another, “more attractive” figure. Indeed, the facial features of the young woman’s choice were more finely crafted.
           By the time that we forced ourselves to leave Via San Gregorio Armeno we were almost one hour beyond the time that we had indicated that we would return to Carmello’s. When we arrived, at about 9:00 P. M., we found, nevertheless, that many of the tables were unoccupied. Could we have been directed to a restaurant that Neapolitans avoided? We began to order our wine and food, and wondered what would account for the sparse clientele. As the food arrived, we agreed that its quality would certainly satisfy even the discriminating Neapolitans. As we proceeded through our meal, we became aware that the Friday evening dinner crowds in Napoli would have no intention to leave the restaurant before midnight. Indeed, though we left Carmello’s late enough to have missed the last run of the Metropolitana that would take us back to our hotel, the restaurant was packed with a vivacious crowd enjoying a convivial dinnertime gathering.
           We planned to highlight a visit to the Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte during our second day in Napoli. We planned to arrive early in the morning, and were able to do so by again relying on the convenient public transportation. An early morning walk through the carefully tended park provides an extra bonus to the museum visitors. On the morning of our visit, we observed many workers engaged in the process of further beautifying the park. The entire expanse of lawn was covered with a lush growth of newly planted grass. The stonemasons had refurbished most of the walkways, and crews of workmen were laying out new pathways. The workers were concentrated in the area of the overlook, which was roped off to prevent access. Nevertheless, none of the workers protested as we carefully picked our way though the area. Having traveled to Napoli over so long a distance, we could not afford to miss the view of the bay of Napoli on that sunny day. That celebrated view truly deserves the celebration that it has been accorded – the colorful city itself, the docks, the bay, Vesuvius towering over the whole scene. On the morning of our visit we had a panorama that would have pleased the most discriminating visual artist – a perfect prelude to our tour of the galleries.
           Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte occupies a magnificent building. Carlo VII (later Carlos III of Spain), the first of the Southern Italy’s Bourbon kings, had initiated the building’s construction in 1738, intending to use it as a summer palace and hunting lodge. This building; like the other royal palaces built by the Bourbons during the 130 years that the family occupied the throne of Southern Italy and Sicily, can remind a descendent of an Italy-to-The-USA immigrant of the tremendous disparity between the conditions of the Southern Italian peasants and the feudal nobility who held power in that part of the world. Happily, the building and its present contents now stand as another publicly accessible monument to human creativity.
           As in many other major museums in Italy, the ministries of culture have financed a total modernization of the display spaces and facilities in Museo di Capodimonte. A visitor can comfortably amble through the dozens of rooms to survey and study the collections that once were the coveted holdings of the most powerful of Italian families. Such study will remind the visitor that some of the greatest Italian artists visited and worked in Napoli. Further, a visitor will be reminded that an important baroque school of painting flourished in Napoli, and that from that school there emerged the innovations that followed from painters who adopted the techniques and styles developed by the flamboyant Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi, 1571-1610). A less well known, but eventually very influential painter also painted and participated in the radical politics of Napoli. Though the name of Salvatore Rosa (1615-1673) rarely appears in modern art history books, the Hudson River School artists acknowledged and adapted Rosa’s innovations in painting highly romantic landscape scenes.
           If one follows the Baroque stream through Napoli he/she finds that baroque styles flourished not only in painting but also in architecture and music. G. F. Handel (in Napoli in 1708) adopted and then extended the Neapolitan baroque style in his opera seria, which, in turn, influenced his stupendous oratorio creations. The Neapolitan baroque stream flows through the music of, D. Scarlatti (born in Napoli, 1685), G. B. Pergolesi (Born 1710, moved to Napoli where he pioneered comic opera), D. Cimarosa (began study in Napoli in 1761, extended opera buffa, exiled from Napoli following his support of republicanism). 
           G. Rossini (appointed director of Napoli’ San Carlo in 1815), and V. Bellini (began study in Napoli in 1819), and G. Donizetti (moved to Napoli in 1816 and worked there for 16 years) further augmented the great music traditions of Napoli. Donizetti left his unique mark on the musical life of Napoli by having composed the Neapolitan song that won the prize at the first competition of the Piedigrotta Festival for popular Neapolitan song. And though few of the people who left South Italy and Sicily would have attended a performance of a Donizetti opera at San Carlo Opera House, the majority would have sung or hummed the tune of one or another of the songs that had won prizes at the Piedigrotta Festival. Few might have known that Donizetti had written Ti voglio bene assaje when they carried that song and all the other prize winners to the continents to which they had emigrated. And, only a small portion of the millions of viewers who have listened to the now-fabled Three Tenors can connect their rendition of O sole mio or Torna a Surriento to Napoli’s Piedigrotta Festival. Fortunately, the issuing of a constant stream of recordings of opera arias and neapolitan song continues to nourish the fame of the super illustrious neapolitan tenor, Enrico Caruso.
           Unhappily, most visitors who plan trips to Napoli start from a negative stereotypical perspective, rather than a perspective which highlights the associations between Napoli and superb human creativity. Following a stereotype model that vested interests have assiduously promoted, travel writers seem unable to resist warning tourists of deep, dark elements that pervade Neapolitan life and pose potential threats to the well being of naive visitors. Happily, contemporary scholars have turned their talents to exploring the origins and the validity of that stereotype. Over the past several years, more and more travel writers advise prospective visitors to reconsider their use of the stereotype, and to view Napoli as no more nor no less threatening than is any other major city in the world. Hopefully, more and more travelers who wish to pay homage to the great achievements of humans will follow that advice and will take the opportunity to visit sites such as Napoli’s Museo Nazonale di Capodimonte.
           A visitor to Capodimonte should take advantage of another aspect of Neapolitan culture that is available at the Museo. A lunch at the tavola calda allows for a very pleasing and relaxing intermezzo. A quarter liter of wine, sipped as accompaniment to the tasty selections, effectively relaxes the leg muscles that have been strained by two hours of moving and standing as one tries to study and absorb painting after painting.
           After Martin and I had done our best to use our allotted time to survey the collection at Museo Capodimonte, we boarded a bus that would take us down the mountain, back to Museo Archeologico. I needed to satisfy my curiosity about the artifacts that had been retrieved from “the secret rooms” and put on public display. Why had the contents of the exhibit been kept from general public view, and why had the curators decided that the items on display would no longer stir public indignation?
           When we arrived at the Museo Archeologico we joined a group that one of the guides had assembled for a tour through the newly arranged exhibit. The young guide, speaking newly-learned English, introduced her audience to the exhibit in a very straightforward manner. She explained that the Romans of the period in which Pompeii had been buried had regarded sexuality as signifying prosperity and fecundity. Thus, the presence of scenes of direct sexual activity and symbols of sexuality, particularly penises, would be displayed in places that a modern viewer might regard as inappropriate. She pointed out a huge replica of a penis that had hung over a bake shop. Where had the Pompeiians displayed the statues that illustrated a variety of sexual practices? Had the vases that were decorated with explicit scenes of intragender sexual activity circulated freely in the community? If nothing else, the exhibit encourages a viewer to consider seriously the diversity of conceptualizations that different societies can develop as their members think about vital aspects of daily life. How would the father of a modern suburban family discuss a huge replica of a penis that his ten-year-old daughter might see hanging over the entrance to a pastry shop?
           Though a two day visit to Napoli allowed us to enjoy only a brief overview of the what we considered the most important of Napoli’ attractions, Martin and I could not have been satisfied if we had not squeezed in quick visits to three of Napoli most striking architectural edifices. On our way to the San Carlo Opera, we passed through Galleria Umberto – a stupendous glass-enclosed shopping mall. By building the galleria, which opened in 1890, Napoli’ architects paid tribute to the technical achievements that were possible by the then modern uses of glass and steel. During our visit, the vast covered shopping center was crowded with people enjoying the lavish holiday decorations. We enthusiastically shared the crowd’s enjoyment of the very elaborate presepio (nativity scene) that occupied a large space in the Galleria.
           Unhappily, we could not convince the young woman at the door of the San Carlo Theater to allow us to wander into the theater. On the other hand, we had no difficulty entering and making a brief tour of Il Duomo of Napoli, the cathedral that is dedicated to Napoli’ patron saint, San Gennaro. Il Duomo of Napoli contains the famed vials of the blood of the saint. The unusual activity of the contents of those vials has generated a mythology that has been carried throughout the world by the millions of emigrants who left the area of Italy that was once governed from Napoli. In that the mythology holds that the contents of the vials will liquefy on the Saint Gennaro’s feast day, September 19, we did not expect to witness the “miracle” during our visit.

Reggio Calabria, Locri, and Gerace (Day Four and into Day Five)

           Our visit to Napoli ended when we traveled to the airport at Capodichino to acquire the rented auto that we would use during the remainder of our Italian trip. With Martin as the driver, we dashed down the Autostrada del Sole, trying to cover the 310 miles between Napoli and Reggio Calabria in the shortest possible time.
           Reggio di Calabria. As we had planned, we arrived in Reggio in time to enjoy a very leisurely visit to Reggio’s Museo Nazionale, which is also known as Museo di Magna Grecia. People, like us, travel long distances to view the main attraction of Reggio’s principal museum: The Riace warriors. The Bronzes of Riace , apparently created in the Fifth Century B. C. E., can be categorized among the most stupendous examples of bronze statuary. This pair of free-standing statues of warriors was found, in 1972, at the bottom of the Ionian Sea, off the coast of Calabria, near the town of Riace. Viewing these masterpieces, I was again reminded to the meaning of rinascimento. When Donatello created his masterpiece, the statue of David with the head of Goliath (1430-32), he revived artistic competencies that had produced the Riace warriors 2,000 years before he worked. A viewer can easily see in the Riace warriors the concepts of balance and beauty that Michaelangelo incorporated into his David (1501-04).
           Standing back from the statues I asked Martin, “But, did the sculptor who created those bronzes show the veins as did Michelangelo in his statue of Moses (1513-1516)?”
           Indeed, the ancient sculptor not only sculpted the veins, he even carved out the finely etched toe and finger nails. The unknown sculptor missed no detail as he sculpted those envy-creating bodies.
           Though the bronze statues are the main attraction of Reggio’s Museo Nazionale, we roundly appreciated the exhibits of the materials from the ancient South Italy city of Locri Epizefiri. Our plans for travel to Cropani Marina, Provincia di Catanzaro,included a stop at Locri as a prelude to visiting Gerace, the city to which the population of Locri had transferred, in the latter part of the Xth Century C. E., when Locri had become uninhabitable.
           Siderno, Locri, Gerace, and on to Cropani Marina. To follow our itninerary, we would leave Reggio in the early evening, retrace our route on the Autostrada del Sole, going northlerly until we reached Rosarno, where we would take the route across the peninsula (the toe of the boot) to the Ionian side of Calabria. In that way we would travel on superhighway for over half of our trip toward Locri. As we crossed the peninsula, we would traverse a route that the earliest settlers in the area had used to transport goods destined for the westerly coast of the boot. Those settlers found it convenient to avoid the dangerous trip around the “toe” and then through the straits of Messina. The merchants’ ships would stop at ports such as Locri and Sibaris, where workers would unload merchandise coming from the eastern Mediterranean and then transport those goods to a port on the westerly side of the “toe.” At that port, the goods would again be loaded on a ship that would carry the goods to northern ports. Such trade accounted for the fabled wealth that accumulated in the cities on the “sole” of the Italian boot, and the cessation of such trade contributed to the steep decline in the importance of those cities.
           We reached the Ionian coast at the city of Marina di Gioiosa Jonica. We turned south, toward Locri, and found a hotel in Siderno, seven kilometers from Locri. I had planned to stop at Siderno, knowing that many families in Albany, New York, had descended from people who had emigrated from Siderno. I was sure that we would meet people who were related to our Albany friends. My certainty was confirmed.
           We chose to stop at a hotel that was clearly advertised on the route on which we were traveling. We registered for a room and asked to arrange dinner at the hotel. After enjoying a dinner that based on local ingredients, we had a peaceful sleep in a comfortable room. In the morning, we checked out, and as we paid our bill, we conversed with the owner of the hotel. He had spent several years in Albany, where his father had worked in Albany’s restaurants. The proprietor spoke of some of our friends as old friends, and told of frequent exchanges of visits between his U. S. friends and family members.
           At Locri we had our first disappointment of our trip. The museum, like most museums in Italy, was closed on that Monday morning. The employees of the museum invited us to wander at will through the excavations. As we inspected the various remnants of the great buildings that the ancient Locrese had built, we could only fantasize about the grandeur of the ancient city.
           A recounting of the fate of Locri encapsulates a prototypical account of the great cities that emerged from the Greek colonization of South Italy and Sicily. The cities began to flourish during the Seventh Century B. C. E. By best estimates, the Greek colonizers established Locri at the site of the current excavations during the decade of 670 B. C. E. When they began their settlement, they arranged the terms of their inhabitation with the indigenous people, the Siculs. The Siculs moved to the hinterland, and their availability as laborers contributed to the rapid growth of Locri, which then established a number of sub-colonies on both coasts of the Calabrian peninsula. Writers who left the bits of record of the city acclaim the colony as a well-ordered city, crediting its leaders with having produced one of the first written sets of municipal laws. Like other cities in Magna Grecia, as the colonies of Sicily and Italy were known, Locri constantly battled with other colonies; particularly with Reggio and Crotone. The leaders of the city effected an alliance with Dionysius, the tyrant of Siracusa, during the early part of the IVth century, B. C. E. That alliance proved to be a major mistake when Dionysius’ son assumed power. The people of Locri eventually overthrew Dionysius the younger, but the decline of the city could not be abated. In the two following centuries, the city was constantly involved in the wars during which the Romans took control of Southern Italy and Sicily. By the end of the IIIrd century, B. C. E., Locri was a Roman city.
           In the meanwhile, the cities of Magna Grecia declined in importance as the trade routes were transformed, owing to the development of the Appian Way. Merchants could more safely and just as rapidly transport goods from north Italy to the eastern Mediterranean by sending their wares over the Appian Way to Brindisi. The rich families moved to cities in which their wealth would be more productively invested. After centuries of the city’s decline under Roman rule, the Italian peninsula was overrun by Goths, Lombards, and Vandals, during the IVth and Vth Centuries C. E. Locri, like other cities on the south end of the peninsula, became a part of the backwater of the Byzantine empire, and remained such until the Norman conquests in the XIth Century. The Byzantine rulers, busy with maintaining control of the eastern Mediterranean and fighting interminable wars under the banner of supporting one or another arcane religious doctrine, offered the southern Italians only scant protection from the rapacious incursions of the marauding North Africans. The North Africans, known as Saracens to the people of South Italy, working also from bases on the completely conquered island of Sicily, constantly raided and pillaged throughout the southern end of the peninsula. Toward the end of the Xth Century and the beginning of the XIth Century the Saracens occupied bases on the peninsula, from which they ravaged the country with impunity. In the year 930, for example, the forces of a Saracen warrior chief who was based in Squillace, about 100 miles from Locri, occupied the city and took 12,000 prisoners. The Saracens habitually transported Italian prisoners to North Africa, where they were sold on the slave markets. The Locrese responded to the need for protection by establishing and moving inland to the readily fortified city of Gerace.
           The Normans knights who conquered South Italy and Sicily during the Xith Century brought to the region a semblance of order and the promise of reviving economic and cultural achievement. After 200 years of progress, however, their achievements were squandered as Federico II, who, ironically, was the most capable of the Norman rulers, wasted huge resources in his efforts to assert his hegemony over papal and city state powers. Following Federico’s death, in 1250, Southern Italy was dominated by one after another power that simply exploited the people of the region to extract every possible bit of the meager resources available to the subjugated populace. The last series of governments of the nation of South Italy, headed by the Bourbon dynasty, severely repressed a series anti-monarchist upheavals. Gerace was the scene of one of the more brutal responses. In Septermber, 1847, five young men who had tried to incite a general uprising in the area were summarily tried and condemned to death. The sentence was carried out by a squad of fifty gendarmes. Their bodies were dumped into a common grave, and their families were prohibited from showing any sign of mourning. Even after Southern Italy and Sicily were incorporated into the new state of Italy, in 1860, the conditions of social organization served only to convince millions of people to emigrate. Only during the last 50 years has there been a concerted effort to raise the status and well-being of those people.
           The evidence of the brief period of relatively enlightened Norman government can be seen in Gerace. Gerace was established as a city in which the people of Locri could find refuge from the malaria and from the Saracens. The city occupies very high ground, inland about 12 kilometers from Locri. The setting, about 1500 feet above sea level, is very dramatic. From almost any spot in Gerace, one can have a magnificant view of the territory that stretches to the Ionian Sea. Many stately buildings, built by various orders of religious communities, attest to the central status that the city once held in the region. The cathederal displays the ways in which the Normans accepted diversity, in that the architecture incorporates Byzantine as well as Norman influences. Further, building materials obviously were borrowed from the remnants of the pagan temples of Locri and then transported to Gerace. For example, the builders of the cathedral adapted ancient columns to support the interior arches of this largest religious building in Calabria.

           As happens at every site I have visited in Italy, I regretted at needing to cut short our exploration of the ancient buildings that line the narrow streets of Gerace. We had promised Cousins Antonio and Pasqualina that we would arrive in Cropani Marina in time to join the family at the usual Italian dinner hour of about 2:00 P. M. The road from Locri to Cropany Marina follows the coast, which is lined with one after another town through which we would need to drive slowly.

Cropani Marina and Sersale (Days Five and Six)

           When we arrived at the home of Cousins Antonio and Pasqualina, we were greeted with the same effusive warmth with which we always have been greeted in the homes of the Mancuso family in Calabria. Pasqualina, an excellent cook, had prepared an extraordinary welcoming banquet. We were introduced to new members of the family: Cousin Antonio’s grandson Antonio (named, as is the custom, for his grandfather); young Antonio’s mother, Monica; and the boy’s weeks-old brother, Alessandro. We had not, before this visit, met Monica, the wife of Antonio’s son, Salvatore. Salvatore is an officer in the Italian financial police, and holds a post in the busy port city of Taranto. Giuseppe, the second of Antonio and Pasqualina’s sons, holds a post as a corrections officer in a prison in the city of Catanzaro.
           Martin and I were given time to establish ourselves in the bedrooms to which we were assigned, and then we joined the family for the welcome banquet. In the home of Antonio and Pasqualina the meal always begins with dishes of a wide assortment of antipasto. Antonio and Pasqualina serve their home made cheeses, marinated vegetables, and prepared meats. The savory preparations raise the temptation to make a meal of those delicacies, but we know that much more is to follow, so we judiciously sample each dish so that we can just as enthusiastically enjoy the pasta, which, that day, was dressed with a savory tomato sauce laced with chunks of sun-dried tomatoes. The main dish, pork cutlets smothered in a sauce of wild porcini mushrooms, was accompanied by a salad of greens accented with crisp slices of raw fennel. As usual, the meal ended with bowls of fresh fruit, cheeses, and strong coffee.
           While enjoying these kinds of meals, we also enjoy questioning Antonio and Pasqualina about the growing, preserving, and preparing the food. Most of the food that they serve has its origins on their own plot of land. On their plot of about ten acres they grow all varieties of meat, vegetables and fruits. They continue to use many of the ancient methods of preservation, since the preparations add to the savory quality of the produce. Peppers can be frozen and then carefully cooked, but why would one give up the enjoyment of peppers pickled in vinegar, and then served with a dressing of olive oil and oregano. When Antonio slaughters his pigs, he could put most of the meat into the family’s freezer. But, the family must have available the slices of spicy capicola that go on the antipasto platter or into a sandwich that is taken into the mountains when the family goes on a mushroom gathering outing. Though Pasqualina and Antonio clearly have mastered the old arts of preserving food, the very old method of preserving the juice of his grapes remains problematic. That method can produce wine of highly variable quality, and even the use of modern high technology equipment will not guarantee a good wine when the vintage is not of premium quality. They have, however, mastered the production of the drink that they serve as a digestivo – lemoncello. The zest of the lemons of southern Italy impart a very special taste to that drink, and the family members have perfected the method of adding a creamy base to the drink.
           After the dinner and a bit of relaxation, we accompanied Antonio across the field separating his home from the home of Uncle Salvatore and Aunt Giuseppina. I did so with a truly heavy heart. I knew that Uncle Salvatore, now 89 years old, had suffered a very debilitating cranial hemorrhage. Antonio had painted a clear picture of the results. Uncle Salvatore could no longer walk without having the careful attention of another person. He could no longer speak coherently. He no longer could maintain his personal care. He would react very strenuously to his frustration over his condition.
           Uncle Salvatore represents, to me, the epitome of the self-sufficient Italian agricultural worker who assiduously makes every effort to master the skills needed to produce prime results in each of his/her undertakings. He could speak knowledgeably about every aspect of the agricultural work by which he supported and enhanced the quality of life of his family. He and Antonio had turned their plot of land into a luxurious garden. They had built a large apartment house as well as several units that they could rent to the vacationers who came to enjoy the nearby seashore during the high tourist season.
           Uncle Salvatore enthusiastically took on the role of story teller, and I enthusiastically had listened to the stories that he could tell of his varied life. He grew up in the small town of Sersale, in an era when he reluctantly needed to enact rituals by which he supposedly showed respect and deference to the gallantuomini of the town. Uncle Salvatore was ten years old when my father, his older brother, left Sersale; and Uncle Salvatore could tell me of his memories of my father, who had died when I was ten years old. Uncle Salvatore was drafted into Mussolini’s hapless army, and spent two years mining coal in Poland after he refused to join the German fighting forces following Italy’s capitulation to the allied forces. He walked all the way from Poland to Italy, after he and his comrades had left the prison camp, rather than waiting to be officially repatriated. Once home, he became an activist in the effort to effect a land distribution. The acquisition of the plot of land on which he and Cousin Antonio have lived and worked resulted from the success of that activity.
           When I walked into the room in which Uncle Salvatore lay helplessly in his bed, I barely resisted succumbing to the tumble of emotions that I experienced as he laughed excitedly and squeezed my hands in his still strong hands. I knew that he wanted to tell me another string of stories. If I could catch the first word of his attempts to verbalize, I could have some idea of what he intended to say, but otherwise I could not process the tangled stream of consonants and vowels that he produced.
           Aunt Giuseppina stood by, watching the interaction, pleased that Uncle Salvatore seemed to show that he had recognized me and had responded happily to my visit. I knew, however, her characteristic solicitous patience was heightened by her observation of the current condition of the forceful and competent man with whom she has shared seventy years of her life. She used an Italian term that translates to something like poor fellow, as she tried to explain Uncle Salvatore’s condition.
           What other than great sadness accompanies the loss of a highly valued connection to his history, especially if that connection ties to a father from whom I was disconnected by death when I was ten years old?
           Aunt Francesca, my father’s 91 year old sister, represents another valued connection to my father. Martin and I went to Sersale on the second day of our stay in Calabria.
           In Sersale we first dropped by the florist shop managed by two daughters of my cousin Lucia, Aunt Francesca’s daughter. Maria and Teresa’s shop is in the heart of Sersale, near the offices of the commune. We wanted to collect official documentation of my father’s birth in Sersale. Maria accompanied us to the town offices, and introduced us to the clerk.
           As has happened on other occasions when, in Italy, I searched out official documentation of our family members, the clerk was curious, courteous, and enthusiastically helpful. In the first place, the search became complicated. According to the documents that I had, my father, Vincenzo, had been born in 1904. There was no record of his birth in the 1904 town ledgers. We found his birth record in the 1902 ledger – November 12. We now have official evidence that he was aged 20 years old when he arrived in The USA, in 1922; and he was aged 36 years when he died in January, 1939.
           The helpful town clerk also showed added exuberance when he learned that Martin is a mechanical engineer. He proudly told us that he has one child, a son, who, at that moment, was completing his last semester of study for his degree in environmental engineering.
           We left the town office carrying several copies of the documents that officially informed a reader of my father’s birth in Sersale, a beautiful copy of the original handwritten record of my father’s birth, and several books related to the history of Sersale that the clerk and his associates had given to us.
           Our collection of literature increased when we visited the offices of Pro Loco Sersale. There we were greeted by a man who proudly escorted us on a visit to the ironworker’s shop that he had inherited from his grandfather. That shop easily would occupy a place of honor in any artisan’s museum in the world. Every possible hand tool – many of which were no doubt made in that very shop – hung in neat arrays on the walls. Our guide demonstrated a number of ingenious hand and foot propelled ironworking machinery. He showed us the results of some of his work. He happily posed for the pictures that we took. Again, we needed to depart. Maria was closing her shop for the afternoon break. She and her children, Antonio and Lucia, had stopped at the shop after school had closed, and we were expected at Cousin Lucia’s to take part in Lucia’s celebratory banquet.
           If ninety-one year old Aunt Francesca were an Italian-American great grandmother, she would be called a “live wire” by her America grandchildren. She inspires and readily engages in humorous repartee with her grandchildren and great grandchildren. She displayed that tendency immediately on our arrival at Lucia’s home. When she was informed of our arrival, she stepped out on the veranda, and looking down on us, she excitely pronounced, “My how you have aged.” Her grandchildren quickly picked up her comment. “And you, you haven’t aged??”
           Aunt Francesca certainly has aged physically. I imagine that if I had measured her she would stand about four feet tall. She always suffered from debilitated hip joints, so that she hobbles, and having shrunk in height, her hobbling becomes more apparent.
           Fortunately, her age has not diminished her mental functioning. She can connect the remotest relatives through the longest chains of relationships, and she promotes glee by exercising her gentle wit. Most of all, she shows no restraint as she expresses her affection for all her family. If I were not obligated to disconnect from her physical contact, she would hang on to me throughout our visit.
           Again, at Lucia’s home, as one after another of our relatives came in and out, we enjoyed several hours of good food and conversation. The conversations about food centered on holiday preparations. We were introduced to a delicacy that is a traditional holiday treat – pittanchiusa. The Christmas traditions in our family, in The USA, had originated in the family of my mother, which had emigrated from Provincia di Salerno, so that I had never discovered pittanchiusa. The pastry, however, suggests much about the origins of its place in tradition. It is said that the pastry is of Arab origin. The stem of the word, pitta, recalls the traditional flat bread of Arab-influenced regions. The term inchiusa, can suggest enclosed. The pastry, in appearance, suggests a cinnamon roll generously stuffed with nuts and raisins. The pastry, however, is crisp. Martin immediately associated the pastry with the Arabic pastry baklava. We had been introduced to and were enjoying as a Christmas delicacy a pastry that had its origins in the traditions of the Muslims who had occupied Calabria as raiders and pillagers!
           On the morning on which we departed from Cropani Marina, Martin and I first walked along the endless beach near the homes of our relatives, taking a circuitous route to home of Aunt Giuseppina and Uncle Salvatore. We then offered our last hugs and kisses to the family members, apologizing for the short visit. We knew that everyone appreciated our effort to make even that short visit, especially since that visit was connected to Uncle Salvatore’s unhappy status. They also understood that we also wished to make a similar short visit to relatives of my mother’s family, in Provincia di Salerno.

Il Cilento Region (Days Six and Seven)

           I had never experienced, in Italy, the driving conditions that we encountered on the trip northward on Autostrada del Sole. Heavy rain and fog do not enhance a trip over the high mountains along the route. After we left the Autostrada and descended toward the sea, to reach Palinuro, we escaped the fog, but did not escape the rain.
           As usual, our friends and relatives in the area of Provincia di Salerno known as Il Cilento, extended the same exceptional hospitality that they always extend to us during our visits. That hospitality was demonstrated in the one after another pleasing events staged by our friends and relatives, some of which are described in the following text.
           The desk clerk at the Hotel Santa Caterina, who had presided over desk at the Hotel San Pietro during one of my previous visits to Palinuro, showed high delight at our return. She had not expected us, and her surprise added to the exuberance of her greeting.
           After we had checked in at the hotel, we made our way to one of the few restaurants that continues to operate during the season when few tourists visit the area. Showing the almost uncanny skill that is shown by people in the small towns of the region, the proprietor recognized me, though I had not visited the restaurant for two and one-half years. I attribute that skill to the ways in which the people of this region connect persons through chains of family relationships. They link me, as they do everyone of their acquaintances, to cousins, uncles, aunts, and so forth, so that when we again meet, I am fit into my place in the chain, and I am easily identified.
           We knew that we had arrived late for midday cena. Nevertheless, we were disappointed when the waitress regretfully informed us that no vegetables were available to accompany the pasta dish we had ordered. We were the last patrons in the restaurant. As we finished our meal, one of the waitresses began to set the table at which the personnel would dine. She placed two bowls of sauteed escarole and beans on the table. I tried to joke. “You didn’t have vegetables for us, but look at that – beautiful bowls of escarole and beans.” Without missing a step, the waitress prepared two side dishes of the greens and presented them to us. She also shared the dessert that was being served at the personnel table.
           Our family members would be offended if we did not visit and dine with them and accept the mementos that they would offer to us. Since this visit was quite impromptu, we found that we could not visit two of our three cousins. One cousin needed to travel to Napoli, where he conducted business and met his son, who was taking the last of his examinations to complete his study for a law degree. The son of another cousin had finished his internship with a law firm, and was taking the examinations that correspond to the bar examinations that prospective lawyers take in The USA. Another cousin had broken his leg while helping with the olive harvest, and was bedridden. We could not fit a visit to his home into our very tight schedule.
           Nevertheless, it had been arranged that we would join the family of the absent cousin for our midday dinner. A second cousin took us on a tour of the improvements he had completed on the house and tract of land on which he lives. He also arranged our visit to his son’s very modern leather and sportsware store, where he gave us a special tour of newly added, elaborate sportsware section.
           I had wanted to show Martin why the agritourismo movement appealed to me. We drove out of Palinuro to the agritourism establishment of a young man with whom I had become acquainted. Again, we were greeted enthusiastically. My friend, Vincenzo, took us on a quick tour of the gardens, the stables, and the rooms in which they prepare the produce of the establishment.
           Vincenzo explained the concept of agritourism, telling us that the idea behind the movement was to provide a means of preserving the ancient methods of food production, preparation, and preservation. Vincenzo’s establishment includes the family home, the farming area, a restaurant, food preparation areas, a gift shop, and two apartments, each of which can accommodate a family. Families may rent the apartment, and the family members are encouraged to participate in the agricultural and food preparation activities. In that way, the operator and his family have a reliable source of income while preserving a self-sufficient farmstead on which they offer instruction on the technologies of such operations. The products produced on the farm – cheeses, prepared meats, preserved olives, olive oil, dried fig delicacies, marmalades, and so forth – are used in the restaurant and are sold in the shop.
           Vincenzo sent us off with several gifts from his shop, and Martin and I speculated on how much Martin's two daughters would enjoy a stay at Vincenzo’s agritourismo.
           I was able to visit some of the people with whom I had become acquainted while I have been involved with setting up a sister city association between several communities in Il Cilento region and Hazleton, Pennsylvania. Many people from that part of Il Cilento had migrated to Hazleton , as did my mother’s parents. In Hazleton the Cilentani found work in the coal mines. A recent effort by people on both sides of the ocean has prompted a notable revival of interest in maintaining contact between the people of Il Cilento and the descendants of the people who left Il Cilento during the major emigration.
             The hospitality extended by my friends affirms the value of any effort to maintain contacts between the people of that region and those of us who are connected to that region’s history. I particularly appreciate their generosity in supplying me with the stream of books that give accounts of the history of the region.
           My friends, Luigi and Pasquale, further elaborated our knowledge of local history by taking us on a brief tour of a display that has been mounted at Marina di Camerota . A group of citizens of the town have made imaginative use of one of the caves in a seaside cliff to display the sailing schooner Leone di Caprera . The schooner was built in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1880. The schooner’s name alludes to one of the designations attached to the world renowned Italian hero, Giuseppe Garibaldi. Garibaldi had led troops in the various military actions that sought to establish republicanism in Brazil and Uruguay. Twenty years before the schooner was built, Garibaldi had led the troops that overthrew the Bourbon rulers of Southern Italy. Three seamen, one of whom was Pietro Troccoli – a native of Camerota, sailed the schooner from Montevideo, across the Atlantic, to Gibralter. Their adventurous voyage highlighted the connections between the two hemispheres that resulted from the emigration of the thousands of Southern Italians who left Italy to establish their families in the Americas after Southern Italy had become a part of the new Italian nation.
           Of course, I also greatly appreciate their having arranged convivial meals at local restaurants. The meals served in restaurants in Il Cilento replicate the dishes that my mother and her family once prepared for us, and the nostalgia that those dishes evoke adds immensely to the enjoyment of the special flavors and textures of food grown and prepared by the people of that area of Italy.
           On the last evening of our stay in Palinuro we went to the Luna Rossa Restaurant to have a light supper before returning to Hotel Santa Caterina. I had had many pleasant interactions with the manager of the restaurant and her husband, during the visit in which the Pennsylvania delegation worked to establish the formal relationship with the communities of Il Cilento. To our surprise, the son of one of my cousins appeared as we were enjoying our food. As he passed on the street in front of the restaurant, Aneillo had been hailed and had been informed that Martin and I were having our late evening meal. Aneillo joined us to add a new ingredient to our enjoyment of the meal. When we asked for our check, the manager informed us that we had been Aniello’s guests. Thus, we ended our last evening in Il Cilento with a final burst of special, warm hospitality.

Departure (Last Days)

           As we made our way northward on the Autostrada del Sole, destined eventually for the Roma’s Leonardo da Vinci airport, I had ample opportunity to review the impressions left by my thirty years of visiting Southern Italy and Sicily, my associations with the Italian members of the families of my father and mother, and with the many people of the region with whom I had developed associations.
           My ruminations centered on considerations of the implications of many of the observations I had made during this round of visits.
            Have I seen the last of Italian peasants like Uncle Salvatore? Though Cousins Antonio and Pasqualina continue to operate a household that is largely self sufficient, Cousin Antonio’s sons have entered the civil services. Who will acquire the kind of knowledge that one must acquire in order to maintain the kind of agricultural activity and household that Antonio and Pasqualina have maintained?
            Will the production of the marvelous items of the healthful diet of South Italy decline, or will the agritourism movement successfully supplant and contribute to maintaining a diet pattern that has developed over millennia of experimentation?
            My three cousins who live in Il Cilento region originated in a peasant family that occupied the lowest rungs of the society of their community. They now enjoy the benefits of their exceptional business success. Yet, they take fierce pride in their knowledge of peasant lore and their ability to use that lore as they continue to maintain gardens and orchards. Their children have become active professionals and business people. What will happen to the agricultural projects that my cousins have maintained?
           What will be the outcome of the ban on further building of houses in the community in which Antonio and Pasqualina live? Centuries of exploitation by power holders has done little to promote cooperative community activity among the people of Southern Italy. Will the community hold to the ban, or will interested developers succeed in overriding the building ban, despite the lack of resources to sustain a larger community?
           Whatever the future of the society with which I connected thirty years ago, I can only relish the consequences of my decision to reestablish contact with our family’s Italian history and heritage. I have found joy and satisfaction in exploring the points of contact that had been left behind by my father and my grandparents. I have been treated with respect and esteem by thousands of Italian people – friends, relatives, shopkeepers, restaurant and hotel personnel, and so forth – with whom I have interacted during our visits. I have found that my own personal self identity has been fortified by my having built a complex perspective on the history of Southern Italy and Sicily, particularly on that part of that history that relates to the massive social movement that transplanted four million Southern Italians to The USA. My appreciation of the efforts of my parents and grandparents has been immensely enlarged by my having built the perspective that allows me to see the nature of the commitment to their families that they expressed as they worked in dangerous and fatiguing conditions to establish their homes in an alien world. I have needed to explicate and to consciously express my gratitude to those who helped me to reach a position in life from which I could develop my perspectives on the history of our family.
           I am particularly grateful for having had many pleasing opportunities to share my explorations and my perspectives on our family’s history with our immediate family. Our shared trips to Southern Italy, like this inimitable journey with Martin, have provided me with images that I can savor throughout the rest of my life.

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. 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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