I am writing this letter as a diary of my trip
so far. I wanted to write down our experiences and feelings, so why not
do that and share with you all at the same time?
We arrived at the San Diego airport at 8:45,
Thursday, August 5th. [Sally’s sister Mary gave us a ride to the
airport.] The plane was an hour late. We took off at about 11:45 A.M.
We arrived in New York at about 8:30 P.M. On the plane, I sat next to a
young man from Belgium [named Edward]. Because the plane was an hour
late, he missed his connection to Belgium and had to take our
connection to Italy. He would get home (to Belgium) at 6:00 P.M.
instead of 9:00 A.M. all because our flight was one hour late! [He
spoke English very well. He said that his girlfriend is from
Spain. Her native language is Spanish, his Flemish. He
spoke no Spanish and she spoke no Flemish, so their relationship was in
After arriving in New York, we rushed to catch
our flight to Italy. We were on an Italian airline [Alitalia], so we
got our first taste of Italian all around (supplemented with English).
The fight took off at 9:45 P.M. We arrived in Italy at 11:30 A.M.
(Rome). We were fed dinner and breakfast on the plane (9 hour
difference between Rome and San Diego time). [Arriving in Rome, we went
through passport control and baggage check without incident.] We were
greeted at the Rome airport by Mark’s “cugino” (cousin) Giuliano and
his wife Rosalba. It was a bit awkward at first as they were trying out
their English and we were trying out our very little Italian. [The trip
from the airport was via the GRA This is the “Grande
Italian for the ring road or beltway which goes around Rome. We took
exit number 1, Via Aurelia, into the center of Rome to Giuliano’s home.
He lives a few kilometers from Vatican City.]
We have found, through Giuliano and Rosalba,
that the Italian people are the most giving of any people in the world.
They have done just about anything you can think of to make us feel
welcome. By the way, Giuliano and Rosalba’s English has been getting
better day by day, as their English is better than our Italian. But I
tell you that my Spanish has come in very handy on many occasions. I
now speak in a mixture of Italian, Spanish and English. Ha!
Food is the center of social life and Rosalba
has cooked so much for us (lunch and dinner everyday). They are, of
course, disappointed that we don’t eat more, but we try! She cooks very
fresh foods, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, and pasta with every meal,
along with different meats. The meals are like two of our meals at home.
[Giuliano set us up with reservations at the Hotel
Waldorf, not too far from his house. It was typical small European
hotel room but otherwise had all the comforts of home including a
[Rosalba prepared a full Italian lunch (il pranzo)
for us. One of their sons, Adriano, joined us for lunch. Being a
little groggy from the flight, I don’t remember exactly what she made
but it consisted of the typical Italian lunch, l’antipasto (cheese and
meat), a first course (il primo) of pasta, a second course (Il secondo)
of meat or fish and lastly, a desert (il dolce). This was followed by a
couple hours of rest back at the hotel.]
In Rome, we were taken around by car to see all the
sights [starting about 7:30 PM.]. It always surprises me to see all the
famous sights located among regular city life - office buildings,
stores and apartments. Rome is older and crowded. Driving in Rome was a
bit crazy. There are not actual lanes marked on the roads, so people
just make one, two, or 3 lanes as they feel can fit. (You have to be
aggressive to drive there - though people are not mad, like in the
U.S., if someone cuts in front of them. They just let them and then,
next time, they are the one to cut in. It seems to work.)
Mark with Rosalba and Giuliano Colajanni
[We walked around the area called Trastevere.
is a picturesque and artistic quarter where, in Roman times, Julius
Caesar and Cleopatra lived. We visited the old Church of Santa Maria in
Trastevere built in the 1200's. We stopped for dinner (la cena) at a
pizza restaurant. We walked around St. Peter’s Square and Castel S.
Angelo and over bridges which spanned the Tiber (Tevere) River. This
was the only day on our trip when it rained even a little.]
Giuliano, Rosalba and Mark at dinner
We officially toured the Vatican (Saint Peter
Cathedral) on Saturday. It was a requirement to wear long pants or
dress with sleeves or shirt or top. Mark and I knew this and wore
appropriate attire. Giuliano showed up in shorts! (We were surprised!)
But, sure enough, he could not enter. Mark and I went in and looked
around without him.
Sally and the Swiss Guards at the Vatican
[Giuliano drove us around Rome and we saw what that
was really like! We drove on Via Veneto and Via Nazionale, two of the
major streets in the city. We actually skipped lunch, but Rosalba made
us dinner in the evening. After dinner, Giuliano showed me photos he
had of his grandfather, Teridano diTella (brother of my great
grandmother) I was able to scan photos of Teridano that were taken
early in the 1900's. These photos are on my web site, on Teridano’s web
We are not looking at photos but actually a car magazine with MGB for
Giuliano also has a classic car, a Fiat 500. He let me drive it in San
This is the building where Rosalba and Giuliano live.
Here is Rosalba cooking one of the many great meals she made for us.
On Sunday, Mark and I rented a car [Actually,
Mark and Giuliano took the Metro
to the Rome Termini train station
where the Hertz office was located. We had a hard time finding the
office but eventually did and got the car, a 2004 Ford Focus with
manual transmission (very common in Italy). So I was the driver and
with Giuliano’s navigation we got back to the hotel and picked up
Sally. Giuliano picked up Rosalba in their car] and [we] followed
Giuliano and Rosalba up to San Pietro Avellana. It is in the mountains
about a three hour drive from Rome. [We took Via Aurelia back out to
the GRA, around Rome and then south on A2 to Cassino. At Cassino, we
got off the autostrata and it was two lane country roads to San
Pietro.] This is the place that Mark’s mother, Betty, was born and
where she lived until about the age of 12 when she moved to the U.S.
(She has never been back since.) Anyway, the whole town, except the
church, a chapel in the hills and one other building was destroyed by
the Germans during WW II. So the whole town is relatively new (all
rebuilt since WW II).
[We stopped at a small, but popular,
restaurant for lunch. Their other son, Fabrizio, joined us. This was
our first taste of Tartufo, a plant that is highly regarded in that
area. I cannot figure out what plant it is, I don’t think I’ve ever
seen or heard of it before and it certainly is not grown in the US.
They take the roots, grind them up and sprinkle them on everything. I
can’t describe the taste but it not like anything I’ve tasted before.
For the first course of lunch, we had pasta with a sauce made of
Giuliano, Rosalba their older son,
Mark and Sally
Giuliano and Rosalba have a home in Rome and
another home in SPA (abbreviation for San Pietro Avellana). They also
have in SPA, a little cottage for guests (That is where we are
staying). Because of Giuliano and Rosalba, we been so warmly received
in this little community. (Like I said, I talk to people in a
combination of Italian, Spanish and English).
The hours of living are different here. We get up at
the same time and eat a small breakfast. Lunch is anytime from 12:30 to
2:00. Most then take an afternoon nap (one or two hours). Dinner is at
about 9:00 or so. The whole community then meets out in the town,
walking around and socializing, until about midnight. [In Sant’Eufemia,
they had a children’s program in the town square every night starting
at 9:30 P.M.] Many people have a second home here, so it is like a
reunion in August as many come at this time of year to their second
home, so all are catching up on each other’s lives.
[On Monday, we walked around town. We went to
the town hall (municipio) to try to find the record of Mark’s mother’s
birth in 1912. They did not have records for 1912 as they were
destroyed in the war.]
Mark, right now [Tuesday], is at the Mayor’s
office showing him his web-site. [The mayor’s name was Antonio
DiLudivico. His grandfather went to the US to work in the early 1900's.
Giuliano and I helped him find his grandfather on the Ellis Island web
The "sindaco" or mayor of San Pietro, Antonio DiLudovico (center).
The mayor's wife, Anna Gatti, on the left, Giuliano on the right.
The curator, Maria Teresa diLorenzo, of the
small museum here couldn’t
say enough words
of praise to Mark for the work he has done in the research of the
people of this town. [Maria Teresa diLorenzo is a close cousin to the diLorenzo family that lived in Dawson, NM.]
Entrance to the "museo comunale" or Town Museum
[Mark and Giuliano also visited the Church to try
to find if any church records were there. After much searching and
consultation with the parish priest, they found an unmarked cardboard
box with baptism, marriage and death records going back to 1612. In
those records, Mark found the baptism record (in Latin) of his mother.
Both Giuliano and Mark were amazed to find 400 years of records just
stored in a cardboard box in the back of a storage room! Giuliano says
he is going to take on the task of getting the records better taken
Baptism records of my mother, Benilda Albina Victoria Frazzini.
Written in Latin.
We visited the church yesterday where they a
have an organ. I tried to play it, but there was no music anywhere to
be found (too bad I can’t play without music). Giuliano has been
working and working to find me music (He is checking with another town
right now). He wants me to give a concert for the town. I said “no!”
only for he and Rosalba. [The church is one of the few building not
destroyed during the war.]
Chiesa di SS Pietro e Paulo
Side view of the "madre chiesa" or mother church.
Here is the main entrance to the church.
The Altar of the main Church of Sts Peter and Paul.
A before view! They were installing a new crucifix and paintings.
The Altar of the chapel dedicated to Saint Amico.
His bones are said to be buried here.
This chapel is attached to the right of the church.
The church organ.
They go out of their way to accommodate us. It
could be overbearing if they were not so sincere and loving. We truly
love these people.
By the way, the area around SPA is beautiful.
Giuliano took us on a hike yesterday up through a beautiful and
peaceful forest area, to a chapel in the hills. [This is the Chapel of
Saint Amico in the Forest (or in the Woods). On a street sign (shown
above), it is referred to as "eremo san amico" or "Hermitage of Saint
Amino". It was built and dedicated
in 1906 by Mark’s great grand-uncle, the Priest
Sabatino Frazzini. The
Chapel was not open when we got there, as the hermit was in town.]
Roadway from San Pietro to the Chapel of Saint Amico in the Woods
Fountain near the Chapel
The Chapel of Saint Amico in the Woods
Mark and Giuliano examining the inscription above the door.
"fontana grande" or Grand Fountain.
The stairs lead up to the church.
[On Monday, we met Giuliano’s brother, Mauro,
who also has a second home in SPA. We met Donatella diCroce, another
of Mark’s cousins. Donatella is Mark's second cousin AND she is
Giuliano's first cousin! We met Licia diTella, Giuliano’s mother. She
daughter of Teridano
diTella. She is in her nineties but still alert.
She lives in a retirement home in SPA. Also staying at that retirement
home, we met a couple, last name - Colaizzi - who lived in Akron, Ohio
but moved to SPA to live.]
Brothers Giuliano Colajanni and Mauro Colaianni.
Their last names are spelled differently because of an error in their birth registration.
Donatella Colaianni diCroce
Licia diTella (with bandage on her forehead), mother of Giuliano,
daughter of Teridano
[On Tuesday, Mark got a chance to drive Giuliano’s
Fiat 500. The Fiat 500 is a collector’s car in Italy (like Mark’s MGB
in the US). Giuliano belongs to the Fiat 500 Club in Italy. The car is
a tiny two seater, has a two cylinder air cooled engine and a
non-synchromesh transmission. He keeps it in San Pietro.
Giuliano and his Fiat 500 (Cinque Cento)
Matilda DiUllo - She remembered my mother from 70 years ago.
Later, we met her sister, Giuseppa. The two sisters never married and
After lunch, we drove to the cemetery
(cimitero) where Mark found many of his ancestors.]
Great Uncle Modestino Frazzini and his son Corrado
Great great-grandaunt Enrichetta diTella and her husband Giovanni
These are the parents of Gina Carlini, the baptism godmother of my
Great-grandmother Dorastella diTella
Of course we’ll have lots of pictures
get home. We’ll be here until Friday, when we drive to Sant’Eufemia,
Mark’s father’s hometown, to stay with another cousin there.
More later! I love and miss you all!
Sal & Mark