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San Pietro Avellana

San Pietro Avellana

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On this page, I will present information about San Pietro Avellana, my mother's home town.

Saint Amico, who lived around 1100, is the patron saint of SPA.  His feast day is 3 Nov. Read more about S. Amico in Chapter 2 of the Historical Notes and Anecdotes from San Pietro Avellana. Read more about S. Amico on a web page built by Bob Morrison :  and on my web page here.

SPA in Winter
Photo sent to me by Bruno Colaizzi in Dec of 2009

While the site is being created you can email me :  or sign the guestbook.

Sign our Guestbook


Here are a set of postcards that I got on my 2004 trip to San Pietro.

Here are photos of San Pietro during and after its destruction by retreating German forces in 1943.

Here are some other photos that I scaned at the Museum in San Pietro.

Here are some photos which I took at the cimitero.

Comune di San Pietro Avellana
SPA Pro-Loco

Mark's note - The Museo's web site is no longer operational. From what I gather from Giuliano Colajanni, they could not raise the money to run it.

From the Italy World Club:

San Pietro Avellana       Province of Isernia, Molise Region - Italy

The small town rises on the Celano-Foggia tratturo, on the border with the Abruzzo region, just below Monte Capraro (1730 meters.) surrounded by forests of beech and oak trees and two fine pinewoods, which make it a truly great tourist destination in the summer.

The name comes from an ancient benedictine monastery dedicated to San Pietro, around which the population gathered and established a settlement, later called "Avellana" since on the site there was in the past Volana, an ancient Samnite town destroyed by Roman consul Suprius Carvilius. The town was a Benedictine fiefdom from 1027 to 1785, and religion was a really great inlfuence in the character of the population. the economy was flourishing for centuries under the transhumance system, since the area was both a transit post and a place of summer pastures. With the crisis of the pastoral economy, a massive emigration began especially to the States, with main destination Pittsburgh.

Province of Campobasso, Molise Region, Italy

The Province of Campobasso is administratively divided into 84 Municipalities with a surface area of 2909 square km and a population, in the census of the year 2000, of 235,452 inhabitants. The present territory of the Province was not the same as in past centuries. After the unity of Italy, in 1861, the borders of the whole Molise region were fixed along the Fortore and Volturno rivers and the region was united to Abruzzo for about a century.

After the Second World War there was a strong movement to make the region autonomous, and in December 1964 a constitutional law established Molise as an independent region with one Province, and capital Campobasso. On 2 February 1970 52 municipalities of this Province were separated and a new Province, Isernia, was established.

Province of Isernia, Molise Region, Italy

All in the middle of the Apennine chain, between the Thyrrenian and the Adriatic but unconnected to the sea, the territory of the Province, where the most ancient presence of man in Europe was recorded, can offer important signs of the presence of many civilizations: pre-historic settlements, Samnite fortresses, Roman towns, imposing medieval castles, Romanesque and baroque churches, as well as a natural landscape that for the uniqueness of the vegetation and wildlife is now included in parks and natural reserves.

The territory has a rich heritage of the transhumance economy of past ages, when twice each year thousands and thousands of shepherds from Abruzzo and Molise traveled with millions of sheep down to the Apulian plains and then back to the mountain pastures: over 100 km of grass highways, 111 mt wide, crossing the landscape, and leaving their marks in the face of the land and the customs of the people. The Province of Isernia was established only in 1970 with 52 Municipalities previously belonging to the Province of Campobasso.

Altitude: 960 m a.s.l
Territory: mountainous
Population: ca. 650 inhabitants
Zip code: 86088
Phone Area Code: 0865
Patron Saint: Sant'Amico
Frazioni & Località: Scalo, Masserie di Cristo

  • Church of Sant'Amico with 13th-century statues rises on the highest point of the town, where once the fortress was. Inside there is under the altar the original tomb of the Saint, a benedictine monk. In 1623 his remains were however moved to a stone ark.
  • Parish Church of SS. Pietro e Paolo
  • Municipality Museum

  • August: Emigrants' Festival
  • August: week of "Museo della civiltà contadina".

  • A History of San Pietro Avellana

    A real rough computer translation of a brief history with clean up by me. Click on the title to see the original page.


    Paese di emigrazione. E’passato dai 2532 abitanti del 1911 agli attuali circa 700 presenti. Si è svuotato quasi completamente. Si trova sul tracciato del tratturo Celano-Foggia, di cui occupa parzialmente un segmento.

    Feudo ecclesiastico benedettino dal 1027 al 1785, con unione di potere spirituale e potere baronale. Molti sono gli influssi e sani principi educativi e spirituali tra gli abitanti, che hanno ancora un buon ricordo del passato.

    Il paese era fiorente ai tempi della transumanza, in quanto si tratta di una località di transito e con pascoli montani. Questi a metà Ottocento vennero messi a coltura, con buone rese nei primi anni, ma via via sempre più improduttivi.

    Il primo esodo si verificò nei 50 anni a cavallo del '900, con destinazione Stati Uniti. La più importante comunità di oriundi vive a Pittsburg (Pennysilvania) con circa 400 persone. A Denver (Colorado) vivono altri paesani. Prospero Fazzini qui fondò negli anni Trenta una prospera Banca, che aprì anche una sua filiale a San Pietro Avellana, a dimostrazione del forte legame etnico verso la propria terra (elemento comune a tutti gli emigrati "americani", benemeriti per aver aiutato finanziariamente la ricostruzione del paese, distrutto completamente dai tedeschi nel novembre 1943).

    In Argentina vive una comunità di circa 200 oriundi, che a causa dei costi elevati dei passaggi aerei hanno da tempo diradate le visite, ormai solo sporadiche. Nel secondo dopoguerra gli emigrati si sono diretti in Europa, specie Francia (qui vivono circa 200 oriundi) e Svizzera (circa 200 oriundi).

    D'estate si verifica un notevole incremento delle iniziative culturali, ludico-sportive, turistiche, a beneficio di tutti i residenti estivi (turisti e paesani rientrati). San Pietro Avellana si sta affermando come stazione di soggiorno montano, puntando anche alla promozione del tartufo. Il "tuber aestivum"(scorzone) è sulle tavole dell'annuale Sagra del tartufo, che nel 1997 ha svolto la 8^ edizione.

    Il "Museo Etnografico Comunale" accoglie molti visitatori, fungendo da gradito richiamo anche per gli emigrati, sempre attenti a conoscere la storia paesana.

    Il Comune sta promuovendo diverse iniziative per lo sviluppo dell'agriturismo, del turismo religioso (pellegrinaggi organizzati al bosco di S. Amico e cenobio), del turismo culturale (studio del territorio, della sua gente e della sua storia), e del Parco "Alto Molise".

    Il 3 novembre cade la festa liturgica di S. Amico, che anticamente veniva celebrata come festa patronale e fiera. Per venire incontro alle esigenze degli emigrati è stata spostata al 16 agosto, in cui cade anche la Festa dell’Emigrante, nonchè la Sagra del Tartufo.


    Country of emmigration. It went from 2532 inhabitants in 1911 to approximately 700 at present. It has been emptied nearly completely. It is found on the layout of the Treaty of Celano-Foggia, of which it occupies a partial segment.

    It was a Benedictine Ecclesiastical Fiefdom from 1027 to 1785, being a union of spiritual and baronial power. Many are the influences and healthy principles educated to you and spiritual between the inhabitants, that they still have a good memory of the past.

    The country was flourishing to the times of the transhumance system, in how much draft of one transit locality and with montani pastures. In the middle of the 1800's came improvements to cultivation, with good yields in the first years, but gradually became more and more unproductive.

    The first exodus took place in the 50 years around 1900, with United States as the destination. The more important destination communities were Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) with approximately 400 persons. To Denver (Colorado) lives other countrymen. 31 year old Prospero Fazzini founded a Bank there and opened a branch (office) in San Pietro Avellana, to demonstrate the strong ethnic tie towards his own roots (an element common to all the emmigrant "Americans", meritorious in order to have financially helped the reconstruction of the village, destroyed by the Germans in November 1943).

    In Argentina lives a community of approximately 200 people, but because of the high cost of airfare, they make only sporadic vists. In the years after the Second World War the emmigrants have headed to Europe, especially France (where approximately 200 descendents live) and Switzerland (approximately 200 decendents).

    Of summer verification a remarkable increment of the cultural, ludico-sport, tourist initiatives, beneficio.di all the summer residents (tourists and countrymen return). San Pietro Avellana is asserting itself like stay station mounts, heading also for the promotion of the tartufo. "tuber aestivum" (scorzone) he is on the tables of the "Sagra del tartufo", than in 1997 he has carried out 8th edition.

    The "Museo Etnografico Comunale" receives many visitors, acting as from appreciate callback also for the e'migre's, always wanting to know the history of the home country.

    The town has promoted various initiatives for the development of the farm holidays, of the religious tourism (pilgrimages organized to the forest of S. Amico and cenobio), of the cultural tourism (study of the territory, its people and its history), and the Park "Alto Molise".

    3 November falls the liturgica festivity of S. Amico, than anciently came celebrated like patronale festivity and fair. In order to come encounter to the requirements of the emmigrants, it has been moved to 16 August, in which the "Festa dell’Emigrante" falls also, nonchè the "Sagra del Tartufo".

    Arcipreti of SS Pietro e Paolo Chiesa

    This list of head priests and priests are from the book "Il Mio Paese Racconta" by Mario Colaianni  1996
    Giovanni Salvatore    1769-1812
    Paolantonio del Re    1815-1860  (Arcipreti at the time of the compliation of the 1852 Status Animarum)
    Giovanni Frazzini       1862-1903  (Arcipreti at the time of the compliation of the 1869 Status Animarum)
    Sabatino Frazzini       1903-1921
    Liborio di Comso      1921-1946
    Francesco Riga         1947-1949


    Domenico diCroce    ????-1709
    Donato Catullo         1709-1727
    Antonio Cioffi           1727-1730
    Amico Morelli          1730-1740
    Nunzio Salvatore      1740-1759
    Biagio Iannacchione  1759-1843   ???? 84 years?
    Gaetano diGiacomo  1843-1843   ???? 1 year?  See note 2 below.
    Gaetano Gatta          1843-1852
    Giuseppe diSanza     1852-1862
    Amico Frazzini         1862-1873
    Gaetano d'Alena      1873-1873    ?????  1 year? Gaetano d'Alena died in 1873.
    Antonio d'Alena       1873-1892
    Domenico diSanza   1892-1898
    --- none
    Michele Messore     1949-1974
    Francesco Sciullo    1974-1982
    Marco Franceschino diGiacomo    1982-1987
    Felice Fangio           1987-    See note 1 below,

    Mark's notes
    1: I met Don Felice while I was in SPA in August 2004.
    2: A copy of a baptism record (copied in 1815) is signed by Gaetano diGiacomo.

    Il Clero Sanpietrese since 1689

    Alfonso diSanza d'Alena  sent me this list in Feb 2008. It contains some additional information from the 2001 book by Pasquale Settefrati.


    Date of Death (age at death)



    D. Domenico De Cruce (Di Croce)


    23 dic 1709

    “… cuius corpus sepoltum est…altare Beata Verginis Mariae Rosaris”


    D. Donato Catullo


    16 nov 1727

    “… cuius corpus sepoltum est in ecclesia Matrici coram altare B. V. Mariae


    D. Alessandro Larsi


    18 sep 1729

    In palatio Cassinense Anima Deo reddidit, cuius corpus sepultus est in ecclesia Divi Amici, Confessione recepita a me et a D. Antonio Ciuffo, et etiam a Mariano Marino Dominicale Castri Sangri, et Sacro Oleo rederato a D. Antonio Cioffo, da consisterai Reverendissimi D. Jacobus Boniti, et Reverendissimo Frà I. Isidori… ambi Monachi Sacerdotis Casinensis, et etiam Sacro Viatico recepita a Rev. D. Isidori de Srì a Parma, ego D. Amicus de Morello Archipresbitero fide facie…”


    D. Antonio De Cioffo (Cioffi)


    13 jun 1730

    ““… cuius corpus sepoltum est in ecclesia Matrici… altare SS. Conceptionis


    D. Amico Morelli


    24 aug 1740 (83)

    “… cuius corpus sepoltum est in Ecclesia Matricis”


    D. Giovanni Salvatore



    Arciprete dal 1760 al 1812


    D. Biase Iannacchione


    4 jan. 1843 (63)


    D. Gaetano Di Giacomo


    9 feb. 1843 (age at death 73)


    D. Gaetano Gatti


    30 apr 1852 (75)


    D. Paolantonio Del Re


    Roccasicura, Aug 1860

    Arciprete dal 1815 al 1860


    D. Giuseppe Di Sanza


    5 mar 1862 (41)


    D. Amico Frazzini


    22 feb 1873 (55)


    D. Gaetano D’Alena


    26 apr 1873 (64)


    D. Antonio D’Alena


    11 may 1892 (87)


    D. Domenico Di Sanza


    7 mar 1898 (63)


    D. Giovanni Frazzini


    21 jan 1903 (79)

    Arciprete dal 1862 al 1903


    D. Sabatino Frazzini



    Arciprete dal 1903 al ?

    Sources: Libri Parrocchiali dei morti, 1824-1853; 1854-1880; 1689-1742; Libro Parrocchiale Baptizatorum, 1829-1843.-

    Bibliografy: I documenti storici e la vita di San Pietro Avellana, P. Settefrati, Ed. Edigrafital, 2002; Il Molise dalle origini ai nostri giorni, vol. III, G. Masciotta, Rist. Ed. Tip. Lampo Ed., Campobasso, 1968.

    The Mayors of San Pietro Avellana from 1809 to 1903

    Alfonso diSanza d'Alena sent me this list of Mayors of SPA.


    First name





    Di Giacomo















    Di Ianni


















    Di Florio



    Di Martino












    Di Martino












    Di Florio



    Mariani – ff.1



    Di Sanza – ff.



    Di Giacomo – ff.



    Mosca – ff.






    Di Sanza



    Di Giacomo






    Matricoli - R. Comm.2

    avv.3 Antonio


    Carlino – ff.



    Di Sanza – ff.






    Carlino – ff.



    Frazzini – ff.



    Capone – ff.



    Di Sanza



    Di Pulli



    Capone – ff.



    Frazzini – ff.



    Di Ciò

    not.4 Lorenzo








    Di Ciò

    not. Lorenzo








    Pini – R. Comm.

    dott. Emilio





    Di Tullo



    Bibliography: Il Molise dalle origini ai nostri giorni, vol. III – G. Masciotta.

    1 Ff. is the abbreviated form for facente funzioni and it means the man who replace the mayor, absent in those years. "Acting Mayor".

    2 R. Comm. is the abbreviated form for Regio Commissario, and it means the Mayor directly appointed by the King, to govern in particular situations.

    3 Avv. is the abbreviated form for Avvocato, and it means lawyer.

    4 Not. is the abbreviated form for Notaio, and it means Notary.

    Surnames in San Pietro Avellana

    I thought it would be interesting to look at the frequency of cognome in the SPA birth records. I based this on work done by Shirley Sinclaire and Cris Swetye. I took most of the birth records from 1809 to 1899 and pulled out the family name. Then I 'normalized' them, that is, where spelling changed over the century, I used the latest spelling (for example, Abbate -> l'Abbate -> Labate). Names starting with d' or di, are written as NAME/d and NAME/di. Then I counted them and sorted the final list in ascending order by number of births. When looking at this list, keep in mind that many years are missing from the microfilms and sometimes the writing is very hard to read. This is a total of 5562 births.

    1    Acicino
    1    Acierno
    1    Amatangiolo
    1    Amicis/de
    1    Argentino
    1    Avocone
    1    Balzano
    1    Barone
    1    Bisacchi
    1    Bisadtili
    1    Blasio
    1    Borazio
    1    Bruni
    1    Calabrese
    1    Caracchia
    1    Caratelli
    1    Carlo/di
    1    Carmasino
    1    Celicchio
    1    Celina
    1    Cicarelli
    1    Cifolelli
    1    Cinci
    1    Colangelo
    1    Colantuono
    1    Colaselli
    1    Conti
    1    Coracchia
    1    Covatta
    1    Ferri
    1    Frabizio
    1    Franceschini
    1    Galanello
    1    Giosoza
    1    Giuliano
    1    Iannidinardo
    1    Iono
    1    Lattanzio
    1    Leone
    1    Luca/di
    1    Lucente
    1    Mancinelli
    1    Mastronardi
    1    Mazzaferra
    1    Milano
    1    Monacelli
    1    Mosesso
    1    Onorato
    1    Oscato
    1    Paolantonio
    1    Pennotti
    1    Petronilla
    1    Petruniello
    1    Petruzelli
    1    Petruzziello
    1    Piccarelli/di
    1    Picotti
    1    Prati
    1    Rossolelli
    1    Sabetta
    1    Sammarone
    1    Sangliane
    1    Santo/di
    1    Schellino
    1    Seville
    1    Silvestri
    1    Simone
    1    Sulli
    1    Testa
    1    Tristano
    1    Valerio
    1    Vendi/di
    1    Vito/di
    2    Ambrosio/di
    2    Amicone
    2    Angiolino
    2    Antonucci
    2    Apollonio
    2    Cactani
    2    Calvitti
    2    Cavaliere
    2    Cetra
    2    Cio/di
    2    Colacelli
    2    Dublino
    2    Esposito
    2    Ferrante
    2    Iannacito
    2    Lattantino
    2    Mario/di
    2    Mezzanotte
    2    Nunzio/di
    2    Piccoli
    2    Quadri/della
    2    Rienzo/di
    2    Ruscetti
    2    Salattolo
    2    Sano/di
    2    Santarelli
    2    Spagnolo
    3    Baiocchetti
    3    Buzzelli
    3    Caetani
    3    Colarelli
    3    Nardo/di
    3    Parente
    3    Pettinelli
    3    Sabatini
    3    Troilo
    4    Ciccarelli
    4    Lembo
    4    Monaco
    4    Pannunzio
    4    Piscitani
    4    Stefani/di
    4    Stefanis/di
    5    Casciato
    5    Giampaolo
    5    Nardo
    5    Pavone
    5    Salotto
    5    Zuliani
    6    Caroselli
    6    Checchia
    6    Marracino
    6    Scaglione
    6    Vincenzo/di
    7    Capita/di
    8    Achille/d
    8    Donatone
    8    Iannone
    9    Colavecchio
    10   Tempesta
    11    Vernucci
    12    Iacovetti
    13    Rusciolelli
    14    Lombardi
    14    Perilli
    16    Fraini
    18    Donatelli
    20    Petrarca
    20    Vacciano
    24    Alena/d
    25    Mazzocco
    25    Morgano
    27    Capone
    29    Carratelli
    30    Salvatore
    32    Ciotoli
    32    Iasella
    33    Giancola
    34    Mastroianni
    36    Sozio
    37    Angelone
    46    Fantone
    46    Palumbo
    47    Acquafondata
    48    Gentile
    51    Cinea
    51    Pierro/di
    57    Cioffi
    58    Rossi
    60    Settefrati
    65    Ludovico/di
    65    Tonti
    75    Croce/di
    87    Iullo/di
    94    Lorenzo/di
    97    Croce/della
    98    Quaranta
    101   Martino/di
    103    Labate
    114    Colarosa
    117    Tella/di
    119    Gatti
    143    Iannacchione
    146    Florio/di
    157    Mariani
    157    Ricci
    164    Musilli
    166    Cianno/di
    175    Colaizzi
    211    Giacomo/di
    236    Morelli
    237    Sanza/di
    449    Carlini
    451    Frazzini
    477    Colaianni

    Here are the name "normalizations" that I did:

    Abate, L'abbate -> Labate
    Achille -> Achille/d
    Alena -> Alena/d
    Capita -> Capita/di
    Carlino -> Carlini
    Colaizzo ->Colaizzi
    Colajanni -> Colaianni
    Croce -> Croce/di
    Florio -> Florio/di
    Fraino -> Fraini
    Frazzino -> Frazzini
    Gatta -> Gatti
    Giacomo -> Giacamo/di
    Iullo -> Iullo/di
    Jacovetta -> Iacovetti
    Lorenzo -> Lorenzo/di
    Ludovico -> Ludovico/di
    Martino -> Martino/di
    Mastrojanni -> Mastroianni
    Musillo -> Musilli
    Pierro -> Pierro/di
    Sanza -> Sanza/di
    Tella -> Tella/di

    Fontana Grande

    There are fountains all over SPA and here is the main fountain right next to the church. I took this photo in  2004.

    This photo of the plaque and the translation was sent to me by Anna Gloria Carlini.

    Lapide in pietra datata 1788 posta sulla "Fontana Grande" a San Pietro Avellana

    Memorial tablet dated 1788 placed on the FONTANA GRANDE (Great Fountain) in San Pietro Avellana

    Translation (from latin)

    With public expenditure
    Amico Giancola   Leonardo Mariani and Pasquale DiSanza
    administrators of San Pietro Avellana
    erected a fountain for the citizens
    on July 1° 1788

    Another translation with help from Dan Diffendale (his web stite)


    With public money,
    Amico Giancola, Leonardo Antonio Mariani
    and Pasquale DiSanza,
    the administrators, erected (this) fountain for the citizens of San Pietro Avellana,
    the Kalends of July (July 1), 1788.

    Famine and Typhus Epidemic of 1817

    As I was going through the records from San Pietro Avellana, I noticed a large change in the number of birth and death records for 1817:

    1816 52 31
    1817 37 308
    1818 29 25
    1819 70 29
    48 18

    In 1815, Tambora, a large volcano on the island of Sambawa, east of Java Indonesia, exploded. The eruption was the largest explosive eruption in modern times, immediately killing 92,000 people after blasting 150 cubic kilometers of earth into the air.

    Around the same time, the effects of the French Revolution and 25 years of rule by Napolean Bonaparte had left the European economy in ruins. The British blockade of Europe had destroyed markets and the entire region was in a depressed economic state.

    Late monsoons in India caused heavy rains, that following a drought, blighted the rice crop.

    In Western Europe, colder than normal weather, caused by the Tambora volcano, along with increased rainfall, prevented bees from foraging, creating a shortage of honey. Wet harvested trees would not dry, causing a doubling of the price of firewood in Northern Europe.

    All over Europe, the harvest output dropped. Estimates are that less than one-half of the normal grain crop was produced.

    All of these factors combined to cause a shortage of food througout Europe. In many northern countries, the shortage was dramatic but not devastating. In Italy and other southern European countries, a state of famine existed.

    On the heels of the famine, a typhus epidemic struck Italy in 1817. There are many cases in history where a famine, which lowers the general level of health, is followed by an epidemic.

    The end came as quickly as its onset. The epidemic subsided and a normal harvest in 1817 resulted in a return to normal life by 1818.

    My cousin, Alfonso diSanza, sent me this email:
    In 1817, in San Pietro Avellana broke out the plague. Maybe the first died for this cause was in 26/06/1817, the last 27/12/1817. The plague killed 300 people; between them only 30 died for famine.


    So in the small town of San Pietro Avellana, 307 people died in 1817, 92 in the month of August alone. That might have been 10% of the population in one year. They included my 3G Grandmother, Lucia Iasella (40y), and my 5G Grandfather, Tommaso diTella (88y).

    Take a look at:
    Early-life conditions and later mortality in Italy, mid-eighteenth to late nineteenth century
    Where the authors state:
    Short-term economic crises appear to impact more in Madregolo than in Casalguidi. In the former community a 10 percent increase in prices implied 6.8 percent increase in mortality (45-80 years), while in the latter it led to 5.7 percent increase (tables 2-3, models 2). The different period covered by the two data-sets can explain this difference. The Napoleon years, going from 1799 to 1815, represented a dramatic period in the history of Northern and Central Italy, and its consequences were particularly heavy also on prices and local markets, as shown in figure 5 in relation to the time series of wheat prices for Madregolo. In the market of the city of Parma, the mean value of wheat price in the first 20 years of the nineteenth century was 30.5 £/q, about 50 percent higher than the mean value of the period 1821-83 (20.0 £/q). The conclusive act of such a hard period was the typhus epidemic of 1816-17.
    In 409 CE Spain was invaded by the barbarians, whom they welcomed as relief from the oppressive taxation of the Roman governors. However, the barbarians continually ravished and destroyed the country for two years, with no intent of settling down to a peaceful existence. Finally, when a general famine was followed by plague, and their numbers drastically reduced, they made peace. Absolutely incredible stupidity! All of Spain was parceled out among three tribes of barbarians, and the Romans were no more.
    The Irish Famine: 1845-9
    In 1816, when Peel was Chief Secretary for Ireland, the first major failure of the potato crop had occurred. In 1817 the situation deteriorated into a near-famine which was accompanied by an outbreak of typhus. Between 1822 and 1826 there were further food shortages in Ireland. When the 'blight' - which already was affecting large parts of Europe - appeared in Britain in 1846, Ireland was more likely to suffer than the rest of the country. The Irish population had exploded in the first half of the nineteenth century, reaching about 8.5 million by 1845 without any accompanying economic improvement. Furthermore, the fungus which caused blight was unknown to the scientists of the day so no remedy was possible.

    Monument to the Fallen (Monumento ai caduti)

    In the town piazza of SPA, there was constructed in MCMXXI (1921) a Monument to the Fallen of WWI. The monument lists the period MCMXV- MCMXVIII (1915-1918).

    You can see old postcards of the monument on the SPA Postcards page. From Ron Frazzini: "The front of the monument says: "To the brave who sacrificed their lives on the altar of the Fatherland, here consecrated to the gratitude of the new Italy."" Ron sent more photos, click here.

    Here are two closeup photos of the monument which shows the names of the dead. I took these photos on my 2004 trip to SPA.

    Died from Wounds

    Fedele Fraini is the brother of Florindo Fraini.

    Died from Sickness

    For a celebratoin which might be connected to the dedication of this monument, click here.

    Masserie di San Pietro Avellana

    In one email, my cousin Giuliano, mentioned that some people we were searching for might be living at the "farmhouses" near SPA.

    He called them masserie. He said the main one was called Cerri and was about 3Km from SPA in the direction of the cemetery. Others were near the Sangro and 4-5Km south in the direction of the train station.

    I also found a place called "Fattorie di San Pietro Avellana". This place was on Sangro, north of SPA.

    Bill Colianni sent me this email when I asked him about the masserie:

    Date:            Sun, 14 Jan 2007 19:40:47 -0500
    From:            "William D. Colianni" 
    Subject:         Re: masserie

    Hi Mark,
    Masserie in our dialect equals farm houses or livable residences detached from the village. I Cerri is a very small subdivision, farming community, of SPA north of the Cemetery. Example; the Di Iullo masseria was a farm house, where nearby they build some small condos, between the village and the train station.

    The masseria that I was in is located by the Sangro near by the Tratturo approximately one kilometer before the Sangro or you are right 4 or 5 kilometers north of the cemetery.

    You definitely have my permission to add my story to your web site. It was written with that intention. My Grandson is pushing me to send it for publication. What is your opinion?  I treasure it very much.

    With the greatest pleasure of your web site I am now communicate with Shirley Sinclaire Colianni. We are related and know about each others families.

    Your contribution and expertise reenacted and contributed to our native area history and heritage that every Sanpietrese (Molisano) should extend their thanks and gratitude to you and your efforts for your continued services.

    Fattorie equals, I believe "LA FORNACE", it is located by the train station or across from "LA TORRE" an ex 
    cheese factory located on the line with the Abruzzo region. They would be located in opposite direction of the Sangro and the Cerri. I do not remember any factories by the Sangro. When I left Italy in 1949 there were no factories in the area. 
    Best Regards,
    Bill C.

    Americanization of Names

    I don't believe the old story that the officials at Ellis Island changed the names. I don't think I've ever seen that in the records. The names might be spelled wrong on the ship's manifests but that's all. I've also come to realize that when the Ellis Island records were two pages, the first page (with the name) was filled out as they were boarding (most likely written by an Italian) and second page was done when they landed at Ellis Island. Take a look at They Changed Our Name at Ellis Island by Donna Przecha.

    Here are some of the variations of names from San Pietro Avellana that I've seen in my searches. Sometimes the immigrant changed to the Americanized version. Other times, that is just how English speakers spelled the name after hearing it.

    SPA Name
    Americanzied Name
    Carlini/o Carline
    della Croce
    diIullo Diullo
    diTella Detell
    Cinea Cino
    diMartino Martini
    Settefrati Sevenbrothers
    Colarosa Carmel
    Rusciolelli Rossorelli
    Iannacchione Rossolo
    Unico and Unicke (a branch in Pittsburgh)

    The only rule about "di" and "de" in the family name is there was no rule. I've found in the oldest microfilms (1809), family names were written this way:
        Giacomo (d')
    And it was indexed under "G". Later on it became:
        (di) Giacomo
    And it was still indexed under "G". Then later:
    And it was indexed under "D". Then later:
    was used in the 20th century. In all cases, though, it was "di" and not "de". I think the "de" came from Americanization. In Italian, "di" is pronounced DEE where in English, "di" is pronounced DIE. To get the same sound in English, it was written "de" which is pronounced DEE.

    My dad told me that spelling was never taught in the schools in Italy. In Italian almost every letter is pronounced so words are written as they are spoken and spoken as they are written. The way it was actually spelled did not seem to be very important.

    Here are some first names:

    Name in Italian
    Americanzied Name
    Giuseppa Josephine
    Julia, Joan
    Domenic, Thomas
    Eufamia Fannie, Frances
    Camillo Charles, Camille
    Gennaro James
    Giosuè Joshua
    Vincenzo Vincent, James
    Margherita Daisy
    Pasquale Patsy, Patrick, Charles
    Guillermo William, Bill
    Luigi Louis, Louie
    Aloisio Aloysius, Luigi
    Nunzio Joseph
    Gaetano Guy
    Assunta Susan

    More about Italian Names and their English Equivalents - click here or click here.

    WWII Newspaper Articles

    Here are three articles I found in the newspapers in 1943.

    22 Nov 1943 - Reno Evening Gazette
    23 Nov 1943 - Times Record (Troy, NY)
    1943 Dec 6 - Chicago Tribune - notice the reference to aerial photographs taken of SPA. For the full article, click here.
    Sep 2007 - My cousin Guiliano Colajanni was able to find these two photos. From The Illustrated London News 25 Dec 1943

    1. 'An Aerial View of San Pietro, A Peaceful Mountain Village: The Germans on Retreating Deliberately Destroyed Every Habitation'

    2. 'Another View of San Pietro - Not a Single Allied Bomb Was Dropped Here'

    The ILN Picture Library web site. An Illustrated London News fan site.

    Look at the current aerial photos of SPA at Google Earth.

    I asked Giuliano where he found these photos and he replied:
    Caro cousin
    You won't believe, the photos was in the SPA's Museum. In a file there was a newspaper page with on facing and opposite many photos of war along Sangro River. I asked to Maria Teresa Di Lorenzo, director, to copy the page. I made a plastic big copy, stupend!!
    A big CIAO 

    Historical Notes and Anecdotes from San Pietro Avellana

    A booklet in Italian giving the history of SPA. We are attempting to translate it.

    Photos from SPA by Ron Frazzini

    The following set of photos are from Ron Frazzini fraz0046 . He has been to SPA several times. He sent some photos and a naration from 1998 and 2001 visits. From Ron (presented with his permission) including his narative:

                            "Here is a representative sampling of some SPA pictures:

    This is the main street with an indication of the conditions there. Some boarded up, some active.

    This is the town as you drive in from the highway. Beautiful. The mix of old and new is apparent immediately.
    Things were pretty much destroyed as the Germans pulled out.

    View of the town from atop a rise. The town backs up against a small range of mountains.

    The church which was not destroyed during the war. Here it is seen
    through two more modern buildings. There are many records here but
    guarded by the alter ladies and a grumpy priest. I finally got to see
    my dad's baptism records, but only because I knew the approximate date.

    The monument in the piazza. It's to WW1 and WW2 dead and wounded.  The side with some of the Frazzini names appears below.  The front of the monument says: "To the brave who sacrificed their lives on the altar of the Fatherland, here consecrated to the gratitude of the new Italy."

    As you can see, there are some familiar names.
    The mysterious thing is the "Per Malattie" which literally means "for or during sickness" - so,
    I'm guessing these were not wounded ("ferite") but died of some other illness during the war.
    The opposite side has more familiar names.

    Jacque and I had lunch with Maria Ricci Frazzini. She at that time was 92, very hard of hearing, had somewhat of a hard to understand dialect, but we communicated. Her son is Amico Frazzini who is my age, and his son is Giuseppe, all names in my family tree. I met both Amico and Giuseppe in Bergamo and the resemblance of Amico to my dad was amazing.

    [Mark's note: in case you didn't guess, that's Ron with Maria Ricci Frazzini.]
    [Mark's note: in 2012, I received a photo of Maria's tombstone :  12 Oct 1908 - 2 Nov 2006]

    One of the residential streets.

    Just so you knew there were actual people there, this is a Confirmation ceremony at the piazza. The priest is just to the left of the woman in the red skirt. A parade made its way from the church to a makeshift altar in the piazza, then back to the church. Everyone in town was out.

    This is a small chapel about three miles out of town in the hills.
    It is important to us because of the dedication which is shown below.

    A try at the translation yields the following.

    "To God (almighty or omnipotent) in honor of the miraculous St. Amico, monk and hermit, who revealed much in this woods to the devoted at the dawn of the twentieth century.  They built this chapel, solemnly blessed by the arch priest Sabatino Frazzini, on October 1, 1906, to the grand servant of God, Amico, who always was our friend and protector."

    The Amico's in what I believe to be a branch in my family tree were all named for this Amico, one of which is Maria Ricci's son.

    [Mark's note: This Sabatino Frazzini is my great-great-uncle, Sabatino Antonio Frazzini born 11 Mar 1845.
    My mother remembered that he was a priest.

    Finally, at least for this round, here are the famous record books at the archives in Isernia. Many of these have been photographed by the Mormons, but there are still some death records that apparently were not recorded. These are quite fragile, and will not last another 100 years.

    My thanks to Ron for these photos and the commentary.

    Photos from SPA by Mike Ricci    2009

    I found these  photos on the Flickr web site. Taken by Mike Ricci.

    I don't know who this Mike Ricci is. I tried to email him several times via the Flickr account but I never got a response.

    Photos from SPA by John DiIullo  2008

    From:            John DiIullo <>
    Date:            Mon, 21 Jan 2008 09:22:15 -0800 (PST)

    Hi Mark,

    If you are interested I have some photos of my trip this summer to SPA with my daughter.  Here is the link to the page:

    Hope you like them.
    John DiIullo

    Life in San Pietro Avellana

    In this section, I am going to put some comments of mine about life in San Pietro Avellana.

    Ebolina Carlini's report card

    My cousin Nino Carlini had a 4th grade report card for his aunt Ebolina Carlini. It is for the school year 1910-11. Just looking at it tells a lot about life in SPA during that time. My first thought was that the report card looked very much like my 4th grade report card from Aliquippa, PA in 1958. So although SPA was a small town in the mountains of Italy, the education system was modern 20th century. I have scans of the four pages of the report card but they are too big to post here. Here's the words on the cover page:

    Scuole Pubbliche Elementari
    del comune di S. Pietro Avelana
    Pagella Scolastica
    Carlini Ebolina
    Classe - quarta    Anno - 1910-1911

    The second page:
    Certificato D'Inscrizione

    Carlini Ebolina figlia di Giovanni
    di professione muratore e di Enrichetta di Tella
    nata a S. Pietro Avellana il 17 gennaio 1900
    abitante in Via Umberto 1° N. 17,
    avendo presentato i documenti di legge,
    e stata regolarmente inscritta alla classe quarta di questo comune
    diretta dalla Maestra Giulia Roberti Mariani.
    li 7 febbraio 1911
    il Direttore
    Felice Frazzini

    Felice Frazzini, a cousin, was the brother of Ferdinando Frazzini, and was involved in teaching all his life. It is interesting that they list the father's occupation on the card. This had to be because there were only a couple of dozen family names and only a few more given names. There could be many people in the town with the same name. The occupation may have helped distinquish them from one another even though 90% were farmers (this is seen on all the birth, marriage and death records as well). In this case, a muratore, is a mason or bricklayer.

    The third page listed all the subjects and grades. They were graded on a 1-10 scale. Some of the subjects were (with as good of translations that I could come up with):

    Composizione Writing
    Dettato Dictation
    Calligrafia Calligraphy
    Problema d'arit. o geom Problems of arithmetic or geometry
    Lettura Reading
    Spiegazioni Speaking
    Grammatica Grammar
    Arit.,Geom.,Cont.,Econ. ??
    Educ. mor., Dir. e Dov. ??
    Lavori Work

    Her final average was 76/100. She had no absences during the year. There were four report periods during the year and there were four places where a parent had to sign - it was signed three times by her father, Giovanni Carlini.

    At the bottom, this was written:

    Risultato Finale
    Promossa alla 5° classe
    li 15 settembre 1911
    il Direttore
    Felice Frazzini

    The report card was printed by STAB O. PUTATURO 1910 Castel di Sangro

    Street Layout of SPA in 1918-1926

    When Giuliano Colajanni was in the US for the 2008 Dawson Reunion, he gave me a copy of the town plan for San Pietro Avellana. It is a view of the town as it existed before its destruction in 1943.

    The cover sheet shows the plan was first produced in 1918 with updates in 1921 and 1926 (click on the image for a larger version):

    Very rough translation of the title "Consolidation of Inhabited Areas: Project of the complementary jobs of consolidation of the landslides to threaten the aforesaid inhabited area".

    The town layout (click on the image for a larger version):

    Some interesting things to note on this plan. There are two small chapels - Capella SS Trinità  and Capella S. Liberata. These were never rebuilt after WWII. 

    In the book "Vita di Santo Amico", these chapels are mentioned. You can see that book on the S.Amico web page (bottom of page 14 of the book).

    Heading to the east (on the map, north is to the right) down into the valley from Piazza Umberto I, there is a string of nine grist mills (mulino). These used and reused the power of falling water to grind grain. There are two main neighborhoods of the town, the older neighborhood Rione S. Rocco and a newer neighborhood Rione S.Vito.

    Click here to see some old postcards from the early 1900's which show the areas mentioned on this map.

    The town layout annotated with names of many streets is below. Other street names are printed on the map already. The street annotations were provided by Giuliano Colajanni (click on the image for a larger version):

    Ossario Uncovered in SPA

    Some photos provided by Giuliano Colajanni in 2008 of an ossario which was excavated in 2006. An ossario is a building associated with a cemetery where the bones of people buried were eventually placed. Typically, in Italy, cemeteries were reused. My father told me that in his home town, the cemetery was divided into four sections. Each section was used for 10-25 years and then they went onto the next quarter section. The graves in that quarter section were dug up and the bones were placed in a building called the Ossario. That cleared that section of the cemetery for more burials.

    The ossario in these photos is from a very old cemetery that used to be next to the church. I'm not sure when that cemetery was used but it must have been hundreds of years ago. The cemetery does not show up on the 1921 town plan shown above. As the excavation progressed and bones were uncovered, they were moved to the Ossario at the current SPA Cemetery.

    The San Pietro Avellana Church Archives

    Giuliano Colajanni sent me this photograph in Aug of 2008. These are the church records fromn SS Pietro e Paolo Chiesa. These go back to 1612. You can see the 1852 Status Animrum (Stato della Popolazione) and 1869 Status Animarum.

    Giuliano went through these and photographed the pages which showed the records of my Frazzini and diTella ancestors.

    Here is a list of books that someone drew up:

    1 Battezzati        1612-1688, Matrimoni        1627-1688, Battezzati Matrimoni    1738-1780
    2 Morti            1688-1752
    3 Battezzati        1690-1735
    4 morti            1755-1779
    5 Battezzati Matrimoni morti    1779-1801
    6 Battezzati Matrimoni morti    1811-1823
    7 morti            1824-1853
    8 Matrimoni        1824-1865
    9  ??
    10 Battezzati        1829-1843
    11 Status Animarum    1852
    12 Morti        1854-1880
    13 Matrimoni        1866-1913
    14 Staus Animarum I    1869
    15 Status Animarum II    1869
    16 Morti        1881-1900
    17 Morti        1901-1938
    18 Battezzati        1894-1901
    19 Battezzati        1902-1918
    20 Battezzati        1919-1924

    SPA Trip Report 2010

    Here are photos taken by Justine Lawson (granddaughter of  Antonio Gentile and Anna Luisa Frazzini) in May of 2010. Justine wrote:


    Here is a link to some photos of our trip to SPA.  I wasn't able to tag the photos so I'll provide info on their names.

    We met Irma Tonti Colaianni.  Her mother was Berardina Frazzini.  Irma Tonti married Ugo Colaianni.  She is the lady in the blue sweater.  We are making cookies together.  They own a store in SPA where they make bread and cookies and sells various items.  In one photo, we are at her house.  Her mother in law is sitting in a chair and her son, Antonio Colaianni and Chris (my husband) are sitting on the couch.  Irma and Ugo's daughter, Cinzia, wasn't present.

    Also present in the photos is Ugo's sister, Gemma Colaianni.

    Next, we met up with Antonio Carratelli and his wife, Giuseppina and his daughter Sabrina (they have another daughter, Rosina who wasn't presnent) and the grandmother, Rosina.

    Also present is Giuseppe Carratelli (Antonio's brother).  Irma's mother and Antonio and Giuseppe's mother were sisters who were also sisters with my grandmother, Anna Frazzini.

    Giuseppe proudly showed us a carving into a rock that he did.  It is located on a bluff overlooking the town.   In one photo you see Sabrina holding a baby.  That is her cousin.  She is with her Aunt and grandmother (Giuseppina's sister and mother) along with her father.  We visited the museum and the little church in the woods.


    SPA Trip Report

    I found these photos on Flickr. I don't know the people who posted them but I'd like to hear from them.

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