This has been an amazing day! I finally got to fulfill a life long dream to travel to the small town in Italy where my father was born.
I had great fantasies of going into this town and somehow discovering all this family I had never met even though I spoke no Italian and had no contact information. Armed with only some old photographs from 60+ years ago, my husband & I left Rome and headed to Pietrafitta in search of my father’s past.
Pietrafitta is a small town of 1,400 people built on the side of a mountain in the middle of Calabria. The drive itself was an adventure and even with a GPS required many course corrections on zig-zaggy narrow roads.
I think I might have been content with just seeing this village and having my picture taken under the town sign, but so much better was about to happen.
My husband began talking to some local men sitting in a small park-like area on the side of the road. Of course they didn’t speak english, but one man knew a small amount of french – enough to understand why we were there. He called over another man – Antonio – who made it a personal mission to help us even though he spoke neither english or french. He did what any smart man would do – he called his wife.
I showed his wife these old pictures I had brought & amazingly she recognized some of the names and faces. She knew my grandmother’s sister, Rosina – a woman who died in 1984 – and she knew Rosina’s daughter, Raefaela – a woman who also passed away some time ago.
Raefaela had 4 sons – one of whom was Tonino. It was Tonino that Antonio was now calling and Tonino then called his son Pierfrancesco who luckily spoke english well. Within 15 minutes I was meeting my Italian family. From there it became a whirlwind of conversation – so much to say in so little time.
Unfortunately we were only able to visit together for about an hour, but in that time we made promises to each other to stay in touch.
While we were growing up, my siblings and I were always very curious about the family we didn’t know in Italy. I discovered today that they were also very curious about us. Pierfrancesco made an interesting comment. He said they always knew they had family in Canada but no one ever came back to find them …. until today.
A part of me had worried that even if I did find family in Italy, they might not have any interest in me or my family in Canada. This young man’s comment re-enforced what I believed in my heart – if I didn’t try, I would never know. It turns out, the results were amazing!