Digging at the roots in Calabria

Vern (with hat), Glenn, and I exploring Calabria.

Vern (with hat), Glenn, and I exploring Calabria.

After a week in Venice in August, we headed to Calabria for the week of Ferragosto and a visit to my ancestral village, Scigliano. For the first time, my brother, Glenn, traveled to Calabria, and we shared a rented house about a thirty minute drive from Scigliano, along with my niece Sasha and her college friend Anna.

In a way, our Ferragosto week was like that of many Italian families, getting together with family members we don’t often see, and spending some family and recreational time together catching up. Funny that Glenn and I traveled to Italy for that experience, when we live only a couple of hours from one another in the U.S.

And one of our goals for family time was to explore the Italian root-ball of our past. It often seems like a big messy root-ball doing the research, but it is lots of fun to be there in person.

Our Italian cousins: Anna Maria, Francesco, and their father Ottavio.

Our Italian cousins: Anna Maria, Francesco, and their father Ottavio.

Our Italian cousin, Anna Maria, never explained to us how our family trees connect in the past. On this visit I met her father for the first time, and he set out some of his family tree for me, finally showing me where the Gualtieri line intersects. Ottavio is 94, and still lives in the house his mother bought in the frazione of Lupia. She built an oven and ran a bakery from that house, and the oven is still there today.

The old bread oven built by Ottavio's mother many years ago.

The old bread oven built by Ottavio’s mother many years ago.

Now Anna Maria owns the house. Ottavio is a retired policeman, and he understands a bit of English, but doesn’t speak it much, though his children are fluent. Anna Maria’s brother Francesco was in town for Ferragosto too, and we had some great talks with him, ranging from archeology (his post-retirement career) to health care in America and Europe.

A section of the cemetery in Scigliano--typical with its many above-ground vaults.

A section of the cemetery in Scigliano–typical with its many above-ground vaults.

We explored the Scigliano cemetery, and took lots of photos to compare with family records. So many Gualtieris!! And since I recently discovered several other surnames in the family, I took photos of those, too. Genealogy is a hobby that is never “finished” because there are always additional lines to follow. I’ll share more of our fun week in Scigliano in future posts.

One of the Gualtieri family vaults in the Scigliano cemetery--but whether it's 'our' Gualtieri people, I don't know!

One of the Gualtieri family vaults in the Scigliano cemetery–but whether it’s ‘our’ Gualtieri people, I don’t know!

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9 thoughts on “Digging at the roots in Calabria

  1. That’s really great – thanks for sharing. I don’t have any relatives I know of in my ancestral comune – but maybe I need to look a little harder. That oven is impressive, I want one…

  2. I am so glad you finally got to Calabria, sometimes reading your blog I wanted to send you a ticket so you could finally get there! (I know its usually a time thing, however…) Don’t forget Basilicata is right around the corner!

  3. Thanks for a great story and I love the pictures. I had never heard of the festival of Ferragosto and I think it’s wonderful that you and your brother were there together. I’m hoping to inspire my siblings to travel back to Calabria with me. Looking forward to more stories on Calabria!!

    • More to come about Ferragosto, Joanne. Last time I was in Calabria, one of my sisters was with me (she had been there once before but could not find any family members then). Still have one sister who hasn’t been there, tho she’s been to northern Italy. :)

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