Frutta V

Frutta V
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Friday, October 25, 2013

Backstory to My Italian Dream Vacation 2013


Tuscany, Italy

I had thought and dreamed about visiting Italy and Sicily for a long, long time.  My curiosity and love of all things historical is embedded in my being of 50 percent Sicilian.  A suppose this greater percentage of Italian genes makes me feel more this than the 25 percent German and 25 percent most likely Irish.

As we age, or mature, ideas and goals move around or change.  Questions we now have could have been asked of our parents and family members years ago when they were alive.  Now there are few to ask when it is now more important to us.  And not still too late to pass on to the generations to follow. 

My Family Tree?

I am the granddaughter of two of the 4,000,000 Italians who immigrated to the US between 1880 and 1920, Leonardo Liberto and Domenica Gelfo.  Eighty percent of those were from southern Italy and Sicily.  Half the population of their town, Baucina, Sicily (Palermo Province) left the village.  Obviously I have great knowledge of the whereabouts of my grandparents after they stepped on United States soil.  I knew my aunts, uncles and cousins and have learned of other close friends tied who were tied to the little village, Baucina.

So my questions and curiosity directed me to research online, write letters, and question a few older family members. I researched  off and on for 15 years.  At the same time I researched my grandfather, Alfred E Anderson, and family (my mother's father). I conducted more research online and at Delaware's Pubic Archives and traveled to Ellis Island for a first hand look and experience.  I have become obsessed with the research.  I can find little more here in the US beyond immigration to the US.  Italian records have not been digitized or microfilmed and cannot be found online.  

At Ellis Island

cir 1900, Ellis Island Ferry taking immigrants from their "ship" to Ellis Island

Statue of Liberty

Maria at Liberty Island
(Ellis Island far left)

I dream of going to Italy.  I want to go to Italy.  I must go to Italy!  Over the last 20 years my husband has stated that we shall go someday. But when?  My sister is also feeling the need to travel and see Italy.  She brings up the Italian vacation many times.  Over time (months that seem like years) it is decided that we will plan to go to Italy with my sister and her husband.  Yea!  Wonderful!  Great News!   I cannot believe it!   But my one stipulation is that we must also go to Sicily.  We must go to Baucina, the homeland of our grandparents.  I cannot go to Italy without visiting Baucina. 

 Maria's hand created collage,
 "One Day I Will Go to Italy & Sicily."

So in January of this year we started to research and make plans.  With many tours available it took time to narrow down our choices.  Since this was our first visit to Italy we needed to be with a tour group to get the most for our investment.  We also wanted to see the major cities of Rome, Venice and Florence and also Tuscany.  We wanted history, museums, historic sites, gondola rides, Greek ruins, medieval sites, Italian food, art, etc.  We also needed time to visit Sicily.  A tour could not provide us with the extra time for research and visit to Baucina.  So we (the four of us) decided to book an Italy 9 day "Italian Dream" tour with Trafalgar Tours and tour Sicily on our own.  Since we did not have passports, we applied and paid for those.  They arrived in about 4 weeks. 

I thought that I really needed a real live contact in Baucina in order for my ultimate wish to succeed.  I did more research of the village of Baucina.  The Italian White Pages, via internet ( showed a listing of at least 6 persons with the Liberto surname in Baucina.  I will write letters to these Liberto's in hopes someone will respond.  I will write letters and emails to the Commune of Baucina requesting permission to research during my visit to the village. I am not versed in the Italian language, but thanks to Google Translate, I was able to accomplish this task.
But I did not receive an answer from the town of Baucina.  I did receive one email and one phone call from the letters I sent to the Liberto's - all dead ends.

My husband volunteered to put together a plan and arrangements for our time in Sicily.  It did take time to coordinate the Sicily tour.  Being a very detail oriented person, he did a fine job and thought of everything.  We also learned that getting to the little village would be almost impossible, even from Palermo.  There were no trains, buses were not dependable if they  ran at all and we would be carting our own luggage. 

And then an angel named Cinzia called from Sicily.  I could not believe my ears.  This lady speaking in broken English was calling for her friend, Rosalia Liberto who had received one of my letters.  Rosalia wanted us to come visit.  She did not speak English, but showed the letter to her friend Cinzia who helped translate the Google Italian.  I wept, I was so touched.  Cinzia and her husband also owned an Agriturismo B in the next village, Case Varisco Agritirismo, Ventimiglia Di Sicilia.  We could stay there if we wished.  She would email back with details. Cinzia repeated "not to worry, everything would work out." (A true Sicilian statement.)  I was now truly blessed with the generosity of Rosalia and Cinzia.   

I became worried when Cinzia did not email back quickly.  So I did more research and traced the her international phone number to her B&B.  So of course I called her to verify that we would be surely visit and finalized details to stay at Case Varisco.  She was willing to pick us up at the airport, she will help us rent a car or a driver.  She will be our interpreter.  She was willing to assist us Americans whom she did not know.  She had already become a good friend. She was still saying, "not to worry - it will all work out." 

We decided we would rent a car in Palermo to drive ourselves to Baucina.  Brother-in-law Bill was willing to do the driving having vast experience on rural mountain roads in Virginia.  All Italian towns and cities are filled with little cars and scooters where drivers follow absolutely no rules.  But how bad can the Italian country roads be?

There were several more phone calls and emails between Cinzia and I.  She provided me with the name of an English speaking lady in Baucina's town office.  She would assist us with the language problem.  We finalized the day of our visit for research and the visit with the wonderful lady Rosalia Liberto in Baucina.

Ron had finalized the plans to tour Sicily from east to west. Most of the trip was paid for already.  He ordered Euros from our bank.  We made 2 copies of all documents, one to leave with family and one to take.  We had made arrangements through for Winston, our Wheaton Terrier, to stay at a wonderful home where he had recently stay for a trial visit.  By then it was mid September and we were departing from Dulles Airport on September 22 for Rome Italy.

My Italian Dream was actually coming true. 
I still could not believe it.

Read about the trip in a future posting! 
CIAO to all !