Seven days in Umbria was not enough! This was the part of our Italia journey that I was most excited about … meeting Sweetie’s family connections in Campitello, an 1100+ year old village in the mountains of the Monte Cucco’s National Park.
Family history is one of my passions … when I find another person and connect them into their family tree I almost cry. Their name may not have been spoken or thought of in hundreds of years and I feel them … they are not forgotten, they lived, and because they lived we are. I followed the Vergari and Fanucci journeys from Jessup, Pennsylvania back to this deep valley in the mountains of Umbria.
Sadly, as the immigrant generation passed on the Jessup and Campitello family connections were lost, except for photographs of people we didn’t know that were carefully kept in a box of memories.
Sweetie and I knew we wanted to spend time in Campitello and hoped to find some family still there, but how to find them? The internet, of course. I wrote a letter (having an Italian speaking friend translate it for me) and included Greg’s family tree then sent them cold to every Vergari, Scarinci, Lanuti, and Fanucci in Campitello, Scheggia e Pascelupo and Gubbio for which I could find an address.
The responses were immediate and overwhelming … I was facebook friended, received email and letters by post. “Come, Come”, “..don’t know if we are related but Come, Come” , “…I have letters from Jessup; Come, Come”, “I have pictures .. Come, Come”.
When we arrived in Campitello, we were greeted with open arms. The table was set for lunch though we weren’t expecting it, and after lunch more cousins arrived; with open hearts … some came with photographs and the letters we had sent. I had brought a 20′, yes 20′, long family tree and they went to work adding names, correcting my spelling and sometimes moving people into a different family group.
Later they walked us around the area showing us the home Greg’s great grandfather lived in and the church built 1000 years ago which is still in use each Sunday.
We had thought we would be visiting individually everyone that had responded to us .. but Daniela made it so easy for us. She gathered everyone together, opened her home not once but twice!
When we arrived we may not have known them, but they knew us. They knew Greg’s father and grandfather and grandmother. They knew the cousins from America and they spoke with fondness of their visits (the last one in 1977). Some remembered and talked about their cousins as if it were yesterday. The first day we met Remo Scarinci and his sister Giovanna (they are double cousins … Vergari & Fanucci side of the tree), Fiorella & Stephano Fanucci (Anna Lisa’s mom & dad), and Mario Fanucci (though not directly related to Greg, he is a cousin to Greg’s cousins through their mother in Jessup).
Did I mention that the interwoven and convoluted connections between Fanucci’s and Vergari’s is the proverbial gordian knot … like playing the fictional Double Fanucci card game made famous in the computer world of Zork.
The second afternoon at Daniela’s we met cousins from another side of the family. The 90+ year olds shared many memories adding names to the tree that I couldn’t have done alone. With the help of Daniela’s daughter Alice and google translate (Lisa had other commitments that day) we had an afternoon filled with love and memories. (Quinto and his sister Chiara came from Rome to share the afternoon with us.)
Giovanna came again and brought her daughter and granddaughter. Catia is a ceramic artist and with her husband Roberto Fugnanesi has a studio Futuro d’arte (contemporary ceramics) in Perugia.
In between the days we drove to Campitello Giovanna invited us to her house to meet her husband Ubaldo and their daughter Paola who is studying law. Fiorella drove us and Lisa was again our wonderful translator.
That evening Stephano and Fiorella treated us to pizza night in their home in Gubbio. Stephano’s brother Romano came and we met Lisa’s sister Laura. We laughed a lot! Fiorella made these wonderful filled biscotti. I immediately asked for the recipe and though I haven’t made them yet I bought metric measuring cups so I could make them correctly without doing the whole grams to cups conversions.
Stephano is writing a history of Campitello and his willingness to share some of his research with me was an answer to my prayers. (That’s a whole other post to come.)
We said ciao to Campitello and the wonderful family who opened their hearts and homes to us … the rain may have hid our tears but not the smiles on our faces or the love in our hearts for these wonderful people. Family once lost to us through time and an ocean … found again …
Stephano kept asking me why I did family history and the only way I could explain was to touch his heart and Greg’s heart and locked my fingers together. Love. Family. Together. Forever.
L’amore, La famiglia , Insieme, per Sempre