Delianuova Trip Report - February 2006
Delianuova Trip Report - November 2000
Pictures from my trips to Delianuova!
From my February 2006 Trip
From an email to some cousins...
Sent: Monday, March 13, 2006 1:51 PM
Subject: Italy Trip
I can't believe that I've had Jim's email in my Inbox for almost four months! Every time I have thought to write back, I decided to hold off until we get past one thing or another. Since we are now back from our trip to Italy, I am finally getting back to you both!
Our trip was fantastic - even Mom (who you will recall being less-than-enthused about the trip) thoroughly enjoyed it. With 12 of us traveling together it was a bit challenging at times. Organizing, motivating, and coordinating the movement of 12 individuals - ranging in age from 7 to 80 - is not easy. However, it was truly a great time for all of us to bond, which was really enhanced by the fact that we were literally walking the streets that our ancestors walked. We spent 5 days in Delianuova - meeting many distant relatives, all with a story to tell. Fortunately, we had hired a tutor to teach us all Italian prior to our trip as very few people in Delianuova (maybe 2) spoke any English at all. As expected, Mom and Dad picked up the language very easily since they had both grown up around it. I had been to Italy and Delianuova before, so I was a little further ahead on my language skills to start with, but generally, everyone got by well enough.
We all felt so welcome in Delianuova. It is a small town nestled very high up in the Aspromonte mountains near Mt. Alta. On a clear day, you can see Sicily and Stromboli from a view at the municipal building. The weather was not too bad - sunny and daily highs around 60F - a welcome enough change from February in Buffalo anyway. Part of our daily routine was the walk over to Nino Scutella's pastry shop (a block away from the hotel) for a caffe. Although a lot of us were craving a good old cup of American-style coffee, I was happy to be guzzling espresso three or four times a day! I should mention too that the family and staff that runs the Grand Hotel Aspromonte were absolutely outstanding. The owner's wife (who is from Messina) cooked our food and let me tell you - it was some of the best food I've ever had! Mom was happy to see that the food in Delianuova was not "Italian" as we know it here in the states (she's not a big fan of sauce despite her Sicilian roots). Rather, it was much more subtle - sauce was used in some dishes, but much more sparingly than you'd expect. The Pasta Faggioli, Tortellini Soup, and Pasta Melanzana were particularly outstanding! To be honest, we enjoyed the local cuisine in Delianuova much more than the food we had in Rome.
But the best part of being in Delianuova was by far the people. Everyone was so accommodating and genuinely happy to meet us. I had met a third (?) cousin of ours (Vincenzo Comande) several years ago via the internet, and had met him in 2000 when I was in Delianuova. "Enzo" is now the assistant mayor of Delianuova, and he and his family were happy to escort us around and introduce us to other relatives. My children went to school one day with Enzo's children Maria Rosa and Andre, who are the same age as Madison and Mark (10 and 7). It was heart-warming to see the children playing together - language was not a barrier to them at all - and they got close enough that they were all teary-eyed when we had to leave for Rome.
We also visited the graves of grandma's parents (Bruno Costanzo and Philomena Ruffo), and had a chance to peruse the original birth certificates of grandpa, grandma, their parents, and even their grandparents! The real surprise came when Franca (the lady in charge of the records) realized that she was related to us. As it ended up, her mother is the first cousin of my dad - her mother (Maria Rechichi) was the daughter of grandma's brother. Dad and her were just overwhelmed! We have some pictures of dad and her (taken at her daughter Lena's absolutely magnificent house) that I hope to have online soon at our website (www.yetto.com).
The men (myself, dad, Bob, and his son Bobby) also spent some time with a bunch of Enzo's friends - mostly "old-timers" - whom I had met five years ago. Back then, I promised that I would come back one day, and that I would bring my father and the rest of my family. These guys were ecstatic when I walked in to their club the first night! They all remembered me and had a great laugh - "we waited five years for you to come back, and every night we waited for you, we drank beer. Now you are back, and we are still drinking beer! And you know what we'll do while we wait for you to come back the next time? We'll drink beer!" And so, we sat around (drinking beer), discussing our ancestry (drinking beer), and eating lupinos (drinking beer), on several occasions!
We also took a trip with Enzo and his family to the Ionian Sea at Locri, and spent the day walking around some 3000 year-old Greek ruins. (We stopped at a McDonald's on the way there, and there were many of us that enjoyed a little taste of home - so much so that some were on their knees in the parking lot bowing to the restaurant)! That evening, we had a superb picnic at the ruins amongst the lemon and orange trees - locally produced cheeses, sausages, breads, wine, and desserts.
The sites in Rome were absolutely terrific. There was something for everyone - Mom got to see the Vatican, the ladies got to shop, Madison (a big fan of Hillary Duff, as are all 10 year-old girls it seems) was finally able to see the Trevi Fountain (just like in a Hillary Duff movie), and I found an internet cafe! We all did a lot of shopping in Rome, and brought back some excellent cheeses (Romano, Parmesan, Provolone, Asiago) to go with the Olive Oil we bought from a plantation just outside Delianuova. It was a bit colder there than in Delianuova and there seemed to be a constant drizzle of rain, but that may have ended up being a blessing. Had it not been cold and wet, my son Marky would not have been wearing his bright blue parka with his hood up, and I never would have spotted him in the crowd after he got lost in the Colosseum! We turned one way, and he kept going - lost in his little world! Thank God we were doing head counts every five minutes. I ran back in the direction we had been headed, jumped up on the ruins of a marble pillar and just caught a glimpse of this little "South Park-esque" boy in the bright blue parka standing in the crowd (wondering where everyone else had gone)! It was a scary moment, but I have to admit that we all had a lot of laughs afterward!
Well, I really should get on with work. Suffice it to say that we all had a fantastic time, learned a bit about who we are and where we came from, ate great food, and met wonderful people that we now count as friends and family. We hope to make a habit of getting back to Delianuova every few years - maybe next time to Sicily as well. Even Mom admitted that she enjoyed it enough to consider a return trip in a couple years, and that's saying a lot!
Hope all is well with you both,
From my November 2000 Trip
Well, it's already been a week since I returned from Delianuova, and I am just now finding some time to write to all of you about my trip. I think this will be fairly lengthy, so grab an espresso and relax.
As good luck would have it, my company had me attend a trade show in Milan this year. On the way I needed to make stops in Frankfurt and Budapest. Both are lovely cities but, as is often the case when traveling on business, I had too little free time in these cities to take in the sights. I did get a chance to spend a weekend with some friends from home, Tom and Tracy Fischer, who are currently living in Braunschweig, Germany. Too short of a visit, but Braunschweig is a beautiful old city and a very friendly place.
After my weekend in Germany, it was off to Italy. I spent Monday through Thursday afternoon in Milan, where I finally had a chance to practice my Italian. Fortunately, a coworker had lived in Italy for several years so I had a personal coach. At least I learned how to ask "Un caffe per favore" (which I did often). Again, too little time to take in all the sites, but I did see the Duomo (the main cathedral in Milan) which was astounding in its size and architectural magnificence. If you've never seen an old world cathedral, you really should. They just don't build them like this anymore. The Duomo is famous for its hundreds of statues built into the facade of the structure, but I was most impressed by the craftsmanship of the interior. The stained glass, the columns and the sheer size are amazing. There was a service going on while I was there and these 100 or so participants barely made a dent in one tiny corner!
On Thursday evening, I finally boarded the plane to Reggio Calabria. Having been forewarned that few people if any would speak English in Delianuova, I spent the flight going through my "Learn Italian" books in the hopes that I wouldn't embarrass myself completely on arrival. (Despite the effort, I think I was successful in embarrassing myself completely!)
Our cousin Vincenzo and his wife Renata met me at the airport (if I remember correctly, his first comment was that I looked Calabrese, which I took as a compliment), and we set off on the hour or so drive to Delianuova. The road to Delianuova starts out right along the coast of Italy where you get a great view of Sicily across the Straits of Messina. From there, you wind your way through the Aspromonte mountains and through the olive groves which are set into the hills around Delianuova. This is truly a beautiful area.
My first memory of Delianuova is waking up the next morning at the Hotel Aspromonte to the sound of the local farmers and artisans assembling their wares on the streets below. In the background, I heard an opera playing and as I looked out over the tiled rooftops and the mountains surrounding us, I thought "Fellini couldn't have done it any better." Then reality hit as I found that the hot water hadn't been pumped yet and the telephone service was not yet turned on for the day. After my cold shower, I walked down the street to Scutella's, a pastry and espresso shop run by Nino Scutella. Nino spoke perfect English, having spent a few years in Australia. In fact, I met three or four men in Delianuova who spoke enough English to help me along; all of them had learned English during brief stays in Australia during the 1950's and 1960's.
Nino's shop was one of my favorite places in Delianuova, not because he spoke English, but because the pastries and espresso were so enjoyable. Nino also makes these incredible candy bars of honey and almonds in his shop, and sells them all over the world. (I tried to bring some home for my family but couldn't resist them on the plane home, although I did manage to bring home half of one!)
I spent most of my days driving around with Vincenzo and his two year old son Andreas, visiting his relatives or my Costanzo relatives (always having to eat and drink), the church, cemetery, and picking mushrooms in the mountains for dinner. At the church, I was shown the statue of the Blessed Virgin which they encouraged me to kiss (If I understood correctly, this is the statue that each person would kiss before they left Delianuova for the new world. I was made to understand that my kissing the statue closed the circle opened by my grandfather when he left Delianuova in 1903).
Each day we would return to his house for lunch around noon, joined by his older children who would come home for lunch from school. Lunch and dinner are not taken lightly as it is here in the USA. Every meal seems like a two-hour extravaganza, starting with an antipasto (an appetizer of something like prosciutto and melons), a prima piatto (pasta, etc), a seconda piatto (main course) and ending with cheeses, fruits, nuts and sweets. In Italy, they take their meals seriously! But this seems to be the culture I found in all things in Italy: slow down and cherish the moment.
Each evening around 5:00, Vincenzo and I would go to the local tavern where all the men would gather. The men were from families you have all heard of in your own family trees: Battista, Scutella, Demarte, Carbone, Italiano. And so, here we would sit (and drink beer) and play cards (and drink beer) and talk of life (and drink beer), about our families (and drink beer), the US presidential election (and drink beer), and drink beer (and drink beer). They played a card game where the winner determined who would get to drink beer, which of course got uglier the more beer we drank. What a great time! People would bring in sacks full of freshly picked and roasted chestnuts (castagna), which were by far the best I have ever had. Finally, we would return home around 8:30 for our family dinner.
One of the most exciting aspects of my trip was (of course) the ability to peruse the church and civil records of Paracorio (Paracorio and Pedavoli merged in 1878 to form Delianuova). I couldn't believe that I was actually holding, in my own hands, parish records dating back to 1607. On the first page of the book was the record of the confirmation of Adeco and his sister Delia Yetto in 1616. Yes, the family name was spelled Yetto before Ietto; the Greek "Y" correlating to the Greek influence in the region at the time. I even saw a gravestone of a Jetto, which is another derivation of the spelling which I had heard of years ago from my grandfather.
We also found the link between many of us (which I know that many of you had sought). My great great great-grandfather Raffaele Ietto had a brother Domenico who is the ancestor of many of you. We found the birth record of Domenico's sons Felice and Michelangelo, who we confirmed to be the ancestors of two of your families, and other brothers who we believe to be the ancestors of many more of you. Hopefully we will be able to confirm these relationships soon. Please check the tree at my site, as it has been updated with all of this info. Perhaps you will be able to confirm your ancestry for us.
I should close by saying that this is a trip that every native son or daughter should make. There is something about walking in your ancestors' footsteps that is invigorating. As I left the tavern my last night there, each of the men hugged me and bid me farewell as "a son of Delianuova." They asked that I return with my family next August for their festival, and I fully intend to do so. There is something about being in a place without McDonald's, little care for television and the media, no tourist shops or malls that truly allows you to relax and be at peace. Don't get me wrong, all the necessities are there, but it is more like the America that our parents grew up in with a local grocer or two and neighbors that are family in every way. As I say on my website:
"By understanding the reality of the people who came before us, we can see why we look at the world the way we do, and what our contribution is toward future progress. We can pinpoint where we come in, so to speak, in the longer development of civilization, and that gives us a sense of where we are going."
- James Redfield
I look forward to hearing from you all as we try to tie together the remaining loose ends,