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Our Ancestors Then
They came predominantly from the Mezzogiorno, the expanse of Italy stretching from Abruzzo in the north to Calabria and Sicily in the south, determined to carve out a new existence on this continent.  In doing so, they transformed this country and themselves, becoming no longer Italians but Italian-Americans. 


Past and Present

We have gratefully inherited much of the culture they brought with them – the food, religion, celebrations and customs, but many of us desire a deeper knowledge of these roots, to give us context and a sense of ourselves and of their sacrifices, thus, a greater understanding of ourselves.


Dedication

Therefore, these pages are as a dedication to our ancestors who dared to make a new life for themselves in America


My Journey-My Ancestors

My own search has taken me to the gentle mountainous regions of Abruzzo and Molise and the sunbathed countryside of Campania.  I have stood on the ramparts of the crumbling, honey-colored castle at Rocca Calascio in Abruzzo, surveying the surrounding strange and beautiful high mountain plains, and the jagged crag of the Gran Sasso d’Italia, the highest point in the Appenine range.  I’ve driven along the sheer cliffs of the Amalfi coast in Campania with the brilliant waters of the Mediterranean stretching uninterrupted to the horizon.  More importantly, perhaps, I’ve walked the narrow streets in the small towns of my ancestors, traced their footsteps in shadows of the campanile whose bells called them to worship, and where few tourists have ever been.  I have in reflection discovered the real Italy. 


A Helping Hand

Through my journey, I’ve become associated with the good people at Abruzzo2000, whose genealogical expertise has greatly enhanced my own research.  One of these wonderful Abruzzese, Lamberto Badia, guided me to the villages of my ancestors – not only in the Abruzzo region, but in the Molise and Campania regions – and aided my introduction to relatives with whom my American family had had no contact. 


My Journey – My Discoveries

In Italy’s southern part, my search brought me into several regions; Abruzzo, Molisa and Campania.  The Abruzzo region, in Bugnara,, I sat in the church where my paternal grandmother worshiped.  The Molisa region, in Rocchetta al Volturno, we sought traces of the Pontarelli family on my maternal grandmother’s side.  We walked the town’s streets, climbed to the top of the castle, and descended the picturesque but difficult road used by wagons venturing to Naples.  When my ancestors left their town, the Pontarelli family had seven children and an eighth on the way; imagine to travel down that road with all those children and a wife that was expecting an eighth child must have been an ordeal.    In Rocchetta al Volturno the town hall, I discovered records that included the name of the street on which the Pontarelli family lived. I now have a photo of me standing in the doorway of what remained of my great grandparents house.  In San Pietro Avellana, I visited the coffee shop that had been owned by my great-great paternal grandmother and her husband’s tailor shop right next door.  In the region of Campania In San Gregorio Magno near Salerno, we spent several days with the Frunzi family on my father’s side deepening a relationship that began with a few letters only a year before.  While there, I was able to locate additional family members. Words cannot express the profound emotions brought on by these experiences. 

My Passion
It is my goal to aid others; those of who wish to have similar experiences such as I had.  These regions have unsurpassed natural beauty, ancient traditions, and proud but down-to-earth people.    Today it is an Italy, however, that is endangered and which may not last much longer due to a low birth rate and a lack of economic opportunity for its youth; as we know it today, Italy’s future is threatened.  Through tourism, Abruzzo World Club and myself hope to help save this treasure for future generations, both here in America and in Italy, to keep history and tradition vibrant and to honor those intrepid people who so long ago sacrificed so much to make our lives possible.

Our Ancestors Now

When our ancestors came to America they changed for their new country, America, they did not expect America to change for them.

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