Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Trip Through Italy, Finale

Our last stop on our Italian journey took us to Sicily. We were so excited about this part of the trip because we had plans to do some research on my husband John's grandparents. Knowing this might be a difficult task, researching in another country, none of us had high expectations, but we did have high hopes. We weren't certain where to start and only had a slight grasp of the language but we had a great deal of enthusiasm for the project. Little did we know what excitement this part of the trip would bring.

John and his son were hoping to find lots of fun tidbits about their family history so we left Naples and headed, by train, to the island of Sicily, birthplace of their grandparents/great-grandparents. But first, how do you take a train to an island that has no railroad bridge or tunnel that takes you across the water? Well, we found boat. The train cars were loaded onto a very large boat with tracks inside.  After that, we were ferried across the water to the seaport of Messina, on Sicily. Then unloaded, hooked to a new engine and off we went. We traveled to the Taormina-Giardini/Naxos stop and walked to our little Miramare Bed & Breakfast. What a delightful place it was! Beautiful views of the water and a walking distance to some of the best parts of the town. The owner, Aldo, was so nice and very helpful! We would highly recommend it if you are in the Taormina area. Click here for more information.

Our views from the Miramare Bed & Breakfast.
Our first full day we headed to the small town of Bronte, which is the birthplace of my husband's grandfather. John and his son, J, were looking for genealogical information and certification on his birth. We figured the building that had the information would be in the center of town, so that is where we headed first. We all thought Bronte was small but were very surprised when we arrived and found it to be a very bustling, good sized town. It is the only place in Italy where they grow and process pistachios. They take great pride in that. We drove right through town, and came out on the other side, without really seeing a place that looked like a government building. So, we decided we would park the car and go around asking where the building might be. There was a government looking building where we parked, so John went in to ask if they knew where it was and as luck would have it, that was the place. So the search was on. 

We found a gentlemen, Nino, who, in very broken English, said he could help us, and took us to the room with all the old books and started pulling them off the shelves. We knew the basic information as to when his grandfather was born and his name, and with that, they pulled the book that had just the information we were looking for. Nino made official certificates of the information that they found in the books and the guys took pictures of the handwritten data, that was all in Italian. 

John and J in Bronte, Sicily, Italy
One of the interesting things about Italy is that they take a siesta each day, usually around 12:00 to around 3:00. We arrived with just an hour to research before that siesta began. Once they found the data, they asked Nino where we could go to eat lunch. He said he had a great place and just to follow him. So we did. Now, this could have turned out real bad. We didn't know this guy and yet we are following him as he goes further and further out of town. He stopped at one point to drop off his wife, at their home, and continued on. However, where he took us turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. We went up a hill to a resort, that overlooked Mt. Etna and the valley just below Bronte. We ended up having a full multi-course Italian meal, which ended with some of the best pistachio gelato I have ever had. 

Pistachio gelato at Feudo Marullo Resort.
Come to find out, the resort is owned by the same people who own the local, large pistachio plant. We headed there after the meal to have a quick tour. Nino was well connected in the town of Bronte which was obvious by the places he was able to get us into. We felt very blessed that we made his acquaintance that day. He helped us with the pertinent family history information we needed and led us to a great place for our meal. I think we may have not seen the last of our new friend Nino.

The next day we headed to Giarre, where Grandma Politi came from. We had no idea where we were going here but once again, the helpful Sicilians came to the rescue. A couple drove us to the building we needed to find the same type of information we found the day before on grandpa. These folks did not speak any English, however. Communication was a little more strained. But a very nice man, who was standing in line behind us, asked if he could help and he translated for us.  He told them we were looking for birth information on Grandma Politi. The man behind the counter said we would have to come back on Monday. We told him we were not going to be able to do that because we would be leaving before that. So he said to come back later that afternoon. When the guys went back, they weren't real hopeful that there would be anything for them, but sure enough, the guy pulled out the same type of books and got them the information that they were looking for. 

One of the stories, that bounced around the family, for years, was that their grandfather didn't come to America at the same time as the rest of the family. The story goes that he had an affair with someone and ended up killing her husband. It shamed the family so they left for America to get away from the shame. However, in there research they found that their grandfather actually did come to America. What they found out this day, was that grandma had been married before their grandfather. Was this the man who actually went to prison for killing the man? A new trail to check into? A new story to be told? The guys left Giarre with another goldmine and were thrilled they had made the trip to find out more about their family. 

We spent the last day touring around the beautiful town of Taormina. It sits up on a hill, overlooking the coast and has some gorgeous views.  We hated to leave this beautiful island but the next day we had to head back to Rome, to catch our plane home, the following day.  

Pictures of Taormina but these were taken on our last trip there.
They were better.

The amphitheater in Taormina.   

We had to do the ferry ride again, and had a long train ride back to Rome but the scenery was great and the trip very relaxing.  The plane trip home the next day would not be near as interesting and a whole lot longer.  But it was worth it for all the fun and adventures we had during our stay in the wonderful country of Italia!

This is the ferry we took from Sicily back to the
mainland of Italy.

1 comment:

sage said...

I didn't realize there were still trains that carried passenger trains (I know there are those that haul freight cars). Did you have to stay in your car or could you get out? There used to be such ships on the Great Lakes. It sounds as if you had a wonderful trip.