92 – The Return of Our Great American Friends

This was to be Sam, Carol, Mary Lou and Rick’s

second visit to this area of South Lazio.

See our previous Blog post:


This time they were also accompanied by Sam’s brother Frank.

The reason for their visit was two-fold :

1.   To investigate the possibility of moving to live in Italy and buying or renting a property.

2.   To trace their Italian family history in Ricigliano and in Sicily.

Back in December another American family had presented us with a gift of some superb maple syrup. We mentioned this to Rick and asked if he could show us how to make traditional American pancakes.  Rick is an enthusiastic cook so one morning he and Mary Lou set about cooking us “Brunch” in the form of a full American breakfast.

He showed us how to prepare the pancake batter and enjoyed demonstrating his culinary skills by tossing them in the frying pan and making them into a large stack.  Rick had purchased some huge slabs of Italian ham “prociutto cotto” which he lightly fried on each side to give them some colour, and also prepared some fried potatoes and scrambled eggs. The pancakes were buttered and then liberally drizzled with the maple syrup.

Scrummy Yum !!!

Indeed Rick and Mary Lou spent much of their time food shopping and then whipping up some delicious suppers to which we were often kindly invited and able to share in their good company.   Compliments to the chef Rick !!!

During their stay they had organised some short trips to Abruzzo and to Pescara to view some properties for sale.

Then Mary Lou expressed a wish to see the Amalfi Coast and in particular the town of Positano.  They had the idea of travelling down by public transport, but we advised them against it, as it would not have been very easy.  So we volunteered to drive them there,  I was interested in calling into the town of Vietri Sul Mare, near to Salerno, which is renowned  for its beautiful ceramics.

The next morning we headed off south. Nearing Salerno, we  pulled in for a pit stop, and I realised that we were not so far from the town of Ricigliano, the place of origin of Sam and Frank’s grandfather. We studied a local map and I suggested that as we were so close, it might be a good opportunity to take a quick look at this little town. In actual fact this detour  took somewhat  longer than anticipated.  We finally found ourselves following  the small winding road signposted for Ricigliano.

We arrived in the main square about lunchtime.  Here we located the Municipio and we hesitantly entered the building, which at first seemed to be deserted.  We climbed a flight of stairs where we were greeted by a couple of officials. I enquired as to the opening hours of the Anagrafe’s office.  They were most welcoming and obliging, even though officially it was lunchtime.  They escorted us to the said office where the very helpful registrar asked how he could be of help.  Sam told him that they were keen to learn more about their grandfather Francesco Parilla who had been born in Ricigliano and had emigrated to the USA in the late 1800’s.  Many people from Ricigliano settled in the Bridgeport district of Chicago.

The registrar began searching through some indices and then began to pull out some ancient fragile hand-written registers, and he soon found the details of their family.  In fact the original surname had been Parrilli not Parilla, it seems to have been changed over the years, not an uncommon occurrence when Italian immigrants arrived in the USA.  Sam and Frank were delighted as the registrar was subsequently able to trace the family back two further generations.

Many thanks to the kind Registrar who really went out of his way to help us. Grazie.

We were introduced to a local policeman who’s surname was Parrilli and amazingly he shared the same Christian name of one of Sam’s uncles, Donato.

Donato asked what we had planned for lunch.  We replied: “Nothing much, perhaps a quick snack of some sort in a local cafe or bar”. Fearing we might perhaps die of starvation he said we really should stay for a proper meal in Ricigliano and set about organising things.  After a brief phone call he told us he had arranged for us all to eat pranzo at a very good local restaurant.

When we arrived at the restaurant, named “Pretacapanna”, it seemed that they were in the process of opening it up just for us.  The owner said they could organise some typical local dishes for us to sample. A splendid meal of numerous courses was delivered to us and we also sampled some excellent local wine for what turned out to be a very modest price.  We would highly recommend trying out this restaurant in Ricigliano.

Donato was obviously very proud of his home town and its cultural heritage.  Sadly this day the weather was set against us with heavy rain, so we were unable to see Ricigliano it in its true light.

We learned that  Ricigliano is situated in the province of Salerno, sited right on the border of Campania and Basilicata. Perched on a high ridge it has beautiful views of verdant valleys and behind it some spectacular mountain terrain with a deep rocky gorge.

The town was almost totally destroyed by a major earthquake in 1980, therefore so much of the town has since been rebuilt, although a few of the ancient buildings of the old town still lie in ruins as testament to this tragic event.

On the 15 June every year, on the Feast of SanVito (the protector of animals) according to some ancient tradition, farmers, goatherds and shepherds bring their herds and flocks down from the mountain pastures to take part in “La Turniata”, an ancient ritual of fertility. The beasts are adorned with coloured ribbons and bells and parade in a procession three times around the village to the Chapel of San Vito.

We would love to go back to Ricigliano in June to witness this unusual festival for ourselves.

Here are some videos and photos of “La Turniata”.




Many thanks to Donato for taking the time to show us around Ricigliano and for sharing his passion and expert local knowledge of this wonderful little town.

So we didn’t actually make it to the Amalfi Coast after all, but we had enjoyed a truly memorable day in Ricigliano, where we were made to feel so very welcome, and Sam and Frank much enjoyed walking in the footsteps of their Parrilli ancestors.

They later spent a few days in Cefalù, Sicily, where they were also successful in tracing their Sicilian ancestors on the other side of their  family.  Bravo !!!

 Sam and Carol have subsequently purchased a property in Cefalù, Sicily.

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott


Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments Near Sperlonga Beaches and Historic Itri, South Lazio, Italy


2 thoughts on “92 – The Return of Our Great American Friends

  1. Good morning Louise and Paul – What an enjoyable blog (as usual) – I felt like I was riding right along with you all. Isn’t that something how they opened the restaurant for you – what a wonderful memory – and finding the ancestors. That’s what makes travelling so wonderful. And your friends made pancakes for you! Fantastic! And does that breakfast look good……………….beautiful flapjacks! I have been through Cefalu a few times all those years ago – pretty area to say the least – I experiences a scirocco near there – suffocating! I sent your blog on to Kathy who will enjoy it loads as always. love lora ps very foggy, wet, and drear this morning but the temps will RISE as the day wears on – almost to the 90 mark!

  2. Thank you for this important info! I was doing research into my family’s lineage and I was able to find our coat of arms and some of my ancestors! It was interesting to see that you said many of the Parrilli immigrated to Bridgeport in Chicago, because that’s where my grandpa and my family are from.

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