203 – A New Arrival in Itri

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From time to time we pay a morning call to our favourite bar in Itri for an espresso or a cappuccino. It is known as Bix Café or Bix Bar and has become very popular since it opened a couple of years ago. Bix Café

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On this occasion Paul and Kay had organised to meet up there with our friends Pauline and Filippo.

Whilst they were all chatting away in English a man seated at a nearby table said “Hello” in an American accent and introduced himself as Frank Agresti from California, USA.

Frank said that he had only been in Italy for a few weeks and went on to explain the reason why he was in Itri. It seems that his grandparents had originated from this town, but had emigrated to New York, where Frank was also born in the Bronx.

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Frank had always been interested in finding his Italian roots and had found a Facebook group dedicated to the Agresti surname: Agresti Facebook Group.

Here he came across an Agresti couple who currently live in Florida. They were lamenting the fact that with heavy hearts they were considering putting the old family olive grove in Itri up for sale. It had been left more or less abandoned for several years.

Just off the cuff Frank sent a message asking if by chance they needed a caretaker to look after their land. “Yes !!!” was their reply.

Incredibly, Frank was an excellent candidate for this job as he had worked many years as an arborist in the States. Frank realised that this could be a unique opportunity for him to see the town of his grandfather’s birth and perhaps start a new adventure of living in Italy. No time was wasted as within six weeks all was organised and Frank found himself in Bella Itri. He spoke no Italian but had some knowledge of Spanish which helped a little. He had managed to find somewhere temporary to stay.

Through contacts Frank was able to make friends with a couple of members of the Agresti family (there are just one or two Agresti’s in Itri !!!). They took him for a drive up to look around the old olive farm. Frank loved the place from day one and dreamed of reviving the olive trees which he was told were between 100 and 200 years old.

On the Sunday before Kay’s departure back to Wales, Frank invited us to take a look at the orchard, as he called it. The plot of land, measuring about 5 acres is situated a few kilometres out of the centre of Itri in the Campetelle district.

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Set high on a hill, the grove consisted of 400 olive trees, together with numerous fruit trees.

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There was a rustic little house or “casetta” that looked as if it had seen better days.

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We had a peep inside, there was just one main room with an old fireplace. The walls were covered in mould and there was an abundance of dust and cobwebs. There was a simple kitchen and a basic bathroom. Frank thought that it had potential and with a little bit of elbow grease that it could be made habitable.

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We established that the property had a water supply, however the electricity appeared to have been disconnected.

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After a tour around the grove we offered to take Frank for a ride down to the coast to Sperlonga. We had a pleasant afternoon wandering through the old town.

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We then drove along the coast road to Sant’Agostino beach where we called in at one of our favourite beachside bars “Il Miramare” for refreshments.

Then we suggested that we should all round off the day with a pizza at the Bellavista restaurant.

Frank explained that as an American he only had been able to obtain a tourist visa with a 90 day duration. Frank had done his homework and had discovered that if he could prove that his family originated from Itri that he was entitled to apply for Italian citizenship. “Jure Sanguinis” translates as the right of blood – the right to reclaim citizenship by proving that your ancestors were of Italian blood.

Frank had a little information to make a start with. He had his grandfather’s passport which gave his date of birth, 1891 and it stated he was born in Itri, Gaeta. Frank also knew his grandmother’s name was Romilda Maggiacomo.

We agreed to accompany him to the Anagrafe office in the Comune to help with translating and to try to investigate his family heritage. Meanwhile I did a bit of research on the internet and I found the following Ellis Island point of entry information:

Arrived Ellis Island 1914

  • First Name : Alfredo
    • Last Name : Agresti
    • Nationality : Italy, Italian South
    • Last Place of Residence : Itri, Italy
    • Date of Arrival : May 7th, 1914
    • Age at Arrival : 28y
    • Gender : Male
    • Marital Status : Married
    • Ship of Travel : Patria
    • Port of Departure : Naples

Arrived Ellis Island 1914
• First Name : Emilda
• Last Name : Agresti
• Nationality : Italy, Italian South
• Last Place of Residence : Itri, Italy
• Date of Arrival : May 7th, 1914
• Age at Arrival : 28y
• Gender : Female
• Marital Status : Married
• Ship of Travel : Patria
• Port of Departure : Naples

It seems that the officials at Ellis Island had made a mistake with Romilda’s name.

However this was not Alfredo’s first time arriving at Ellis Island. I discovered another record:

Arrived Ellis Island 1908
• First Name : Alfredo
• Last Name : Agresti
• Nationality : Italy, Italian South
• Last Place of Residence : Caserta, Itri, Italy
• Date of Arrival : Oct 22th, 1914
• Age at Arrival : 17y
• Gender : Male
• Marital Status : Single

• Occupation : Shoemaker

• Nearest Relative or Friend in Country Whence Alien Came  : Uncle Pasquale Di Pinto, of Itri.

• Ship of Travel : Duca di Genova

• Port of Departure : Naples

A few days later we all arrived at the Anagrafe office. We spoke to Anna Lucia who is the Registrar there, and we found her to be very kind and helpful. She explained that she was happy to help Frank, but she did not have time to go through the registrars with us as they were short staffed and somewhat overworked. However she said we were welcome to go down to the archives and have a look ourselves. We accompanied her down to the basement to a set of two rooms with shelves that were stacked from floor to ceiling with bulging folders and folios.

Anna Lucia suggested that we looked through a set of indices which were in alphabetic order and were stored in some curious wooden bound folders.

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Also there was a huge stack of papers tied together with ribbons labelled as surnames beginning with A. There was little space in the archive room to go through this paperwork so Anna Lucia suggested that we took the folders back upstairs.

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Paul and Frank began patiently searching through the records and folios one by one to see if they could find any information relating to Frank’s grandparents. There were lots of Agresti’s but nothing relating directly to Frank’s grandfather.

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However soon it was time for the Register Office to close for lunch. Anna Lucia said we were welcome to return that afternoon.

In the afternoon I decided to try a different approach. I asked Anna Lucia if I could take a look at some Registers, as we knew Alfredo’s date of birth and approximate date of marriage. Anna Lucia accompanied me down to the basement where in the second room the registers were stored.

Before very long we had found Alfredo’s birth and marriage records.

Alfredo Agresti was born 23 February 1891.

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These also gave us some information of the next generation back, about his great-grandparents who were Francesco Agresti and Maria Giuseppa di Pinto.

He married Olimpia Romilda Maggiacomo on 15th April 1914 in Itri.

The pieces of the jigsaw were beginning to fit together. Alfredo, as a young man had travelled to America. However he had returned to Itri to marry his sweet-heart Romilda when they were aged 23, before whisking her off to New York to start a new life there.

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Grazie Anna Lucia x

Frank was ecstatic. We and Anna Lucia were so very pleased for him.

Frank could now start the process of obtaining his Italian Citizenship and fortunately kind hearted Anna Lucia was able to help him with this. He required this Citizenship because as an American he would not be entitled to access free health care in Italy and that generally it would make things easier for him.

Frank had found a temporary place to live, renting a little studio flat in an alleyway just off the old Via Appia, in Lo Stratcio district, which by curious coincidence was were his great-grandparents had lived many years ago.

Frank was keen to start work on cleaning up the rustic abandoned little house in the Agresti olive grove, but it was difficult as it was out of town and he had no transport.

In Italy nothing is easy !!! Frank was presented with a series of bureaucratic hurdles to overcome, which came with a generous helping of Culture Shock, especially as Frank speaks very little Italian.

Firstly he needed to get a Codice Fiscale, a tax code from the Agenzia dell’Entrate in Formia. Then he had to apply for Residency in Itri, which was not so simple as he had no permanent address. Once again thankfully Anna Lucia was available to assist and get the application underway.

Paul helped Frank through the tricky task of opening an Italian bank account. Then we directed him to our friends who own a garage in Itri, to help with the process of buying, insuring and registering a car. For this however he first needed to have his Residency.

Most recently he has managed to file his request for a Permesso di Soggiorno, with our help and the kind help of our American friends Pat and Mindy. His 90 day tourist visa was about to expire.

Everything in Italy takes time, nothing is straight forward, nothing can be rushed !!! To get anything done takes a great deal of patience as several visits to the relevant office are required before you can take a step forward in the direction of what you need to achieve.

At times it seemed so difficult and Frank has had his patience tested to the full, however slowly he has begun to battle his way through.

Frank is a very friendly and gregarious chappie with a “larger than life” character, and has already made many friends during his short time in Itri. With the help of some of these he has managed to clean and fix up the rustic little house and start to make it habitable and homely. He has managed to find a few sticks of furniture, the refrigerator doesn’t work and only 2 rings on the cooker are in working order. However he still has not managed to get the electricity reconnected !!! This is Italy !!! Therefore, we are currently lending him a petrol generator to tide him over. So he doesn’t have a TV but has managed to sort out some sort of connection to the internet. He says he spends much of his evenings by candlelight. Frank has also had some work carried out on the olive trees and is thoroughly enjoying taming the abandoned olive grove.

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We hope that Frank will have several happy years tending the Agresti olive grove and that the owners, Francesco and Helga, will feel content in the knowledge that he is taking care of their beloved family property.

 

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Bravo !!! Well done Frank !!! We wish you well !!!

photos by me Louise and Frank Agresti

You can read more about Franks adventures in Itri at his Blog –

The Italian Chronicles

#ItalianCitizenship #JureSanguinis #agresti #itri #italy

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You can read about some of the battles with Italian Bureaucracy that Paul and I had to work our way through when we first came to Italy at my

Avanti Sempre Avanti Blog:

14 – First Dose of Culture Shock

15 – Codice Fiscale Blunder

16 – La Cancelleria

19 – Getting To Grips With The Bank

25 – Acquiring a Permesso di Soggiorno

26 – Next Bureaucratic Challenge – The Italian Health System

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

198 – My New Website: Clerkenwell – Our Little Italy

Family Group

Most of our family and friends know that we are big fans of family history. It should be warned, however, that it’s a very addictive pastime and once you get started you can so easily get hooked !!!

I started by researching my father’s side of the family, the Richards family – Tin Miners from Cornwall, the Davies family – Coal Miners from Ammanford in South Wales and the Houghagan’s  from County Mayo / County Galway in Ireland and in Swansea.

Next we began researching Paul’s Shapcott family from Whitestone / Exeter in Devon. This got us well and truly hooked and we went on to liaise with several other Shapcott researchers, and we have put together a large database of information. Consequently, we registered our Shapcott interests with “The Guild of One-Name Studies”. We were interested to discover just how far and wide Shapcott’s are dispersed from their native homeland of Knowstone in North Devon, and to learn more about their individual stories and varied ways of life.

Shapcott Barton in Knowstone Devon

Shapcott Barton in Knowstone, Devon – The ancestral home of the Shapcotes

Here is our Shapcott Family Website: http://www.shapcott-family.com

Shapcott Coat of Arms

And then of course there was my Italian side of the family. My maternal grandparents originated from the beautiful mountain community of  Atina, Frosinone, Italy, overlooking the River Melfa and the Meta and Mainarde mountains, on the edge the Abruzzi.

Atina Val di Comino Frosinone Italy

Atina Val di Comino Frosinone Italy

My Atina website: http://atina.shapcott-family.com/

However my grandparents chose to leave behind their beloved Atina to make a new life in London. In the Summer of 1911 they first set foot on English soil, and made their way to “Il Quariere Italiano” of Clerkenwell, the district known as “Little Italy” by the English and “The Hill” by the Italian residents.

They rented a dilapidated Victorian house at the lower end of Little Saffron Hill which was to be their home for many years to come.

 

Herbal Hill or Little Saffron Hill Clerkenwell London

Herbal Hill or Little Saffron Hill Clerkenwell London

Leonardi Family clerkenwell London

My mother, Tina (Concetta), was baptised in St Peter’s Italian Church in 1920 and made her First Communion there.

Little Italian Girl Clerkenwell London

Tiny Tina

First Communion in Clerkenwell London

Tina’s First Communion in Clerkenwell, London

She married my father there in 1955.

Wedding at St Peters Italian Church Clerkenwell, London

Tina and Hugh’s wedding

Then I was born and was also baptised at St Peter’s and I lived in Clerkenwell until, in 1957, we moved away to the countryside of Hertfordshire, away from the smogs of old London town.  

My mother would, however, return every so often on a Sunday to attend Mass at St Peter’s. We also came at special times of the year, such as for the Italian Procession in July, which I walked in on two occasions, just as my mother had done before me.  We also enjoyed attending the Christmas Bazaar in St Peter’s School hall, Herbal Hill, where my mother had attended school.

Sadly I did not have the good fortune to get to know my maternal grandparents, as they had both died well before I came along. However, as I grew up I developed a true passion for Italy and all things Italian.  My mother (Tina) would fondly recount stories of her childhood in Clerkenwell and I decided to write them down and record them for future generations to learn from and to enjoy,  to preserve them for posterity.  I am so happy to be able to share my mother’s memories with you at my new website entitled “Clerkenwell Our Little Italy”.  

Tina’s story is about a child growing up in Little Italy

during the 1920’s and 1930’s.

Little Italian girl in Little Italy Clerkenwell London

In addition it includes descriptions of living in London through the Blitz during WWII, the internment of “enemy aliens” and the terrible tragedy of the Arandora Star.

The website also has a section dedicated to the history of Clerkenwell over the last few centuries and the influx of Italian immigrants to this area. There is information regarding the padrones, the organ-grinders, the street musicians, the artists’ models, the immigrants’ various crafts and trades, the terrible living conditions in the slums and, of course, the manufacture of ice cream.

Another section is devoted to St Peter’s Italian Church and the annual procession in honour of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

During this project, I have met through the wonders of the internet, a number of interesting people who share my passion for Clerkenwell’s Little Italy and its social history, and also the history of London.  I would like to say a big thank you to everyone that has helped me.

A special thank you to those photographers who kindly gave me permission to use their wonderful images to illustrate the website.

So, here it is: Clerkenwell Our Little Italy

http://shapcott-family.com/clerkenwellwel/index.html

I have also created a Facebook Group by the name of   

Clerkenwell Our Little Italy    

Please do feel welcome to join !!!

#clerkenwelllondon, #clerkenwell #familyhistory #atinaitaly #italianprocession #littleitaly

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Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments

Near Sperlonga Beaches and Historic Itri, South Lazio, Italy

194 – 2014 Gathering of the “We Love Atina” Group – Summary and Plans For 2015

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Well, sadly all good things must come to an end. 

All the members of the “We Love Atina !!!” Group seemed to really enjoy their long weekend in Atina.  They were a great bunch of people and everyone got on so well.  The weather was so kind to us, lovely warm sunny days, perfect for all our little trips around Atina and it environs.

We enjoyed several lovely evening meals together at …

The Villa Fortuna’s restaurant in lower Atina / Ponte Melfa.  We found it to be very friendly, the food was very good, tasty and reasonably priced.

We Love Atina Group at Villa Fortuna Restaurant Atina Italy

We also used the Villa Fortuna’s bar as our meeting point and were made so welcome by Marcello and Christiane, the Italian / American owners who also share our passion for Atina and genealogy. We were also able to use their Wifi network which was very useful.  Thanks guys !!!

We Love Atina Group at Villa Fortuna Atina Italy

Paul and Trevor, Paula and Brigida

We Love Atina Group at Villa Fortuna Atina Italy

Gina and Mary

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Brigida, Gina and Mary

We Love Atina Facebook Group at the Villa Fortuna Atina Italy

Ernesto and Mark

The group also had a lovely meal one evening at the well known restaurant named “Il Vicolo” in Upper Atina, which was also very enjoyable. 

We Love Atina Group at Il Vicolo Restaurant Atina Italy

Brigida, Trevor, Gina, Enrico, Paul, me Louise, Mary, Delfa

We Love Atina Facebook Group at Il Vicolo Restaurant Atina Italy

Trevor, Gina, Enrico, Paul

We Love Atina Facebook Group at Il Vicolo Restaurant Atina Italy

Gina and her father Enrico

We Love Atina Facebook Group at Il Vicolo Restaurant Atina Italy

Delfa and her daughter Paula

We Love Atina Facebook Group at Il Vicolo Restaurant Atina Italy

Brigida and Trevor

You can read more about “Il Vicolo” here:

Il Ristorante Il Vicolo on TripAdvisor

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One lunch time we went for a spot of lunch at “La Botola” (opposite the Museum) and had the typical Atina dish of “pasta e fagioli“.

Osteria-Enoteca La Botola on TripAdvisor

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During their stay in Atina Brigida and Trevor, and Gina and Enrico chose to stay at the Fontana Vecchia, which is situated a little outside Atina, so a car would be useful.  They found the owners to be very friendly and helpful and would have no hesitation in recommending it to future visitors of Atina.

Fontana Vecchia Website

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Mary stayed at the “Hotel Virginia” near the centre of Atina.  Here are some photos she took of the view from her room:

Atina Frosinone Italy Val di Comino

Atina Frosinone Italy Val di Comino

Atina Frosinone Italy Val di Comino

Atina Frosinone Italy Val di Comino

She said: “It was very clean and quite retro … A mix of old and new, the owner’s husband is a French architect and he designed it. The owner also took me to the train station in Cassino when i left and would have picked me up too if I had called her … I spent a week there and I was the only one in the hotel so a bit scarey.   It was very central for Atina, if like me, you are without transport.”

Hotel Virginia Website

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The Bed & Breakfast Posta Vecchia is also well recommended.  It is situated in the heart of the old town. However it only has 2 rooms

The Bed & Breakfast Posta Vecchia on TripAdvisor

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We’d also like to recommend the Hotel Villa Fortuna (who also have the bar and restaurant above) to anyone looking for accommodation in and around Atina.  This is situated in lower Atina, in Ponte Melfa.

Villa Fortuna Website

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Well, we are soon  to plan next year’s “We Love Atina” Group’s next gathering in 2015.  We hope it may become an annual event. 

The date is still to be decided, however some have asked if it could be held during the summer months. 

Any further feedback would be much appreciated.

If you would like to join us, please feel free to join our

“We Love Atina !!!” Facebook Group

https://www.facebook.com/groups/62618687824/

or get in touch with me.

We’d love to hear from you.  The more the merrier !!!

Ciao for now !!!

Louise

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

#atina #atinafrosinone #italy #familyhistory #surnames #weloveatina

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

193 – 2014 Gathering of the “We Love Atina” Group – La Festa di San Marco

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Some members of the “We Love Atina Group” stayed on for a couple more days to see for themselves the Feast of San Marco, the patron saint of Atina. Marco Galileo is said to have been an apostle of St Peter and was persecuted and martyred for his Christian faith in Atina, during the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian.

Once again we  met up at the café next to the Arco in Piazza Garibaldi.

We Love Atina Group Atina Frosinone Italy

Trevor & Brigida Varley, Gina & Enrico Battaglia and Paul

On this occasion we had the pleasure of meeting Lorraine Tambourine and her husband Billy, who are both from Scotland. They are frequent visitors of Atina.

Tamburrini We Love Atina Group Atina Frosinone Italy

Festivities were just starting to get underway. There was a brass band playing across the square by the Convent of San Francesco.

Band at the Feast of San Marco of Atina Frosinone Italy

I went up to the church and peaked inside where the ceremony was still taking place.

Cathedral of Atina Frosinone Italy

San Marco in the Cathedral of Atina Frosinone Italy

There was San Marco in all his glory.

Feast of San Marco of Atina Frosinone Italy

By this time darkness had fallen and I wandered through the streets

admiring the illuminations.

Lights for the Feast of San Marco of Atina Frosinone Italy

Feast of San Marco of Atina Frosinone Italy

Illumunations for Feast of San Marco of Atina Frosinone Italy

New Fountain Feast of San Marco of Atina Frosinone Italy

The New Fountian

New Fountain Feast of San Marco of Atina Frosinone Italy

Billy and Lorraine

New Fountain Feast of San Marco of Atina Frosinone Italy

Illuminations for Feast of San Marco of Atina Frosinone Italy

Cathedral of Atina Feast of San Marco of Atina Frosinone Italy

The Cattedral of Santa Maria Assunta and Bandstand

Cathedral of Atina Feast of San Marco of Atina Frosinone Italy

Feast of San Marco of Atina Frosinone Italy

After the church service there was the procession

throughout the streets of Bella Atina.

Procession of Feast of San Marco of Atina Frosinone Italy

Procession of Feast of San Marco of Atina Frosinone Italy

Feast of San Marco of Atina Frosinone Italy

The festivities continue into the night

when at midnight there is a grand firework display.

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

#atinaitaly #atinafrosinone #feastday #feast #sanmarco #santamariaassunta #cathedral #cattedrale

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

 

64 – Our Ancestors of Atina, Ciociaria

One day we drove with Ben and Keith up to Atina, to visit “la famiglia” where we were, as always warmly received. It was over 3 years since Ben’s last time in Atina.  

He enjoyed wandering through the cobbled streets, taking some photos here and there of the home town of his Italian great-grandparents, Benedetto and Maria Grazia.

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photos by ben woods

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41 – Our New Website about Atina, the Val di Comino and Ciociaria

Announcing our New Website about Atina, the Val di Comino and Ciociaria

http://atina.shapcott-family.com

I have always felt that I have “Bella Italia” in my blood

and the little mountain town of Atina in Frosinone

 is a place very dear to my heart.

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My maternal grandparents originated from the beautiful  Comune of Atina, Frosinone, Italy, overlooking the River Melfa and the Meta and Mainarde mountains, and the Abruzzi. 

This region is also known as Ciociaria, the name is derived from an ancient rudimentary type of footware “Le Ciocie”, typically worn by shepherds of the area. I am proud to be able to call myself a “Ciociara”.

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15 years ago Paul and I spent a memorable fortnight staying with some of my Italian cousins, in Atina.  It was our first meeting, but we were so warmly welcomed and received into the family fold and Atina transpired to be even more charming than I could ever have imagined.

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We often visit Atina, Montecassino and surrounding area, and are getting to know the area well.

Last weekend we explored the village of Caira, The German War Cemetery at Cassino, the nearby village of Caira, Picinisco and Gallinaro.

One of our hobbies is photography and another is Family History.  We’ve recently joined the Anglo-Italian Family History Association. 

We are researching the following surnames in the Atina area:

Leonardi, Del Prete, Rossi, Farina, Salvia, Bracciale, Tortolani, Di Fiore, Pesce, Massa, Capogrossi, Rolfi

Last year we had 3 sets of guests here with us at “Tre Cancelle” who were tracing their family roots in the Atina / Ciociaria area.  We did our very best to help them and took them all on a tour of the area. 

If you share my passion for Atina, the Val di Comino and Ciociaria, or if you have family that originated from this beautiful area of Italy  … 

Please do feel free to get in contact. We would love to hear from you. 

We have also started a Group on Facebook called “We Love Atina!!!”  Perhaps you might like to join and meet other people with Atina connections. 

 

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14 – Exploring Ciociaria

For the next several weeks we were kept incredibly busy with the succession of guests staying here at “Tre Cancelle”, and at our other holiday rental properties in the Itri area.  We had two families who, during their holidays, were hoping to trace their Italian family roots in the province of Frosinone. 

Gina’s ancestors had come from the Sora vicinity, so we took time-out to travel with her and her family to try and assist with their research and further acquaint ourselves with this area. 

Ciociara Mural, Mignone Restaurant, Carnello

Ciociara Mural, Mignone Restaurant, Carnello

We drove inland from Itri winding our way through the beautiful mountain countryside, passing Campodimele, towards Pico and onwards to Ceprano and the Ciociaria area.  This name is derived from an ancient, rudimentary type of sandals, Le Ciocie that was typically worn by the shepherds of the area.   The people of Ciociaria are very proud of their culture, traditionals and crafts.  They specialise in wrought iron and copper work, rustic pottery containers, wood work and basket-making, these skills having been passed down over the generations from father to son. I too feel proud to be able to call myself a Ciociara.

Isola del Liri Waterfall

Isola del Liri Waterfall

First we decided to visit Isola del Liri, a quaint little place. Here the River Liri divides into two branches, forming an island and there is an impressive waterfall, “Cascata Grande” right in the centre of the town. 

We drove on to the nearby village of Carnello and checked out surnames on the War Memorials and took a look around the sweet little church dedicated to San Antonio and Santa Restituta.

In Carnello we stopped for a delicious lunch at a restaurant named Mingone. It had a rustic setting with an stunning mural depicting life back in time in Ciociaria.  The atmosphere was warm and inviting and the menu was based on typical products of this region, specialising in freshwater fish from the nearby River Fibreno.   

Sora

Sora

It serves dishes “with a  twist”, for example we sampled Ravioli with a trout filling. We would highly recommend it to anyone.

Feeling full to bursting we drove on to Sora, a bustling market town which also lies on a plain on the banks of the River Liri, historically associated with agriculture and the manufacturing of paper.  A rocky spur provides a scenic backdrop to the town and Sora is sometimes referred to as the gateway to the Abruzzi National Park, an area of outstanding natural beauty and a place we wish to further investigate.  We took a relaxed stroll around the town, and explored the impressive Church dedicated to Santa Restituta and the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta.

Then another set of guests, a couple from Germany, arrived for a fortnight’s stay with us.  It turned out that Mike’s family had emigrated to Dundee in Scotland from Atina and Alvito, all within the Ciociaria region.  We soon learned that Mike worked in Bremmen as a Stress Engineer, on the Airbus Project, which was an incredible co-incidence, as before moving to Italy Paul had also been a (decidedly stressed) Stress Engineer also working on Airbus !!!

We accompanied Mike and his wife to Atina and met up with Cousin Mario, who greeted us warmly and affectionately as always.  We explained that Mike was trying to discover more about his Italian family roots and Mario volunteered to help and do some research at the Comune.  Mario also treated us to a personal guided tour of Atina and its museum, and we learned a great deal about Atina’s fascinating history, once ruled by the Samnites and a prosperous town even in Roman times.

View from Belmonte Castello

View from Belmonte Castello

We left Mario to his lunch and decided to drive a little way and find somewhere to have a bite to eat.  We headed down the valley, in the direction of Cassino, and followed the old winding road which existed long before the new super-strada had been carved through the mountains.  This lead us to the picturesque Belmonte Castello, a fortified hill town perched high on a rocky promontory, overlooking the valley below.  Like “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” (or even Scotsmen !!!) we took a little stroll around the ancient tower and the higher reaches of the town and admired the stunning panoramic views, in the full heat of the day. 

Parched, wilting, and with tummies rumbling we began to pootle back down the hill, when we stumbled across a curiously named establishment – “Gabby’s Fish and Chips”.  The owner and his brother were lazily sitting outside, so Paul went to enquire as to whether there was any chance that they could provide us with a little light lunch.  At first they mistook Paul for a German – apparently Paul speaks Italian with a Geman accent !!!

It soon transpired that these guys were Scottish ….. and also from Dundee …. and that in fact Mike knew their families and their Fish and Chip and Ice Cream establishments !!! Yet another uncanny co-incidence.  The owner produced a delicious platter of mozzarella, salamis and local cheeses which we washed down with some refreshingly cold beer.  We asked what on earth was a Fish and Chip shop doing in a sleepy Italian backwater such as Belmonte Castello.  They explained that having become totally disillusioned with life back in the UK, they had decided to return to the homeland of their grandparents to set up a little restaurant and bar.  Occasionally they had tried putting Fish and Chips on the menu, and the local Italians being somewhat curious had tried this out for themselves.  Apparently it had gone down so well that  the Scots decided to make it into a Fish and Chip restaurant.  They were now experimenting with some other new dishes, such a good hot curry or two, which also seemed to tickle the palates of the locals.  Well I never !!!

 

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05 – Visit To Atina

Atina, Frosinone

Atina, Frosinone

From here we took the final 15 minute drive up to Atina.  On the final approach to this special place it always seems the hairs stand up on the back of my neck in excitement and anticipation of the first glimpse of the dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta.

This was to be Sarkis & Margaret’s first visit to the home town of his Italian mother and the first meeting with their Italian cousins.   This particular Sunday there were celebrations for the Feast of Corpus Christi / Corpus Domini (held nine weeks after Easter).

The old town had been cordoned off to vehicles and as we strolled through the town’s elegant gateway we saw that final preparations were underway to adorn the winding cobbled streets with a colourful carpet of tinted wood shavings.  This a real community event involving many hours of preparation, co-operation and hard work.  Also, several special altars had been erected at strategic points along the route of the procession, and apartment dwellers along the way had draped colourful tapestries, beautiful lace trimmed linens and silk bedspreads from their windows and balconies which gently wafted in the breeze.

Suddenly the Town Band struck up, setting the scene with some doleful religious music, and the solemn procession began to make its way forward over the decorative carpet. At the centre was the local Parish Priest dressed in  his  ceremonial robes and wearing an embroidered wrap around  his shoulders which he used to grasp the “monstrance” displaying the consecrated host, so as not to actually touch it with his hands.  Four proud staff bearers supported a decorative canopy aloft, flanked by several dignitaries wearing black hats, white cloaks and white gloves and cassocked youths carrying a crucifix and lanterns.  The procession slowly progressed around the town, stopping periodically at the erected altars to offer prayers and bless each quarter of the town. More and more townsfolk  joined the procession along the way, and strangely now and then the band (as if they could not contain themselves) had to intersperse the solemn religious music with some jauntier traditional numbers !!!

Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, Atina

Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, Atina

It took several hours for the procession to circumnavigate the town so night had fallen by the time it had arrived in the piazza in front of the old baroque cathedral.  Here more prayers were offered and then church bells began to joyfully ring out long and loud.  It was a wonderful experience to witness this, to think that so many generations of my ancestors had heard the same bells ringing over the years.

Then it was back to cousin Anna Rita’s where Sarkis and Margaret were most warmly welcomed into the Italian family fold.  We enjoyed a wonderful family meal and the cousins were able to meet up and chat via Paul and myself as interpreters.  Looking at old family photos they remarked just how much Sarkis resembled their late father Michele. It was quite an overwhelming experience for Sarkis to at long last meet his Italian cousins and to walk around Atina treading in the footsteps of his ancestors ….. something he will not forget for some years to come.

Family Visit To Atina

Family Visit To Atina

Click Here To Read More About Atina and the Val Di Comino

 

Click Here to Read About The Celebrations for the Feast of Corpus Christi / Corpus Domini held in Itri

 

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