My father was born in Italy and came to the U.S. when he was ten years old. I’ve always been determined to go back to see his home, and my daughter and I decided to go together—I couldn’t ask for anything more. It was everything I’d hoped it would be.
We added two days to the end of our Go Ahead tour to go to a very small village two hours south of Rome, Calvi Risorta, in Caserta where my grandfather was buried.
On the night that we were going to leave Rome, I tried to contact a relative. He was supposed to pick us up at the train station. Our Tour Director called this man because he spoke Italian, but the phone call wouldn’t go through.
We were going to a place we did not know; we didn’t even know how to get there. I was really upset that night.
“We came all the way to Italy and I won’t even get to see my family,” I said to my daughter. “No, we’re going. It’s going to be an adventure,” she replied.
So we got on a train and headed toward Caserta. There was nobody on this train, no conductors or anything. How would we know where to get off?
My daughter found a girl who could speak English and she told us when to get off and to get a ticket for a bus—she is one of the many people we encountered that I will always think of as our angels. We couldn’t speak to the people in the station because they couldn’t speak English. I wrote the address down on a piece of paper and we got on the right bus.
It was a small bus and the little Italian driver knew a little bit of English. He could only take us so far and then we had to get on another bus. He was very kind, very wonderful. He kept apologizing for not speaking English. We were going miles and miles out into olive country. My dad had always talked about the olive trees and the grapevines.
Finally the bus driver said to me, “Get on the bus on the right and this man is going to take you up to Calvi Risorta, and you’re going to have to walk to the village from the city.”
The next bus driver never said a word to us the whole time, but drove us all the way to the street we were looking for. He wasn’t even supposed to take us all the way up the steep hill and into the town, but he did.
All I wanted was to take a picture in front of the house that my dad grew up in, but we couldn’t find number 10. We left the street and asked a butcher, but he said, “No capiche.” As we were walking away, an older woman sweeping her sidewalk yelled for us to come back.
She brought us to another woman who spoke about five words of English. I showed her my grandpa’s address. She couldn’t help us. I asked her to take us to the post office—I got this idea from other cousins who’d went to Italy and found family.
But instead of stopping at a post office, we stopped at a house. All the houses in this little village are so old and beautiful, but this house was particularly pretty. It was all oranges and yellows with a beautiful fence. There was an intercom outside. She said something to the lady inside, and the lady opened the door and let us in. I had assumed that we had been taken there because this lady knew English, but she didn’t. She called her daughter-in-law on the phone and 5 minutes later a girl appeared. She couldn’t understand us either. So this girl called her sister-in-law, who spoke fluent English. It was so wonderful—she had lived in England for many years.
When I mentioned my family name, the woman who lived in the house started yelling—she was my cousin! My daughter and I got goose bumps. The woman that took us there had no idea that she was taking us directly to our cousin’s house. My grandfather’s house was about 30 feet away from the door.
She immediately called all her family home from work. When you visit family in Italy, the whole village comes out to welcome you. She was so upset that we could only stay for the day. She made us a lunch—within a half hour she had spaghetti and salad and wine.
Their 12-year-old grandson translated for us because he was learning English in school and we were able to carry on a wonderful conversation.
What an amazing trip! From the delicious food and helpful tour guide, to the beautiful country itself, this was hands-down the best trip we have ever experienced—but the best part of it all was meeting our family.
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