On Friday, we had planned to go to Polizzi Generosa to research my grandfather, Gandolfo Lore and to try to find a record of his birth or baptism there in 1900. In 1906 he immigrated with his family to New York, where a few years later, he met, fell in love with and married my grandmother Clothilde (from the Chianchetella Fabrizio family). My mother was born in 1920 and in about 1926 my grandfather became a naturalized citizen. We know this because my sister has his Naturalization Certificate with all of this info. It is our understanding, that if your grandparent was born in Italy and became a naturalized citizen after the birth of your parent and your parent did not ever give up their Italian citizenship, that you can apply for Italian citizenship yourself. The catch is finding all the documents necessary, like their birth certificates (which are sometimes impossible to locate with the effects of the war and the age of the documents), marriage licenses and the tricky one I think, the document that says that my mother never renounced citizenship. I can assure you that my mother did not even realize that she had it, let alone took the trouble to renounce it! So, we think it's worth exploring and trying to achieve that since it would mean I would also have EU citizenship and could travel and stay in other EU countries without a visa. Also, I just think it would be cool to locate the names of my ancestors and to perhaps search further back into the history of this family. It's just fun for me to do this and I hope my family will enjoy whatever I uncover.
At any rate, we made the mistake of not realizing that Friday, January 6 was a religious holiday - the Feast of the Epiphany. We knew about the holy day but didn't realize that all the government offices would also be closed! So we decided to wait until Saturday to go to Polizzi (little did we realize that the offices were also closed on this particular Saturday!) and to explore Cefalu instead. I think Cefalu is the north coast's answer to Taormina on the east. A lovely little town, less than one-hour's drive from Palermo, with the former fishermen's quarter along the seaside, the little boats nestled there and a lovely stretch of sandy beach, we enjoyed wandering all through its charming medieval streets. Cefalu dates from around 400 BC. Roger II and the Normans built its cathedral that dominates the main piazza, in the 12th century. We only spent a few hours there, but we liked it very much and would like to return, to spend more time there and explore it further.
We took a little detour on the way back to Palermo, driving through the most spectacular scenery, south of Bagheria, to the little town of Baucina, where the Bivetto family originated. This is the family of my father. His mother, Fortunata Locascio was born there in 1906 and together with her family came to the U.S.A. at the age of 9. It is a well-known fact that there are many Locascios in Baucina. Bivetto is a tougher nut to crack. We have found through the years that there are virtually no other Bivettos known to exist. At least in the U.S., with the exception of someone called "Phillip (no one in our family is named Phillip) Bivetto" that our cousin unearthed doing some research into our family roots. He died years ago and apparently had no other living relatives, or none that we could find. The story of my grandfather goes like this: he was an orphan, adopted at birth; perhaps his father was a rich man and his mother a serving girl...; he was an orphan and just made up the name. It has always been a great mystery to me where this name came from since it does seem to be so unique.
Upon entering Baucina we found the town square lively with its old guys walking back and forth across the main piazza and a little bar called "Bar Locascio" (the husband "Locascio" was not available so we do not know if we were related). The city offices were closed but we did get to see a very lovely Presepe in one of the buildings that was of the miniature village type and really charming. We asked where we could find the parish priest, hoping perhaps he would be able to help as Don Costantino in Chianchetella had done. It being The Feast of the Epiphany, however, the priest was really busy getting ready and asked if we could just leave him the information and a place to send it and he would try to help when he had the time. I wrote it all down and gave it to the man who answered the door, hoping for the best. The city is incredibly steep but built in sort of a grid, with each street higher, much higher, than the preceding. Some of these streets are steep staircases, others are roads for cars. Lombard Street and San Francisco came to mind as we walked through the town. I would not say it was a particular charming city but quite lively with a good many young people and families, and a sense of community, as they prepared for the Presepe Vivente that would be taking place that night. We stopped a few of the old guys and asked if they had ever heard of the name "Bivetto" and they all scratched their heads and tried to think hard but no one could remember anyone with that name in that town. We'll see what the priest comes up with and we will go back another day to check at the city office. Perhaps there is some record somewhere way back in 1886 or 87, when he was born that sheds some light. I doubt it to tell you the truth but I'm going to try.
We did not stay for the evening festivities as we weren't really sure of the road back to Palermo and didn't want to get lost driving in the dark. It was really fun to be there though knowing that our family roots dig into this hillside. The area surrounding these little villages is incredibly gorgeous and we couldn't help but stop and take photos. Hopefully they speak more clearly of this beautiful place than my words and you will agree.
On Saturday we got up early, checked out of our hotel and drove to Polizzi Generosa, on the road that would take us back to Marina di Ragusa. This is a more charming city than Baucina, on the western slopes of the Madonie Mountains. From this base, hikers, cyclists and skiers access the nature reserve, the Parco Regionale delle Madonie, with its footpaths and biking trails in the summer and ski runs during the winter. There was ice on the roads as we reached the city, in its high position there in the mountains. The highest of these peaks reaches about 6000 feet and there was snow visible at the higher elevations. The four seasons were represented in the terrain around us. There was the snow, some trees just turning fall colors of orange and golden, with wildflowers and green fields below! They have an archeological museum that houses the treasures from a Hellenistic necropolis unearthed when they were building a school there in the year 2000! It's a wonderful collection of pottery and household objects that date from the 4th century BC. Like Palermo, the town traces its history through Byzantine, Arab and Norman influences. In fact, in 1082, Roger I gave the Polizzi territory to his niece Adelasia, who greatly influenced the development of the town. It is said that the people of Polizzi were always welcoming and kind to all the noble and royal families who passed through and was nicknamed "Generosa" (kindness) by King Frederick II of Swabia in 1232 (this information comes right from the brochure the town uses to promote itself). It was also quite progressive, as in 1901 it was the first Sicilian town to have electric lighting!
The name "Gandolfo" (my grandfather's name) is well known in this town and many of the man have the same name. St. Gandolfo is the patron saint of the village, which may explain this fact.
The very kind woman in the archeological museum explained to us that the city office was closed but that we should return to do our research during the week. Her name was Maria and she said she had an aunt who was a "Lore." I showed her my cookbook, which I had brought along as a visual aid in my search for information since it contained photos and my family tree (as much as I know of it) and she enjoyed looking through it.
Another kind woman in one of the ceramica shops tried to help also by calling someone who she hoped might come out and open the city office for us (we tried to explain that it was not necessary and we didn't want to bother anyone on a holiday but she was having none of it!). Whoever she called however, was not as interested in dropping everything to run to our aid! It's fine though. It's less than 3 hours away and we want to go back to the area anyway. Another day. It was enough just to see it and know that it was in such a breathtaking place in the mountains. I will be thrilled to find a record there of my grandfather's family and obtain a copy of his birth certificate, if one exists!
We asked another kind woman on the street if she could tell us where to have a "buon pranzo" (a good lunch) and she directed us to a place called "Ristorante Itria." The woman who greeted us asked if we could wait a few minutes since they were still getting set up. Italians seem to have lunch around 1-1:30 but Bob and I are always ready around noon for some reason! It was around 12:45 so we only had to wait a bit to be seated at a table for 2. It is amazing to us how with the little bit we say (and we think we are using all the right words) that they know right away that we don't really speak Italian! She apologized that they didn't have an English menu but we said it was OK. We are accustomed to reading an Italian menu, even though in truth we still don't know what everything is! We had decided in this case to ask if they could just bring us a typical Sicilian meal from this region and her eyes lit up and she said "Certo!" (certainly).
The chef even came out and chatted with us about who we were and where we were from and proceeded to tell me that he would fix a meal like my great-grandmother might have made many years ago. We couldn't wait to see what he would come up with! We started off with a nice local red wine and some crispy bread. She warned us not to eat too much of it (good luck) so as not to fill up before the meal. We told her we were not big eaters so hopefully the portions wouldn't be too huge! We then were served a plate of appetizers: a fried vegetable (cardume fritte: a zucchini flower?), cheeses, fresh ricotta (yumm), salami, funghi (mushrooms) something called "Stiglioli" (some little concoction that contained intestines but was actually pretty tasty if you didn't think about what it was!) and another "Sfincione," (a kind of pizza, a traditional Sicilian flatbread covered with onions, tomatoes, anchovies, caciocavallo cheese, oregano, oil and breadcrumbs. I think that was our favorite!) Then came a zuppa di ceci, (a soup with a sort of bean) and the piece de resistance (not) Trippa! (tripe: yikes! This had a tomato sauce, which was tasty but the texture was hard to get down). The prima piatti was a pasta fagiole, nice, and the secondo, sausages (the thin Sicilian kind I remember as a kid) and a roasted veal chop served with roasted potatoes (delizioso) . Dessert was a dryish cookie-like thing called Buccellato that was so-so. Or maybe we were just stuffed to the gills by this time! At any rate, it was a lot of fun to just be surprised by what they served and to try all these different things.
On the road again by around 3 we arrived home by 6, stopping for some photo ops along the way, as the road permitted. It was wonderful to reach the point, on the road south where the Mediterranean Sea becomes visible, like a mirage, in front of you and we were happy to be back in our little seaside village of Marina di Ragusa once again. Since it was Saturday night, and the last weekend of the Christmas holiday, there were many people walking around and we dumped our stuff off and joined in the evening passeggiata, happy to be once again "al mare."
Now it's Monday afternoon, as I finish up my journal entry about these past few days. We went into Ragusa to have my stitches removed and the elbow is doing nicely. Bob is in taking a nap as I write and it has been a rainy day. Good for catching up on my writing and staying in. There has been some drilling in the apartment next to ours which I hope doesn't last long and the road crew below has started putting the pavers back where they tore them up to fix the pipes under the street in December. Quiet work, but I'll be happy when they finish up and take down the orange barricade that rings that little area. Tonight we are planning to go and buy some fresh fish for dinner and hopefully take a stroll on the beach, if it's not too wet and cold. We think the next couple of days will be quiet and we expect to not take any long drives for a while.
We hope all of you are doing well and have recovered from the holiday rush. We think of you all and love hearing from you as well, so drop us a note when you can and say hi!
Rosmeri (when I give my name, like for a dinner reservation, without spelling it, this is the way they write it, based on Italian pronunciation!) e Roberto