♥ La Dolce Vita Returns to Her Roots ♥
“Where you are is who you are. The further inside you the place moves, the more your identity is intertwined with it. Never casual, the choice of place is the choice of something you crave.” – Frances Mayes
I’ve always wanted to spend more time in Lucca and not only because it is an elegant and lovely town but because it is very close to my roots.
Visiting the nearby birthplaces of my maternal grandparents has long been a dream of mine…dreams come true!
At last, on a beautiful fall day, September 27, around 9:30am, we set out from Bagni di Lucca. Our destination today is two hill towns in the Garfagnana.
So begins a day I have been planning and looking forward to for a very long time-at long last, today I will visit the towns where my maternal grandparents were born…
It was only a short time ago that I actually learned the names of these towns. I had done a lot of research about my roots on my paternal side (Sicilian) for my dual citizenship but knew that, after obtaining it, I wanted to learn more about my roots in Tuscany.
I didn’t have a lot to go on but after some digging, slowly a story has started to reveal itself-their story which, of course, is my story.
The very small towns we would be visiting are: Castiglione di Garfagnana, birthplace of my grandmother, Natalina Lunardi; and Pieve Fosciana, birthplace of my grandfather, Giovanni Bertolini.
Aside from dates of birth, death , names of their parents, and when they immigrated to America, I knew little else. My intention was never to find lost relatives, it was more about returning to the places where they were born and lived and perhaps learning a little bit more about the lives they lead before they left.
Somehow, I suppose, I wanted to connect with them, to let them know that their granddaughter remembered them, wished she knew more of their story, and was very touched by their story and grateful for their courage.
We arrive first st Castiglione di Garfagnana which turns out to be a stunning medieval town…
Castiglione di Garfagnana…
We begin by walking around the exterior of the fortress walls, then enter Porta del Ponte Levatoio which leads into the main square and to the municipal office (Municipio)…We are very lucky – not only is it open, but the clerk, Cristina is more than helpful in trying to find my grandmothers records. She locates birth and even marriage records for my great great grandparents and some for my great grandparents but not for my grandmother. It seems that, probably, her birth was recorded in a nearby comune, Collechio. Cristina kindly gives me her email address and, if I will email her with all the information I have, she will research more when she has the time.
Grateful and touched by her kindness, we leave and continue our stroll through this very lovely place that is where a chapter of my story begins…Wandering, wondering, wishing just to touch the past, to reach out to them and, I guess, to bring the story, our story, full circle.
Although I am charmed and intrigued by this town and my connection to it, I know that life here was very difficult.
My visit to Castiglione di Garfagnana ends with a cappuccino and visit with Pietro, Marco, Ottaviano, Virgilio & Franco.
Something tells me I will return-I can certainly say I hope to…
But now it is time to go a short distance down the road to Pieve Fosciano where my grandfather was born.
As with Castiglione di Garfagnana, the narrow passages and streets are virtually deserted and here, too, I try to imagine what it was like to grow up in these small, remote towns in the late 19th century.
Fortuitously, we come across the office of the commune. It appears to be closed and, unable to find their hours, I take a chance and try to open the door… And it opens!
Hearing voices, we walk down the hall and after a few minutes, two people leave and I a able to explain to the clerk. why I am there and what I am looking for.
It’s another stroke of luck-even though the office should be closed the clerk, Francesco, is kind enough to search for the records.
And this time I am very lucky-he finds the birth records of my grandfather and the address where he was born – which happens to be around the corner! He is also able to tell me when he married my grandmother! It’s hard to explain my emotions …
After giving me a copy of the record, Francesco is kind enough to walk with us to the address of my grandfathers birthplace… I, of course, wanted a photo with him and thanked him for his help.
Now, Cristina of Castiglione di Garfagnana and Francesco of Pieve Fosciana are part of my story, too…
Coming full circle …
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