Tombstone Tuesday

August 11, 2009 at 05:42 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy, Itri, Italy, Tombstone Tuesday | Leave a comment
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Francesco’s Walk Home


Francesco (my father in law) would work all day on the farm and then make the long walk home by the town cemetery back to town. As a good Catholic, he would always remove his hat out of respect when passing the cemetery. He would replace it when he had passed. One night he was especially tired and almost dragging himself home. In his exhaustion he forgot to remove his cap in front of the cemetery. Suddenly something or someone knocked the hat from his head. There was no wind and he was sure he felt someone. He picked his cap up off the road and looked around but no one was there. He waited to replace it until well past the cemetery. When he arrived home he began to tell his wife until he realized everyone was very upset. Concetta’s brother Luigi had died suddenly, the victim of an accident at the sand quarry where he worked. Who or what was after his attention that night as he went past the cemetery? Francesco insisted it was poor Luigi.

Surname Saturday

August 8, 2009 at 07:47 | Posted in ancestry, Campodimele, Italy, Itri, Italy, Pannozzo, Surname Saturday | 4 Comments
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– Pannozzo Family of Campodimele

Our trip to Italy helped us to break a few bricks out of the wall that was preventing our research progress. As a result of information gathered in Campodimele with the help of some fantastic city employees, we were able to now further our research here at the local FHL. I was able to find a copy of the original marriage certificate for Nonno Valentino Pannozzo’s parents!

Valentino Pannozzo (grandfather to bonnieshusband) was the son of Onofrio Pannozzo and Maria Concetta DiBratto. On the marriage certificate date June 18th, 1849, we learned Onofrio’s father was Antonio Anselmo Pannozzzo and Onofrio’s mother was Paola Picano. We had learned Onofrio was born Fen 6th, 1826. Maria Concetta was born about 1825 based on her age at marriage. This also let us know that my mother-in-law Concetta was probably named in honor of her grandmother Maria Concetta. The certificate told us Maria Concetta was from the town of Fondi, located to the other side of Itri. Interestingly many of this maternal line still live in Fondi.

Using these newly discovered names, we were now able to push backwards one more generation. Antonio Pannozzo’s parents were Pietro Pannozzo and Maria Grazia Pannozzo. One fascinating fact about Campodimele is that the cemetery boast the names of Pannozzo, Pannozza, Pannozzi, and Pannozze frequently! Obviously many were probably cousins or cousins of cousins, etc. Paola Picano’s parents were Paolino Picano and Domenica Fajola. This takes those family lines back to probably mid 1700s.

Back on Onofrio and Maria Concetta’s marriage certificate we also learned the names of Maria Concetta’s parents. Her father was Rocco Di Bratto and her mother was Angela Antonelli. Moving into collateral lines we discovered several siblings of Onofrio and some of their offspring also. Although I had not been previously delving into too many collateral lines, this has begun to push in that direction. Itri was not that large of a town nor was Campodimele in this era. Therefore we are finding many names repeating and we are finding second marriages after the death of one or the other spouses. Many siblings will also name children after parents and grandparents so it is challenging to sort them out to the proper lines. As I progress I will probably move into extracting as many families from the records as I can. We were surprised how many times others would tell us they would love any information that we can offer on their families in Itri so this will be a labor of love and friendship as we go along!


Pannozzo, Di Bratto, Picano, Antonelli, Fajola

It’s Tombstone Tuesday!!

August 4, 2009 at 15:19 | Posted in Amore di Italia, Bits and Pieces, family history, family research, genealogy, Italy, Itri, Italy, Tombstone Tuesday | Leave a comment
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In honor of Tombstone Tuesday here in Genealogy Blog-ville, and in honor of A. Coffin’s blog (great reading I might add!) at  We Tree   I am posting just a few photos of graveyards in Italy. It is interesting how the Italians have compensated for lack of available ground to bury their dead. Aside from the wall crypts, they also have chapels in each cemetery where after so many years, they remove the bones from graves and transfer them to bone rooms under the chapels. This too is consecrated area and where families place flowers and say prayers. Sadly the result is that not enough of the old graves exist for families to use then to track their ancestors. Records of those graveyards tend to also not be complete.

Memorial to Victims of Bombing Raids, WWII in Itri, Italy

Memorial to Victims of Bombing Raids, WWII in Itri, Italy

Just about every city in Italy has its own cemetery usually walled off with the chapel as in Itri.
Sidewall Itri, Italy Cemetary

Sidewall Itri, Italy Cemetary

Entrance to Cemetary Itri, Italy

Entrance to Cemetary Itri, Italy

Closeup Entrance to Itri Cemetary

Closeup Entrance to Itri Cemetary

Sadly many of the gravestones to the older existing graves are falling into disrepair due to lack of funds or to local family there to tend to them. Many localities are trying now to preserve the older graves. Interestingly many graves have simple flat metal crosses, many without names. Most gravestones will have photos of the deceased. I am not posting those closeups because Italy has been enforcing stricter privacy laws and it would not be fair to disrespect them by ignoring their wishes.
Broken Gravestone Campodimele, Italy

Broken Gravestone Campodimele, Italy

Old Gravestone Campodimele, Italy

Old Gravestone Campodimele, Italy

Open Doors…Closed Windows

May 26, 2009 at 09:08 | Posted in Amore di Italia, ancestry, Bits and Pieces, Itri, Italy | 2 Comments
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Most of us have heard the expression “God never closes a door that He doesn’t open a window…”. I personally believe that myself …but… doors and windows seem to evoke other feelings and thoughts for me.


When I look at a door, a closed door, I want it opened. I want to see in that door. I walk past a closed door or window shuttered and I want to throw them all wide open – to peer into every corner. Not that I want to be the local peeping Tomasina or anything like that. Well, maybe I do??? Hmmm. Guess I might need to think about that…. Nah. I don’t. But I do want to see in all those closed doors and shuttered windows. I want to know who is behind Door # 1 and 2 and 3 and …

 052609_1307_OpenDoorsCl2.jpgI think about the people who live there, what their lives are like, what they wanted it to be like. Were they disappointed, happy, weary? I try to imagine myself inside those doors.. would I be happy there? Was life there what I wanted life to be or would I be disappointed, looking for something more? This is never more true than when I gaze on doors and windows in Italy. I have 052609_1307_OpenDoorsCl3.jpgdreamed for so many years of living in Italy that I wonder if I would find what I dream about or not.


 But what about those doors and windows that are opened and can never be closed again? Those doors fascinate me even more, if that is possible. I wonder so about the people who lived behind them at one time. Were they there when tragedy struck? Were they a happy group or were they simply getting by emotionally and physically? Did they have the same dreams and prayers that I do or were they too busy to think about a future? Or were they dreaming of emigrating to somewhere else…were they looking for a new life? Why is it I see those 052609_1307_OpenDoorsCl5.jpgpeople as someone with feelings and emotions and dreams and hopes for the future? I can almost hear their laughter around the table as fathers and mothers sit with their families. The sounds seem to still drift from those windows. 052609_1307_OpenDoorsCl7.jpg
 052609_1307_OpenDoorsCl6.jpgIt bothers me more that in today’s crazy world, others can look at the ruins and see joy that an enemy is destroyed. Do they not hear the cries of the children? Do they not think of the pain of the mothers who weep for their children? Do they not see the people as people? For me I wonder if those families heard the bombs, knew the last seconds of terror that they would die? When I see the bombed ruins of Italy I wonder so about those precious souls. My own mother in law heard the planes coming. She ran out from her house to see the plane aiming low and she sought refuge in the arched door of a church. She survived but hundreds died that day and 65% of the town was destroyed. These people who were farmers for the most part – and certainly no one the soldiers needed to fear. But the enemies were hiding in barns and alleys and other buildings and needed to be routed out. Those buildings sit still as silent reminders to the horrors of war but I listen instead for the laughter of the children, the joy of the parents. I chose to remember the families who lived there and see them like myself dreaming of a better future for the children. Throw open those closed doors and windows… maybe sunlight will allow others to see and hear them too. 052609_1307_OpenDoorsCl8.jpg

Olives Olives Olives

May 19, 2009 at 20:51 | Posted in Italian Cooking, Itri, Italy | 2 Comments
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Itri Views of Olive Groves  The olives of Itri are some of the finest grown in the world. Most know them as the olives of Gaeta due to an arrangement made years ago as the port of Gaeta was more recognized than the smaller town of Itri. But the olives themselves are grown up and down all the beautifully terraced mountain groves of Itri. There they benefit from both the mountain air and the sea breezes that blow inland across the mountains. Standing at the top of the Castello di Itri one can look out in all directions and see row upon row of neatly terraced olive groves spreading up and down all of the mountains and hills.

Family Grove

Family Grove



              During the month of April one can see and smell the fires as the olive growers trim back the trees and ground scrubs to encourage more fruit growth. This also helps protect the trees during the dangerous fire seasons when lightning strikes can start the wild fires so difficult to fight in the mountains.

       Most experienced farmers will trim the trees back to the two or three main branches and then smaller ones off of those. Keeping those branches trimmed means more of the energy of the tree goes to establish roots and then olive growth instead of small branches and many leaves. The trees are kept small enough that they can use a small ladder to access all of the olives to be harvested.





        By April most of the olives have been harvested except for those being left to fully blacken on the trees. These are considered the sweetest ones because they so ripen. The farmers take great care at this stage to not bruise the olives by rough handling but because the olives are ripening quickly now, they hang nets beneath the trees overlapping each other so as to not lose any to the ground to spoil or be walked on. 

Save Those Oilives!

Save Those Oilives!

Olives - Saved!

Olives - Saved!









     Slow growing by nature, these trees have been tended by the same family for generation upon generation. With care, they live well over one hundred years. They carefully store the olives for the family to eat as well as take some to refineries to be made into deep pungent oil. It is important for un-bruised fruit to be refined in order to monitor the acid content in order to have the sweetest oils. The cold pressed or first pressed is the deepest green known as extra virgin. Then the olives are pressed again and even again a third time to extract the most oils possible. Each pressing results in a lighter colored oil. Nothing is left to waste – after oil is pressed, the waste of the pits is often mashed to become heating fuel as well as mulch for back around the trees. Now that refineries use so much water in the pressing process, they are dealing with the issues of the waste water being toxic. This was not a problem before the larger refineries came into being as the farmers seldom used quantities of water in their smaller local refineries. Now waste water is collected to be disposed of safely and many of the commercial refineries are developing methods of cleaning this water to not foul the water supplies or ground.
       Each stage of the harvest yields a different olive. Nothing beats the flavors of these olives. The strong green new olives, the cracked olives with their more pungent flavor, the tender black olives, and the sweetness of the sundried black olives!

Olives Olives Olives

Olives Olives Olives


April 6, 2009 at 09:38 | Posted in Amore di Italia, Bits and Pieces, Fun Reminders of Italy, Itri, Italy | Leave a comment
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We are suddenly and joyfully planning a trip to Itri. There have been many excited phone calls back and forth across the ocean making plans with family. This trip will not be as long as one as we have made in the past due to my work schedule here but what wonderful days we are planning on. It is the first trip back home in four years and that was much too long for us! Unlike previous trips we will not be doing touristy things this time. This trip is strictly to be with family and to recharge ourselves physically and emotionally at a place we consider home. We want to concentrate on family both present and past. We have lost loved ones since our last trip and we will be missing them as well as concentration on those left here to mourn. And then we will be working on the family of our past.

Valentino will take me on a “tour” once more of Itri – the Itri of his childhood. My goal in all of this is to photograph him along with others at all his old haunts. I want to gift our sons with a slideshow of their dad at all his favorite places (and maybe some not so favorite ones, too). Although the sons have all visited Itri, I wanted to put this together as something of a keepsake to accompany the family history work.

One of our other hoped for excursions will be to city hall to beg for some assistance. We need to find a record of at least one person on the maternal line so we can finally get some research done. So far that brick wall has not lost even a hint of the mortar holding it together! Needless to say I have double checked as many sources and citations as possible so I do not chase someone else’s family instead of our own! I do not want to waste any of our time as it will be a precious commodity this trip!


Packed and Ready….

The suitcases have been pulled out of their closet and dusted off. Two hard suitcases and two duffle bags are ready to make this trip. Clothes are washed, dried, folded (no ironing, thank you very much!) and ready to go. All the convertor plugs and transformers are packed. The Euro-plug blow dryer and curling iron are also packed. Those will remain in Itri so that our friends can also make use of them on their trip. Two cameras are packed along with the laptop accessories such as blank CD’s and of course extra family group sheets. Maps of the autostrade are packed just in case. Little granddaughters wanted to help me pack – and then were not so happy with the packing. It looked as if we planned to be away too long to satisfy them. “But grandma – if you don’t cook pasta zouli I will get hungry!” A few extra hugs were reassurance enough that grandma and grandpa would be home again soon enough.

I will be updating and posting as time allows – and as long as internet connections are available! Ciao!

We leave in less than 54 hours now! Not that I am counting – but I am! Ha!

Espresso, Sapore di Italia

April 2, 2009 at 16:38 | Posted in Amore di Italia, Bits and Pieces, Fun Reminders of Italy, Italian Cooking, Itri, Italy | 3 Comments
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When I was in college (way too many years ago now) I drank tea. My mom’s family was from Scotland so tea was a family thing for us, a cultural harkening back to roots. It was a staple of my life, a main food source – so much so that I could literally distinguish between brands of tea by the taste. One tea manufacturer was a bit taken aback when I wrote a letter of complaint. I knew by taste they had changed their formula, their blend, something their taste pros told them the average customer would not be able to do!

Somewhere along the way I began to drink American coffee. Maybe it was in revolt to the tea change thing but I do not remember when or why I first started to switch my allegiance. My dad drank his coffee black but I preferred cream and sugar. My grandmother always had a little container of instant coffee on her kitchen table and evaporated milk with the tin lid that made a pour spout. I really never was a fan of instant coffee.

Then I moved to Rhode Island to Providence. Dinner at the local Italian restaurants and homes of localites always always included an after-dinner small cup of espresso. And then along the way I became engaged to an Italian – you know – as in from Italy kind of Italian! Ha! That is ANOTHER whole story by itself – but suffice it to say I was now beginning to rearrange certain aspects of my life. The Corningware™ percolator was regulated to the back of the cabinet. I still remember our shopping expedition to buy my first espresso pot, a shiny aluminum Bialetti™ with that cute little fellow in black suit, striped pants, hat, and cigar! We drove to the local hardware store, a typical mom and pop store that sold much more than just nuts, bolts, and hammers. There on the shelf was row upon row of espresso pots and right next to them were espresso cups, saucers, and tiny spoons to fit the saucers. Then we were off to the grocery store to buy the coffee… And finally back to my apartment to learn to brew my first pot of espresso at home!

On our honeymoon soon after I suddenly discovered more flavors of espresso, crema, cappuccino. Our first weekend as we strolled the Mercado I reveled in the choices of espresso pots and a love affair was begun. Now my little Bialetti was going to have lots of company as I found a Napolitano, a crema, a ceramic pot with hand painted flowers set atop the metal base, and even one with a metal base with flat top to hold the four demi-cups instead of a regular pot. But my love affair did not stop with just the espresso pots. I also fell in love with espresso cups. Delicate porcelains with hand painted flowers, chunky white serviceable cups for the kitchen, clear gold toned glass square ones with the handles on the edge instead of the flat sides, the list goes on and on! Surprisingly everyone woman who came to visit the newlyweds would feel obliged to bring cups, or spoons, or espresso pot to help outfit the perfect kitchen back in America! After all the bride was expected to “serve her husband properly” when they went back home!

Now all these many years since our collection has grown. Each time we moved, the espresso pots were carefully packed and then unpacked. Kitchens were remodeled so they could be displayed on long shelves. It was never a home until those pots and espresso cups were once again the center of the kitchen! They have never been simply decorations. Each is used as the mood strikes and the occasion calls for. A petite one cup is enough for me if I am alone. There is a gleaning stainless steel we use every day for family. There is a 12 cup Bialetti™ for parties. The choice of cups suits our moods or the occasion. Each set reminds me of where we were or who we were with as I made the purchase.

American friends often ask how I can stand the taste of the strong bitter coffee. “Doesn’t it keep you awake all night?” Indeed sipping a cup of espresso con latte or strong and black is restful, a de-stressor for me. I find that cup of espresso to be more enjoyable than an herbal tea when I want to sit and relax. I sit back with my cup and a good book or perhaps outside at first dawn light watching the mist rise and listening to birds. The only thing better is to be enjoying a small shot of espresso at the Bar Farnese in Itri!

Sapore di Italia

March 31, 2009 at 16:59 | Posted in Bits and Pieces, Fun Reminders of Italy, Itri, Italy | 1 Comment
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This weekend we were mightily blessed as the guests of special friends. (Yes, Annette – you are a very special friend) With a hectic work schedule for me, babysitting for grandbabies as needed, and planning for our vacation, free time is rather difficult and precious. So it was tremendous joy to be invited to dinner with our friends. As they are always fun to be with, we anticipated we would once again have an enjoyable evening. And of course, we did! Stepping into their home is to feel at home! Their lovely home is a slice of Italy right here in Florida – and their warm welcomes and fabulous meals are lovingly shared in true Italian style. Our host grilled the main course to perfection while we chatted around the table. That began a sumptuous dinner of tomato salad, fried zucchinis, roasted potatoes, steaks,, delightful wine, homemade stuffed breads (Annette I need your recipes!) that were a meal in themselves – a dinner to rival any four or five star restaurant! Desert was an assortment of Italian pasties with steaming cups of espresso and frosted glasses of limoncello!

But it is the good conversation, the exchange of stories, laughter, and family that makes this the beautiful home it is! Talk of home, family, and of course Itri, and again the evening turns into the wee hours! Especially as we plan our meeting together in about 3 weeks in Itri! Their trip will have them turn southward to visit family while ours will take us northward to Milano but it is the anticipation of time together in Itri that excites us all. For it is Itri that is always central in everything we know now – a beginning, a middle, and an end to our plans and hopes and dreams – it is home!

Thanks Annette and Frank for your hospitality and friendship – a wonderful example of why we so love Itri – GRAZIE MILLE – BUON VIAGGIO!

Cooking with Family… or… How I hate to Diet!

March 13, 2009 at 17:04 | Posted in ancestry, family history, Itri, Italy | 2 Comments
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We’re a typical Italian family (even if I am was not born Italian, my husband claims I am one now thanks to 32 years of marriage with him!). This means most of life takes place around the dining room table – or in the kitchen, laughing, yelling, crying… all the stuff that makes a family real and vibrant and breathing! It seems almost every family story starts or ends in the kitchen, sitting eating, or cooking! We have four young adult sons who all still enjoy returning home to family meals — and now our granddaughters are falling right into line.

We laugh till we cry when the girls start begging mommy to let them go to grandma and grandpa’s house because they are hungry. Meg visits several days a week for lunch and enjoys grandpa’s fresh baked bread. Katie and Julie insist it is “pasta zoulie” at our house that is best. That’s pasta fagioli (pasta and beans) for the rest of you!

So this Christmas I visited the MyCanvas program on to make a family cookbook for everyone. I realized that those times in the kitchen were pretty special about the time the sons had good friends returning on furlough from the service who came to visit, too. We are “mom and pops’ to a lot of great guys who have been friends for most of their lives with our sons. Yet these young men so mature and even married will still look forward to “coming home for dinner” at our table!

So it was that I decided to make family our own family cookbook. I filled it with photos of great meals over the years, someof us in the kitchen actually cooking, and, of course, the finished presentation! Each recipe page featured a few lines about who taught me the recipe or who was the best at making it or when we enjoyed it the most. Anything that would make the recipe relevant to each other and remind them years from now of family times together no matter where life takes them. Hopefully it will be the memories of long talks until late in the evening at the big table that will guide and sustain them no matter what curves life throws them or what the economy does or who comes into or leaves their lives. Because as every Italian knows, if the sauce is cooking and the smell is tempting them to stir the pot and dip a piece of bread, Mama and Papa’s love is still surrounding them, embracing them, holding them tight!

Try this sure to please everyone recipe:

Spaghetti Carbonara

1 lb. bacon 2-4 eggs 1/4 cup basil

2- 4 tblspns. cream (I use milk)

at least 8 ounces grated cheese – good quality 1-2 lbs. spaghetti

Brown bacon until crispy and crumbly. St aside. Drain pan but reserve 2 tblspns. bacon grease. Add cream to the bacon grease and let simmer for a couple of minutes. Set pan aside. Boil spaghetti. While it is boiling, scramble eggs in separate bowl. add basil and cheese to the raw eggs and mix. It will be a thick batter consistency. When pasta is cooked, drain and rinse. Add back to pot – add warm milk and bacon grease to pasta – then stir in egg and cheese mixture. The heat of the cooked pasta and warm milk will “cook” the raw eggs. Toss well with the crumbled bacon, reserving some as garnish – put in large bowl – top with last of crumbled bacon. Once they stop eating the only thing you will hear is “Why didn’t you make more of this?”!

Good Food, Good Wine, Great Friends!

March 4, 2009 at 11:26 | Posted in Itri, Italy | Leave a comment
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This weekend we invited friends over for dinner. The house was cleaned, wood laid in the fireplace in anticipation of chilly weather, table was set with Italian linens and dishes.  The house smelled of fresh baked bread. Wine sat chilling, ready to be served. Meatballs and sausage were simmering in the big pot. Olives, cheese, and a big platter of antipasto were served to hold us over until the pasta finished on the stove.

Our friends share a love of Itri with us that goes beyond simple explanations. I am not sure it is even possible to explain to anyone what it is about this town that instills the love and pride it does. A simple dinner can last for hours as we sit and chat about Itri – how it was and how it is now. Even as it catches up with the world today, Itri retains a part of its roots and beauty that makes it a special place. It is still a town where everyone walks every day. Folks sit on the benches to chat or sip espresso outside the bars at tables set on the sidewalks. It seems everyone knows everyone else by name – or at least knows who the other person is. And newcomers are welcomed after a day or two as one of their own! After all, you were seen yesterday and you are still here. They know that  Itri is now part of your heart so they welcome you knowing you will always return here as if returning to your own home!

There is an enclave of transplanted Itranians in Cranston, Rhode Island who feel the same way. Every year in July they  gather to pay homage to their patron saint Madonna della Civita. Friends and family all return to Cranston to celebrate the festival that lasts over several days. Everyone meets for huge picnics, family dinners, or to listen to music at the neighborhood gazebo. And the old-timers share tales of the festas held in Itri and laugh and cry as they remember and dream of returning at least once more to their home. The younger generation listen and they too dream of Itri. Even though they might never have visited Itri, they dream of the day they too finally go to Itri – some with their older generation – and others go in honor of those who dreamt but could not go themselves. So it is with those of us who now feel as if Itri is our home too – even if only in our hearts. We sit and talk of common events, places, people — and we dream for the opportunity of another trip there. And we dream of someday calling Itri home for real. So we talk, we plan, we dream.  And nothing is sweeter than to share that dream with good friends!

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