My Trip to
by Gina Fracasso Casey #426
My youngest daughter, Gina, surprised me with an early birthday present and took me to the town in Italy where my parents were born and brought up - Frosolone, (Isernia Province, Molise Region), Italy.
We began our trip on March 3rd, 2003 and departed from the Los Angeles airport. We continued on to London and Rome. We then took a train to downtown Rome (Roma Fermini) and then another train to Frosinone (Frosinone Province, Lazio Region) and then a cab to the Hotel Astor.
The next day we took the 2 Ĺ hour trip on the autostrada from Frosinone towards Naples, then San Vittore and on toward the town of Campabasso, up in the beautiful mountains, and finally to Frosolone. The small town is high in the mountains with snow still on them.
Arriving there we parked our car and walked to the village square. We asked a few questions of some gentlemen sitting there. I was looking to see if I could find where my father was born. One gentleman knew where it was and took us there, which was just a short walking distance from the square. We found #3 Via Limoncelli and took some pictures of the front door. It had some graffiti on it but that was fine with me. The building was very old and is unoccupied now. It was boarded up due to its poor condition but I had my picture taken in front of it.
The same kind "old" man who took us there also took us to the cutest restaurant so we could eat because he saw us wandering like lost Americans. He took us to a trattoria for a wonderful lunch of homemade noodles pomodoro, steak (bistecca) and salad. We also had wine!
As we were enjoying lunch and conversation a cute elderly lady by the name of Assunta came in and heard us talking. She spoke to us and we showed her pictures of my cousinís house and the list of names. Luck was with us as she knew the whole family and she took us to them. I then met the cousins I had never known. They are the children of my motherís brother, my uncle. Of course we immediately had coffee - very strong for us Americans, but good.
As we visited more relatives came by. They all lived next door to each other and we met three more cousins and their husbands. One of my cousins had a copy of my fatherís birth certificate plus a copy of my mother and fatherís marriage license!
Let me fill you in on some of the details of my family before I continue.
My father was married and had five children, ages 11 to 3 Ĺ when his wife died. They lived at the time in Phillipsdale, RI. Relatives tell me he wrote back to Italy to see if anyone wanted to come to America and marry him and my mother said she would go. I must say the families already knew each other back in Frosolone. My mother, 24 years old, came to America to a ready-made family of five children and proceeded to have nine more!
Back to Frosolone - We visited with cousins and we ate constantly. Noodles, wine, preserves, desserts - all homemade- with strong coffee and so many kisses I lost count! It sure was like I was in Heaven - memories of my mother and things she did - such great cooks. In one house the homemade salami and prosciuto were hanging from the ceiling drying. Talk about your mouth salivating.
Every day we were greeted with kisses, hugs, and strong coffee. In one of the cousinís house they were making Italian sausage. They let me grind some of the meat and I have pictures of that adventure.
On March 8th they celebrate the Feast della Donna - the day they honor all women. The customary flowers given to women on that day are Mimosa - and we were given some. I pressed mine so I could bring them home and I still have them.
From one of my cousins I got photos of my uncle and his wife, my motherís only brother. I learned where my mother fit in with her two sisters. My aunt Maria was first, then my mother Cristina, then her sister Carmella, and finally her brother Cosimo. Uncle Cosimo worked down below the houses in the Badago making knives. We went down and saw the knives that were being made but had been left there. The handles were made from antlers. Of course nobody works there now but it was so interesting to see it all.
I wanted to go to the cemetery to see if I could find graves of my relatives. I got to take pictures of the graves. Only the week before we arrived in Frosolone my second cousin had passed away and we visited his gravesite. What was very interesting to me was that they publish the death with a poster put on a bulletin board-like display in the square. Then everyone in town knows who has passed away. We took pictures of the poster so that I could record all of the information when I got home. We were told that after the funeral Mass at the church they all walk in a procession to the cemetery.
My cousin then took us to the house where my mother was born and lived until she came to America. Relatives still live there, second cousins. They showed us around the rooms - all of them so small. Standing there in the home my mother lived in was very special.
The current residents grow everything, even the grain to feed the chickens. They heat the house with only a fireplace. They even cook things in the fireplace. So amazing to me. From the house you can look down into the valley and then look up at the snow-capped mountains. We took many pictures so we could remember the people and the sights.
While we were there one of the cousins called another cousin who lives in London. She was so happy we called that she cried, but we conversed very well. There is still another cousin in Argentina. One of my cousins weaves baskets, the type you put bread in. She gave my daughter and myself one as a souvenir. Now when we have company and serve bread, Iíll have a story to tell about the basket.
Another cousinís son does woodworking. Of course we were given a sample of his work. I had him burn the name of the town and the year into the wood.
Finally, we had to leave - many tears were shed. Again hugs and kisses. It seemed like we did not have enough time. So much to talk about and learn. By the way I neither speak nor understand the language. So-o-o with a few phrases my daughter knew plus her Italian/English book, we got along famously. One cousin spoke some English so she was a big help.
Finding all these relatives and information was so overwhelming as we didnít expect to accomplish so much. I got the addresses off of the birth certificates of both my mother and father, the years being 1884 and 1897. You see, I was so lucky to meet so many relatives I never knew I had.
After leaving Frosolone we returned to Frosinone and did some browsing in the local shops. An Italian soccer team was also staying at the hotel. We got to watch their game on television - but their team lost. It was Milan playing Bologna.
Finally on Sunday, March 9th we were off to the Frosinone train station for our return trip to Rome. While there we walked around and visited the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, the Partheon, Piazza Navona, St. Peterís Square, Castle of the Angels, the Vatican Museum, and the Sistine Chapel, which was closed. We took Alitalia out of Rome, but the flight left late due to heavy fog. This caused us to miss our connecting flight to Brussels so we were put on another airline and went to JFK in New York, then on to Los Angeles - fourteen hours altogether.
All in all, I am still on Cloud 9 thinking about how lucky we were to meet so many wonderful relatives. Now I am in the process of assembling a scrapbook about our wonderful trip!
Return to Articles Index
Return to Home Page