Italian Roots

Italian Roots
Nona Angela with sons Guiseppe and Dalciso and her sister-in-law, Genoa Italy, 1908

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Promise Fulfilled

To continue the story of my Nona, one of the most influential people in my life, I'd like to let you know how that first trip with her back to Italy in 1964 came about.

From my earliest days when we lived with them in their San Francisco home, she would tell me stories about Italy and her family there. As I grew up, she would have me read the Italian newspaper out loud to her so I would learn Italian. And she would tell me that one day she would take me to Italy to see her loved ones back there. In 1963, a week before I graduated from high school, my grandfather, Nono suffered a major stroke and died in his garden in Redwood City. It was just like the scene in the Godfather. It was so appropriate that he would die there because he loved his vegetable garden.

Of course it was terrible for my Nona who felt helpless and alone. They had been married 64 years! With Pa gone, Nona decided she wanted to see her 2 sisters one last time. It had been almost 55 years since she left her little village in the foothills off the Italian Riviera for the US with my two uncles. So the stage was set. I would accompany my 83 year-old Nona to Italy for the summer of 64!

Nona and I set out on June 12th on TWA airlines. It was a first trip on an airplane for both of us. When we arrived in Milan, relatives were there to pick us up in a small volkswagen for about another 5 hour ride to Calizzano in the province of Savona. Then when we finally arrived in Calizzano there were what seemed like hundreds of relatives there to greet her back. She was like the matriarch of the family, the oldest on both her side and my grandfather's side. For the entire 2-1/2 months we were there people came to see her from all over northern Italy. It was amazing! Every time they would be introduced to me as more cousins -- cugini. I had never had so many cousins. At home I only had 3 male cousins on my mother's side. Who were all these people?

Pretty soon my cousin Carla with whom we were staying and who was around my age helped me draw that first family tree to sort it all out. After staying there for a month, we convinced my mother and my aunt Etta, the widow of my Uncle Frank who was the little blond boy in that first picture, to come join us. The last picture I'm adding here shows a lineup with my Nona (white hair in middle), my mother, my aunt and me on the right. My Nona's youngest sister, Vittorina is next to her with another cousin then Vittorina's daughters, Angioletta and Ida on the far left. Of these women in this picture from almost 46 years ago, only my mother and I are still living. What a chance in a lifetime this trip was that reunited our family over many miles and after so many years. That bond will never be broken again I believe.


  1. Hi Bunny,

    This is great. Just one correction. You and Ma left for Italy on June 12, 1963, not June 20. I remember the day well. I was 9 months pregnant with Gregory and Ma would not let me do any hard housework. So as soon as you left for the airport I scrubbed floor, washed windows and cooked a German dinner for Richie & Karen across the street. I was so exhausted that night and ended up in the hospital at mid-night and Gregory Henry was born early Sunday morning.

  2. Thanks for the correction, Doris. I've fixed the date. I knew you'd remember the date for sure!