Finding My Family

My family always wondered where exactly we came from. We knew it was around Naples, Italy and that my great grandfather Salvatore, and his wife, Magdalena came from Italy to Ellis Island. However, that wasn’t enough and so the journey to find our family began.

Beginning the Search: My aunt began doing research trying to find any information she could from any possible relatives. She reached out in hopes of finding someone who could tell us more about our family. That’s when she posted to ancestory asking for anyone who might be able to help, to reach out to us.

December — February 2015: Now the post on ancestory had been up for about seven years and my aunt had forgotten about it, however, someone had seen it. This man reached out on Facebook, finding my dad and uncle. I’ll never forget the phone call between them when they realized that this man who lived in Italy was related to us. My mom and I were sat up on the couch listening intently to the conversation as my dad paced back in forth throughout the living room. They messaged the man, Antonio, back and waited for the response that was soon to come.

The next morning we woke up to a message, roughly translated by google translate from Antonio. We quickly decided that we wanted to meet face to face (with the help of facetime) and talk to our new found family.

February 8th, 2015: The first big day. We had set up the ipad and our family had come over to meet our ‘new’ family. I was still confused as to how exactly we were related and who everyone in Italy was. The call rang through and we were greeted with the unfamiliar faces of the people that I now hold dear in my heart. Names were thrown around as Benito translated. Antonio and Michele, Christina and Giorgia, Nancy, Deborah, Andrea, Sara, and Fabio. I was so overwhelmed but also excited as the idea of meeting in person started to come up. This was the first time we had talked to these strangers, but they didn’t feel like strangers, they felt like family.

20 days later we started planning our trip for July. It began to feel so real as we continued to talk to our family.

July 3rd-11th 2015: I woke up this morning with the thought that my life was about to change. I was about to travel to a different country and stay with people that we had just met months prior. I was quite most of the day, making sure I had everything and them some. The time we had to leave was quickly approaching. My uncle got to our house and we filled the back of his pickup with luggage, the mood surrounding us light and happy but also filled with nervousness as we doubled and triple checked everything. We pulled out of the driveway and didn’t look back.

The farther we got from home the more excited we got. We met my aunt, uncle, and cousins at the airport and anticipated the first leg of the flight with talks about what we do once we got there and what we thought everyone would be like.

From Cleveland, to Charlotte, to finally Rome, we had made it.

Our family was waiting for us by baggage claim when we got there, they had flowers and pastries and champagne and we had a make shift party in the parking garage. I realized that they were just as excited to meet us and I became more excited for the days to come.

We got to explore Rome for two days. The vatican was beautiful and the Colosseum was even more amazing than what they tell you in school. My favorite part of Rome wasn’t touring, though. It was the dinners where “The Italians,” (Our family and their friends) and “The Americans,” all came together as one and just talked and laughed and ate. We got to go around on Vespa’s and see the entire city in just 30 minutes. I remember sitting on the back on the Vespa with Daniela realizing how lucky I am to have gotten this opportunity. We got off the scooter and my dad and I walked down to get the best gelato I’ve ever had.

The next morning we woke up to go to my family’s hometown, Piedimonte. I fell in love the moment we arrived. It’s a small little town with the houses packed together and neatly stacked up on to each other. We walked everywhere, barely any cars were seen throughout the city. Everyone was so nice and welcoming to us Americans. That first night we ate pizza out in the middle of the street and walked around the town until almost 1 a.m.. We spent the other nights eating at different family members’ houses all with the best food I have ever tasted.

One day we took a trip to Capri, an island off the coast of Naples. We kept cool in the boat trying to splash the crystal clear blue water over us. After the boat we split up and I went with our new friends and my cousins as they took us around the island. That night we had the most amazing seafood at the sketchiest hotel, it was okay though because the next day we were back “at home” in Piedimonte.

The last nigh was the hardest. We sat around the picnic table at the Palace, my zios house, and ate pizza as we danced and laughed and said our goodbyes. I remember hugging Giorgia and crying, knowing that in just a few short hours I would be back on a plane again traveling many miles away from my family who I had come to love in only eight days. The next morning we woke up and said the rest of our goodbyes as my oversized sunglasses hid my swollen and teary eyes. My heart ached on the drive back to Rome as we got farther and farther away from my family.

Today: We still talk to my family on a daily basis and they got to come here again this summer to stay with us this time. It’s my dream to go and spend more time with them as soon as I can.

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