Friday, October 15, 2010

Finding and Visiting Our Family Village

I have threatened my family that I was going to find and visit Petina for the past 3 years. Other relatives have visited by car, but I had hoped to take the train and taxi to this small town.
Little did I know that there IS NOT TRAIN OR TAXI. You can take the bus from Salerno 2 times a day and hope that this bus returns the SAME day. This was not the best choice.
I contacted several car service web sites on line. But the car servies could not give me a driver who spoke English. Not a problem for driving to and from Petina but I needed to obtain a birth certificate for my grandfather from the town hall. After a week of travel in Italy, I have been told many times that I really do not speak Italian and they have NO idea what language I am speaking! Strange because I have entire conversations with myself in Italian........ they are probably correct, i never use the proper tense or verb and my pronuciation could be polish for all I know.

But I shall not be detered. An American living in Southern Itlay who i met on Face Book put me in touch with http://www.amalfiturcoop.it.

They have a wonderful website story about their founder and the years he spent building his business. They could accommodate me or a large tour group. And they would drive me wherever I needed and pick my up anywhere on the Amalfi coast! The perfect company. I will post a short blog about
Daniela Criscuolo in the future. But I loved their photos of the first taxi the company had. Right out of the 1940's!!!

So what am I to do aboutmy trip to Petina?

I tried a different approach.
I wrote to the language school I attended in Sorrento and the two schools I found on line in Salerno (closer to the area I needed to visit).  Only one school returned my email and told me about a british woman who taught English in their school.  Maria would be able to help me!!!  Yeah.  I dont know the Italian for Yeah!  but you get the idea.

This is Petina from the small two lane road that you take after exiting the maniac super highway.
I wondered aloud how did the family travel from this village to Naples to take their ship to America?
There were no cars in the late 1800s, there was no road, just I expect a track for waggons.

My aunt told me this week that my grandfather tried to jump off the wagon to return to the village as they pulled away......  so it is off to Naples by wagon!  It took an hour at top speed to arrive here.  How many days would it take to go throgh the mountains to reach Naples????   What an ordeal before they even boarded the ship.

So Maria and her delightful husband picked me up in Salerno (of course my Italian said one hotel and they went to a different one) and off we speed to Petina.   I am still amazed these kind people would take their time to take a stranger to a remote village in the mountains.

As a coincident the best man at their wedding lives in the area and he met up near Petina.  Here are my merry band of helpers in the records office:


After some discussion where I only understood some of the conversation the wonderful clerk found the book of all baptisims in Petina.  Hand written by the church priest and passed on.   Now the records were also filed by hand in an official book.  By searching the year of birth, they found the record of my grandfathers birth.   Of course this was not important to anyone but me but it was very moving.   The records are over 100 years old and they are just thumbing through the pages......



In further convesation with the most kind town clerk, we find that no family members remain in Petina but that we should try the next town.   Before we leave Petina we can walk by the house where my great grand parents and grandfather lived.   I just know all the zias and zios will lover this::::

But shall I tell them about the scandal?

So off we go to Sicignano degli Alburni which is over the mountain through the national forest and miles of chesnut trees that are ready to harvest.

This town is much larger and livler.  Petina had only 3 people in the street, all over 100 years old.  Two were waiting for the fish merchant to arrive in his mini van to sell fresh fish.......  Perhaps everyone else communtes to work or as I was told, works on farms in the surrounding area.

Petina is VERY clean and tidy.  Homes are well kept and we were able to walk around the entire town in a short time.  

When we arrived at Sicignano we made another visit to the county clerk just as they were delivering take out expresso!!!  Watch out starbucks.

With great luck, the clerk here knew the only remaining Laurino!  And sig. Laurino was called, came by the town hall and walked up over to his office..   Vittori is an engineer and speaks English.  He also had brothers in NYC and a relative with a summer home on Long Beach Island!!! this is only 1/2 hr from my home in NJ.

Life is very strange and the world is small

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