La Famiglia

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We took a bus, a train and another bus to the town of Campobasso (in the Molise region), where Darold’s Italian family lives.

Darold’s grandmother (on his mother’s side) was born in the nearby town of San Giuliano del Sannio.  His great grandfather had emigrated from Italy to the United States but had taken his family back to Italy for a visit.  While they were visiting, World War I broke out.  They had to stay in Italy until they could get safe passage back to America, and during that time Darold’s grandmother was born.  As WWI was winding down they finally booked a passage, they were at the Port of Naples waiting for their steamer trunk to arrive.  When it didn’t arrive in time to board, Darold’s great grandmother said that they wouldn’t leave without it.  She was adamant, so they stayed in Naples.  It turns out that the ship they would have boarded was sunk by a German torpedo.  Good thing they stayed! I guess I owe my marriage to a steamer trunk.  Eventually, they made it back to the States and the steamer trunk is still in the family.

Darold’s grandmother’s first cousin was named Nicola, and he married a woman named Teresa.  We visited Teresa (and the rest of her family) on a trip to Italy 20 years ago, and then again on our honeymoon almost 16 years ago.

On our first visit with the family we stayed in Teresa’s house in San Giuliano del Sannio. We weren’t married yet so she put us in separate bedrooms.  When we returned to visit on her honeymoon, she put us in her bedroom complete with a giant crucifix over the bed and told us in Italian to “get busy.” Teresa was in her 70s then and was extremely active.  She showed us how to make homemade cavatelli and tagliatelle.  She prepared some amazing meals for us, making everything from scratch and procuring most ingredients for cooking directly from her backyard garden including peppers, tomatoes, figs, zucchini, zucchini flowers and herbs.  Teresa is now in her 90s and lives in a rest home in San Giuliano del Sannio that Silvana (her daughter) helped to get funded and constructed.  Silvana and Raffele (her husband) have an apartment in Campobasso, but they also have a “country house” in San Giuliano del Sannio and from there the rest home is walking distance to visit Teresa (which Silvana does twice a day.)  It was bittersweet to visit Teresa (we made several trips), as we knew it would be the last time we would see her.  She has a very distinctive laugh, which we remember from our previous visits, and it was great to her that laugh again.

We got re-acquainted with the whole family since we hadn’t seen them since our honeymoon.  Dante was particularly excited to meet his two cousins near his age (Claudio, age 11 and Emma, age 6) and had a blast playing with them.  They rode a quad, shot pellet guns, and made knives and sheathes out of wood and aluminum.  Amazing what two boys can do together when they don’t even speak the same language.

One of the great things about visiting friends and relatives in foreign countries is that you get to see the country in a way that you couldn’t as a normal tourist.  Not only did we relish Silvana’s home cooked Italian meals, but we toured an ancient Roman town with them (Sepanium), visited the castle in Campobasso, saw a festival to Saint Anthony in a nearby town and all went out to dinner at a pizza restaurant. Raffaele shared with us all kinds of homemade treats like nut liquor, homegrown walnuts, dried hot pepper oil, wine made from friends and local “Tintilia” wine from the Molise region. We spent time with Mariantonietta (Silvana and Raffele’s daughter) and her husband, as well as Marieantonietta’s brother, Giandomenico, who by the way is a huge San Jose Warriors fan.

One day while we were out, neighbors of Silvana and Raffele also dropped by some amazingly delicious homemade pizza and bread, and we all went by their farm house to thank them.  We seemed to be transported back in time at this farmhouse; they were practically self-sufficient.  They had fig trees, stone fruit trees, a huge vegetable garden, dozens of bee hives, pigs, rabbits and a large plot of land fit for farming.

By the time we left five days later, we had re-connected the bonds of family with Darold’s aunt and uncle and cousins, and had created new bonds with Dante and his cousins. As we were leaving, Silvana packed a little “lunch” for us so that we wouldn’t go hungry on the journey home.  She packed sandwiches, frittata, cheese, fruit, bread, drinks and dessert.  Plus, they made sure we took along some wine with us. The food bag was nearly as heavy as our suitcase!

We don’t know when we will see the family again, but we have high hopes that Mariantonietta and her family or Giandomenicao might come visit us in California.  (Giando – if you are reading this, we promise to take you to a Warriors game!)

For more pictures go to our Flickr site!