A Trip to Italy 2008: Tracing the Roots of our Italian Ancestors

written by

Armando Roderick Paolini

November 2008

Why Italy? When Nicole and Jared moved to their own abodes, I thought that we would no longer take family vacations. But in 2001 the family vacationed by touring the coast of California, in 2006 we vacationed in the Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming; and in 2007 we vacationed in Chicago. All three vacations were a wonderful experience. Kathy and I anticipate that Nicole and Jared will marry and have a family. However, while they are free of commitments, I thought that we should take advantage of the situation, and I proposed another family vacation. I was prepared to offer the suggestion of another national park, Glacier National Park in Montana to be specific. But Jared proposed a south American country to my astonishment. My interest is in only two foreign countries: Türkiye and Italy. Since a fourth of our family’s heritage is Italian--my father’s parents having emigrated from Italy--we decided that we would vacation in Italy in 2008. So now I was faced with planning a trip for four people instead of just two: people who were closely related and yet who had somewhat different personalities and interests. How could I plan a trip that would have some meaning other than following some ‘tour’ of the highlights of Italy? I started with a broad approach: determine all there was to see in Italy, rank them according to significance and interest, and then select those that could be done in two weeks. It seemed simple enough! I immediately purchased three books: Cento Città: A Guide to the “Hundred Cities & Towns” of Italy; Italy: The Places in Between; Italy: Touring Club of Italy. It didn’t take long for my eyes to glaze over after reading the descriptions of churches and their medieval paintings by artists that I did not recognize nor appreciate. On my previous trips to Italy, I found that two paintings of the Madonna and Child were my limit. We had chosen Italy because it was one of our ancestral roots, my grandparents, and great grandparents emigrating from Italy. Could this be the basis of our trip? Very little was known of my grandfather, Ildebrando Alfredo1 Paolini; only that he came from the piemonte or northwest Italy. On the other hand, I did know that my grandmother, Maria Beatrice Del Grande was born in a town called Popoli in the Abruzzo region of Italy. In fact, Kathy and I had visited the town for a few hours during our trip in 1973. In the course of my reading of histories, there was little mention of sites of historical or artistic significance in the Abruzzo. Certainly there were mountains, but that was hardly a reason to travel 6,000 miles. And then there was another negative.


Alfredo was the name by which he was known, and by which he shall be referred in this paper.

Alfredo and Beatrice settled in Napoli2 after their marriage. Kathy and I had briefly visited this city as well during our 2003 trip, and it was with a great deal of trepidation then. The place is notorious for thieves and pickpockets. At our hotel, we met a couple that related their experience the previous day in which they were driving in the city; when they stopped for a moment in traffic when suddenly the back door opened and out flew the woman’s purse, which then disappeared with two men on a motor-scooter. So the thought of returning to a city in which one has to constantly be on guard was not a pleasant thought. On the other hand, it seemed to be akin to our home city of Chicago, which has a similar disreputable reputation. And while both seemed to be considered the ‘second city’ to their chief rivals, Rome and New York City, respectively, they both are historically and artistically significant. I decided that we would go to Napoli--at least for a few days. Touring can be tiring, especially when one tries to see and experience all that one can in a relatively short period of time. Our tours have always been vacations as well, and so I’ve always tried to include places to simply relax. Besides, if one chooses to tour historical and artistic places, why not choose places that are beautiful and afford relaxation? In our trip in 2003, Kathy and I had stayed a few days in a town just west of Napoli called Báia, meaning bay, in order to visit the site of the Sibylline Oracle at a place called Cumae or Cuma. I had not the courage to rent a vehicle, and so we could not wander about so as to discover all that was there to see. But since our trip in 2003, I had found more articles and descriptions on various web sites, and I thought it worth a return visit. Since it had been the vacation spot for the Roman aristocracy, I thought it was good enough for us and would provide a place to relax and enjoy the cape, hills, and Bay of Napoli. I had made a very specific itinerary, specifying dates, modes of travel, accommodations and sites to see: five days in the Abruzzo centered on the town of my ancestors, Popoli, four days in Napoli, the city to which they had moved and operated a tailoring business, three days in Campi Flegrei (the Phlegraean Fields) west of Napoli, and one day in Ostia near Rome in order to easily get to the airport for our return home.


In this paper, I will use Italian names.

The Journey
Getting There is Half the Battle
Wednesday, September 24th On Wednesday, Kathy, Jared and I left from Dulles International for Rome while Nicole departed from Los Angeles with a connecting flight in New York’s Kennedy airport. Nicole made the connection, but her baggage did not, and so after waiting for all the bags at the carousel, and then completing forms for lost baggage, we finally departed Leonardo Di Vinci Airport for the Abruzzo.

Thursday, September 25th Jared and I wanted to travel by train. I’ve always loved trains. As a young boy, my mother and I traveled to her home town of Harmony, Minnesota on a train called the Hiawatha; and later, when my parents were building a home in Northbrook, Illinois, I would take a train, pulled by a steam driven, smoke belching locomotive, by myself from Chicago. So I scheduled us to take a local train to another Rome station, Tibertina, and then catch another train to Sulmona, a town near Popoli. Jared and I purchased the tickets, receiving four tickets the size of bubble gum cards, and a Hollerith-type of card which we took to be a receipt. We made the connection at Tibertina, and I was feeling quite proud of myself as we streamed through the beautiful Italian countryside. When the conductor requested our tickets, we all produced the bubble gum cards which invoked a long invective by the conductor; of course he spoke in Italian for which I could not understand a word, but he clearly conveyed the idea that these were not valid tickets. In my hesitant and awkward Italian, I stated that I had paid i57 which was surely enough money for this train, but my argument was not convincing. Then Jared said, “Dad, show him the receipt!” As soon as I pulled the card from my money belt, the conductor exclaimed, “Va bene!” What I thought was a receipt was in fact a ticket for four persons. It would not be the only assumption that would prove erroneous. The train was due to arrive at 5:10pm in Sulmona, where we were to be met by the host of our accommodation. We were “in orario – on schedule as the Italians say–until the train came to a halt. The passengers looked around, and the conductors started briskly walking up and down the aisle chattering into their cell phones. The passengers appeared exasperated or amused. “This was Italy,” they seemed to express. As best I could glean from the conversations, the locomotive was broken. I don’t think that I ever heard of a locomotive failing–just stopping, especially an electric one. But there we sat! How long would it take to arrange the dispatch of another train and retrieve us? It was all so unthinkable. And then the train began to move and soon we were barreling over and through the mountains of the Abruzzo.

We arrived an hour and a half late, but Clive McComb was at the station to receive us. I had chosen his accommodation on the basis of three features: it was near Popoli, the photographs indicated a charming place, and Clive McComb, being English, spoke English. He would be able to provide guidance for our tours and interactions with the locals. I had arranged for a rental car and had unrealistic expectations that Jared would do most of the driving while I would navigate and serve as tour guide–describing the sites and history of the region as we traveled. Jared had operated the hand-shift of a motor bike, and so I thought that could quickly learn this skill with his feet. On our first trial the next day, it became obvious that this expectation was unrealistic, especially given the road conditions of the Abruzzo with its hills, curves, and narrow roads. He would serve only as navigator, and this, in fact, turned out to be a critical and full-time position. We picked up a rental car and then followed Clive to Torre dei Nolfi, a tiny hill town west of Sulmona and southwest of Popoli. He provided us with a map generated by Google (see below). We had no problem leaving Torre dei Nolfi for Sulmona and Popoli the next day, but returning that evening, we realized two basic problems: first, there was no printing of the names or numbers of the roads, probably due to the fact that there were no names or numbers of the roads; second, there were no signs identifying the way to Torre dei Nolfi. We knew that the town was near Bugnara for which there were signs, and so we traveled a circuitous route each time we returned home. Only on the last night did we attempt and successfully return by the shortest route. Not in Sync Friday, September 26th Having traveled for almost twenty-four hours, and having eaten dinner late, it was understandable that we would sleep until 10:00am the next morning, and that we would reach our first site to visit, the comune of Popoli, about noon. This schedule was one that we hardly improved, and it put us out of sync with the Abruzzo. After a stroll about the Piazza Libertá and coffee at a small pasticceria, we were ready to tour the town. But it closed! The Abruzzese, and Italians in most rural areas, I suppose, retreat from the heat of the day to their abodes, have their large meal of the day, and take a siesta until about five in the afternoon; shops, churches, municipal offices, and museums all close. And so we wandered about in a ghost town. I had hoped to visit the church of my grandparents (and great grandparents) and to ask the priest to search for the record of their wedding, which was probably conducted in the church of Saints Lorenzo and Biagio: but it was closed and locked. Also, I had hoped to visit the city hall in order to inspect a map of the town as it was about 1900 in order to determine the address of Via Offia 6, a street name that is no longer shown: again, closed. We did visit some of the sites of the town, mainly the church of San Francesco, and the Piazza San Lorenzo with the churches of Santissima Trinità and San Lorenzo and Biagio but we decided to proceed to the city of L’Aquila and return to Popoli the next day.

Torre dei Nolfi

Italy and the Abruzzo


Sulmona and Torre dei Nolfi

Popoli (eastern side)


Piazza della Libertà

Campanile of San Francesco

In the Church of San Francesco

Church of San Francesco

Ducal Tavern

Via Cavour 6

Upon our arrival in L’Aquila, it rained slightly, and so we visited the Basilica of San Bernardino da Siena and then hiked to an art gallery that, while scheduled to be open as stated on the flyer attached to its door, was closed. However, the Spanish fort was open, which, in addition to its own architecture, included a museum of Greek and Roman artifacts and a art gallery. L’Aquila’s most famous denizen is Pietro del Morrone, better known as Pope Celestine V, a hermit who became pope when the college of cardinals could not agree on one of many prominent contenders. Out of his depth, he abdicated after five months only to spend the remainder of his days in confinement by his successor. More ignobling, he was consigned to a place in hell by the poet Dante as he “W ho made by his cowardice the grand refusal.” Celestine V was later canonized, and his bones are interred in the church of San Maria in Collemaggio which is L’Aquila. W e bobbed and weaved about the city looking for this church only to find it closed for repair, a pattern that was soon becoming apparent. As solace, the restoration project had hung a giant cloth in the front of the building with an image of its facade. W e then sought the Ninety-nine Fountains, a monument that symbolized the close connection between the city and its surrounding villages (99, according to local tradition), which established the city as a federation. This entailed a torturous descent down a spiraling road with no place to park. Realizing that we would need food for the next morning, we decided to grocery shop at a large centro commerciale, similar to a W all-Mart, selling everything from groceries to furniture. However, it created a situation in which four people had to determine a menu, thus requiring group decision making–not our strong point. Thinking that the more circuitous route on the autostrada would be a quicker way home, we confronted the complexity of routes and signage that we hoped would lead us to Sulmona and Torre dei Nolfi. All the signs directed us toward the regular roads while Jared insisted that we had to follow the signs toward Rome. He was right; due credit is given to him who navigated from an insufficient map and confusing signs. Two Giant Morroni Saturday, September 27 th The next day we traveled to the nearby town of Corfino which had been the site of the ancient Roman town of Corfinium. After driving the maze of roads and heading in the wrong direction once or twice, we reached the town and took a short stroll, but then returned to the car in order to find the Roman ruins described as: The remains of the ancient sacred area, which were located outside the modern center, along the Via di Pratola, are in better conditions. Among them there are two rectangular constructions, the bigger one dedicated to Hercules. Near the cathedral of San Pelino there are the two giant "Morroni", remains of the walls of a circular mausoleum. W e found the two giant “morroni” (whatever that means), but nothing more. And of course, the town’s museum was closed. W e pushed on to Popoli.

Church of San Berardino

Church of San Berardino

Church of St. Mary of Holy Souls

Piazza del Duomo


Entrance to Forte Spagnolo

Forte Spagnolo

Placque on Santa Maria di Roio

Santa Maria di Roio


San Maria di Collemaggio

99 Fountains

We again ascended the Scalinata Trinità dei Monti and viewed the churches. Exactly how many churches we view at this location is uncertain. The map of Popoli indicates three church buildings (?); an Italian website states: Church of Saints Lorenzo and Biagio, with a small church nearby called Santissima Trinità. There are several Lorenzo’s (Lawrence): I asked, in Italian, a women who lived next to the church(es) how many churches there Lawrence, Saint - Deacon, martyr, d. 258; were, and she replied, “only one.” The Del Grande’s lived at several addresses but none of the street names are to be found on present day maps. I should have scheduled our visit to allow me to inquire at the city hall as to whether or not a street map existed for the period about 1900 in order to determine the present location of these addresses, but as usual, my timing was off.
Lawrence, Saint - Successor of St. Augustine of Canterbury as archbishop of that see, and died in 619; Lawrence Justinian, Saint - Bishop and first Patriarch of Venice. He died in 1456; Lawrence of Brindisi, Saint - An Italian Capuchin with a talent for languages, much in demand as a preacher, was chaplain of the Imperial army. Doctor of the Church. He died in 1619.

In examining the buildings and the numbers implanted in the walls, I assumed that while the street names had changed, the numbers had not, and therefore Via Offia 6 was now Piazza San Lorenzo 6. Beatrice had told the story of her and Gilda playing in the church, which gives credence to number 6 being her home as it is just across the small piazza of San Lorenzo. Maybe on the next visit I will make a more definitive determination. Kathy noted that the town appeared much more prosperous than it had in 1973 when we visited. The steps behind me in this photo were cobblestone as I remember someone bring stuff up them by donkey. Also there was a hammer and sickle painted in red on a wall; now there is a plaque honoring some communist on Via Cavour.

Saint Biagio is represented as an old hermit who lives in a cave and survives with the help of wild animals that bring food to him from the woods. Among the miraculous healing that has been attributed to him, the most famous one talks about a baby that got a big fish bone stuck in his throat. The saint touched his throat and the bone melted, this is the reason why Saint Biagio is considered to be the protector of the throat and of all the sicknesses related to it, such as throat ache, laryngitis, and hoarseness. Also in the modern official liturgy there is still a brief and strange ceremony: two blessed candles are crossed over the people's throats and Saint Biagio's protection is called upon with their words: "For the prayers and the merits of Saint Biagio, God will free you of throat ache and any other aches". Saint Biagio lived in Sebaste, in Cappadocia (modern day Turkey) between the third and fourth century and he was martyred by having his limbs pulled off with big combs similar to the ones used to comb wool, therefore, he is also considered the patron of the wool combers.



Campanile of Santissima Trinità

Chiesa della Santissima Trinità

Chiesa Santi Lorenzo e Biagio Chiesa Santi Lorenzo e Biagio with campanile

Both churches View of both churches from the rear


Piazza San Lorenzo

Piazza San Lorenzo 6

Piazza San Lorenzo 6


Piazza Giuseppe Paolini & Monument to the Fallen (no longer exists)

Via della Republica

Piazza Giuseppe Paolini & Monument to Liberty

Via Morrone (next to church)


Popoli municipal Building

W ith no restaurant open in Popoli, we decided return to Sulmona, have lunch and tour the city. On the road back, our path was blocked by a herd of goats complete with goat-herders and goat-herding dogs. W e parked in the main square, Piazza Garibaldi and inspected the major attractions: 1) the Swabian aquaduct; 2) the Old Man’s Fountain; 3) Church of San Francesco delle Scarpe (shoe); Church of San Filippo Neri; 4) Church of San Rocco. W e then walked the main street, Corso Ovidio, entered Piazza XX Settembre 1, and encountered the Church of Santissimo Annunziata which housed a tourist office and museum, which of course was closed though it had a rather beautiful courtyard. W e reached Piazzale Tresca which had, as most Italian town have, un monumento ai caduti, a monument to the fallen. At the end of the park is the cathedral, the church of San Panfilo dating back to the 8 th century. The church has a crypt that is open to the public, and so we descended and viewed this mysterious chamber.

It was on this garrison duty at Am iens that the event took place that has been portrayed in art throughout the ages. On a bitterly cold winter day, the young tribune M artin rode through the gates, probably dressed in the regalia of his unit -gleam ing, flexible arm or, ridged helm et, and a beautiful white cloak whose upper section was lined with lam bswool. As he approached the gates he saw a beggar, with clothes so ragged that he was practically naked. The beggar m ust have been shaking and blue from the cold but no one reached out to help him . M artin, overcom e with com passion, took off his m antle. In one quick stroke he slashed the lovely m antle in two with his sword, handed half to the freezing man and wrapped the rem ainder on his own shoulders.

On our return walk, we saw an outdoor theater which, initially, we thought might be a Roman ruin but which turned out to be just a modern structure. But we found ourselves overlooking a parking lot in which a teenage marching band was practicing. They seemed to be confused and disorganized, and as is often the case with teenagers, they were talking while the band leader(s) were trying to direct them. I could empathize with them.


September 20, 1870, the final date of Italian unification.


Church of San Francesco delle Scarpe

Swabian Acquaduct (1256)

Piazza Garibaldi Church of San Rocco

Saint Martin of Tours Church of San Filippo Neri
(above the door of Filippo Neri)


Piazza Ovideo

Campanile of the Church of Santissimo Annunziata

Church of Santissimo Annunziata


Monument to the Fallen

Cathedral of San Panfilo

Inside entrance of the Cathedral of San Panfilo


Crypt of the Cathedral of St Panfilo

Tomb in the Crypt

Dome of the Crypt of the Cathedral of St Panfilo #1

Dome of the Crypt of the Cathedral of St Panfilo #2

Marching Band

Restaurants open at 8:00pm, and it was only about 4:30pm, so we decided to visit a hill town called Pacentro, about a half hour drive east of Sulmona. It was indeed in the hills--mountains to be more specific. W e traveled a road that must have switched back on itself at least ten times. W e spotted a castle high above the town, and made it our first visit.

The oldest part of the town is one of the best-preserved m edieval centers in the region. On the highest part of this section sit the ruins of the Cantelm o Castle , nam ed for one of the feudal fam ilies that once controlled Pacentro. A square fortress built in the 14th century and once surrounded by a m oat, it is notable for its three high towers, added in the 15th century. Just below the castle are narrow winding m edieval streets filled with old houses and little churches.

W e then drove down and parked the car outside the city walls and entered the town through the porta. It was time for the passeggiata, the stroll. For Pacentro, we did not find a square large enough for a circular stroll as the streets are laid parallel along the mountain. But people were walking and milling about. Planning ahead for the next day’s breakfast and lunch, we entered an alimentari. W e wanted some cheese, but not from cow’s milk. I stumbled with my Italian: “da mucca?” while pointing at some cheese. The woman behind the counter indicated “no” but did not know the English name of the animal from which it came. Then the cashier, and probably the owner, brought a dictionary and indicated the word: capra–a goat. [So the famous movie directory was named Frank Goat.] Bene! W e continued our stroll to a little park with a magnificent view of the valley and the city of Sulmona, lights now starting to appear. W e strolled back but detoured into the interior, down passageways no wider than about eight feet. W e came to the church of San Marcello. A more recent claim to fame for Pacentro is the fact that it is the ancestral home of the family of Madonna Louise Ciccone, or "Madonna," the American singer; her grandfather having emigrated from Pacentro to the U.S.
The town reached its peak of growth and prosperity just prior to W orld W ar I with a population of 4,000. N ot m ore than 20 years later, this area of Abruzzo was directly affected by som e of the m ost severe fighting in W orld W ar II. On the other side of the M aiella m ountains from Pacentro, was the fam ous Germ an Gustav Line. M any of the towns near the Germ an defenses were bom bed or destroyed, but Pacentro's geographic position of being tucked into a m ountain pass preserved it from aerial bom bardm ent. After the Italian Governm ent's surrender in Septem ber 1943, N azi arm ies m arched south to occupy m ost of Italy. The Germ an W ehrm acht occupied the town for the next few weeks. Allied raids induced the Germ ans to evacuate he population of the whole town just before Christm as 1943. Thousands of the town's inhabitants were evicted from their hom es and forced to endure significant hardships. This event was known as the sfollam ento. The only m ajor structural loss from the war was the destruction of the historic M ulino or town m ill by the retreating Germ an troops. W hen the Pacentrani returned however, they found their crops ruined, anim als slaughtered and personal property stolen. Pacentro was finally liberated by British Troops and Italian Partisans on 9 June 1944. After the war, m any of the m en had to em igrate to other parts of Italy, the United States, South Am erica or Australia to find work. This eventually led to the severe depopulation of the town by the 1970s. Today the population is about 1,300.



Castle of Pacentro

View down from the castle View west from the castle

View up from the castle

Gate of Pacentro

San Marcello

W e returned to Sulmona for our evening meal, the hour now approaching eight o’clock. W e found a restaurant and entered, only to find ourselves and one other family at a table. W e scanned the menu only to be interrupted by some guy who started talking in Italian, not realizing that we couldn’t understand a word. I tried to state that we needed more time to decide, and the departed looking someone confused. Jared later told me that he was the chef. How was I suppose to know? A waiter came and tried to be helpful, I suppose, but he seemed more intent on rushing our decision. He suggested that we order a family meal to be shared by all, assuring us that there would be just small portions of each. This was a lie; the first course was sufficient for a meal. First came a seafood medley, then pasta in clam sauce, and then a whole fish. The only thing bigger than the portions was the check: i112 or $152. But to receive the check was an ordeal of its own. W e asked for the check and after about twenty minutes, I finally went to the “cashier” and demanded the check. I put quotes around the title cashier because I really didn’t understand his role. W hile he did finally get the check from the waiter, who was now dashing from kitchen to tables and back, the place now packed with patrons, he could not operate the gadgetry for a credit card and multiple tries with a bank card proved fruitless as well. Finally I asked everyone for cash and we came up with i120; however, he couldn’t even make change and had to dash into the kitchen to produce a i5 and three i1 coins. W e left the restaurant at about 10:15pm, then wandered in dark to our accommodations in Torre dei Nolfi, tired and stuffed! Circus Maximus Sunday, September 28 th The next day, we set a record for late starts, out the door at 1:00pm; but we had only one objective: Alba Fucens. This ancient Alba Fucens is an ancient Italian town occupying a Italian and later ancient Roman site lays just lofty situation (3347 ft.) at the foot of the M onte Velino, north of the city of Avezzano which is west of 4 m . N. of Avezzano. It was originally a town of the Aequi, though on the frontier of the M arsi, but was Sulmona, and convenient to the autostrada to occupied by a Rom an colony (304 B.C.) owing to its Rome. Inconveniently, we saw only one sign strategic im portance. for Alba Fucens, and it led us to a dead-end in an industrial park. Against my masculine proclivity, I drove into a shopping center in order to ask for directions. The center was a modern mall, the same as Tysons Corner or Fair Oaks, and just as upscale. W e wandered a bit, and then Jared reported that he found a travel agent. This guy was kind enough to actually close his shop and walk outside in order to give us instructions by his hand gestures along with his verbal instructions in Italian. And they were most helpful. W e arrived at the town and walked into the main square to observe a motorcycle rally of about one hundred motocicliste. Someone was giving a speech, but then a small band began to play modern music that was, in my opinion, enjoyable to listen [no comment from Jared who stated that most European bands are terrible].


Alba Fucens

Rose window of San Nicola Town Church of San Nicola

Ruins of Alba Fucens with San Pietro on the hill

Ruins of Alba Fucens

Ruins of Alba Fucens

Alba Fucens

Inside San Pietro showing Greek columns

San Pietro

Apse of San Pietro

Gargoyles on apse

Fort on the acropolis

Temple on the acropolis

Storage building and fountain

Although a Roman ruin, we observed a small church at the top of a hill and so decided to visit it first. We were accosted by a woman who asked whether or not we wanted to enter the church, and if so, the custodian would have to accompany us. We demurred, but after viewing images of the inside, we should have taken advantage of the offer. The church of San Pietro di coppito (no translation for coppito) was erected in the twelfth century and built over the remains a temple of Apollo. The Greek columns still dominate the interior, and the local description indicates that when the church collapsed during an earthquake in 1915, the Greek columns did not topple. The two other major features of the interior are the ambo or pulpit and the iconostasis4 from the from the thirteenth century. We hiked down to the ancient Roman town, but the first order to business was lunch, planned and prepared by Nicole, which we devoured while nestled in the partial walls of a Roman shop. With the meager aid of a tour map, there being no signs in place to indicate a structure, we tried to figure out which was the forum, the temple, etc. We then decided to find the Roman amphitheater, a structure so large that it could not possibly be hidden. Wrong! We never could find it although after walking down the slope of the hill on which the ruin is located, and then back up to the town, we could discern its major features. Too far and too tired, we abandoned that objective only to pursue an even more challenging one: the acropolis with its Roman fortress and Greek temple. At first we thought that there must be a road to near the top, but then there was no road to the castle of Albe, and no road was within sight. We ascended on foot; and it was worth the effort. The remains were interesting and the view spectacular; it was now evident as to why the Romans had chosen this site as it afforded a view of all the entrances to the plains below. It was getting dark and so we descended. It is amazing that four intelligent people are able to make such inept decisions. Having found the road that did lead to the top, we followed it but thought that it would wrap around the peak and that this would be a waste of time and effort, and so we chose a path and then paths as one led to another. Able only to see the trees and not the forest nor the town, which was our objective, we descended only to realize that we might be below the town. Looking up at the castle, we realized that we had a different perspective: we had veered to the right. We retraced our steps about two hundred yards and then found a path to our right and came upon a farmer and his sheep. I asked for directions to the town, and he pointed: “dritto e sinestra!” We walked about twenty yards and into the town, fifty feet from our car. It would have been a long, dull ride home on the autostrade, but Jared had downloaded some radio and television shows to his iPod, and so we listened to This American Life, a story of a woman who had “inherited” an apartment building in Poland, but was having difficulty proving it. She wanted to give the building to the manager because she was having to pay taxes on the income but the tenants were not paying and she could not evict them because she was not the owner; but more significantly, the woman had served her life from the Nazi’s when she was a child. There was no end to the story, and certainly no indication that it would end soon nor happily.

4 a screen or partition with doors and tiers of icons that separates the bema from the nave in Eastern churches. The bema is the usually raised part of an Eastern church containing the altar.


Too tired to search for a restaurant, we prepared a meal at the apartment: scrambled eggs with prosciutto, toast, and red wine. Then we sat around the wood stove, read stories and history, and talked but of particular note was that we played Trivial Pursuits–the British version as our B&B hosts were British. There were questions that only a Brit would know. It was a close match which Jared won in a tie-breaker with me. It was a wonderful evening. Scanno–where the cats speak Italian Monday, September 29th I had planned a trip to the Adriatic Coast in order to visit the towns of Ortona and Torino di Sangro in order to visit the sites of battles along the Gustav Line of World War II. After some reflection, I realized that there might be little to see other than the Adriatic and a Canadian cemetery; and besides, we needed a more relaxing day. So we decided on just two objectives: the picturesque hill-town of Scanno and another visit to Sulmona, primarily to visit the Anagrafe so that I might inquiry of the military records of Alfredo, my grandfather, and Armando, my uncle, but also to buy Greek take out so that we could have an “early”–meaning around 8:00pm–dinner as we were leaving the next morning. The road to Scanno did not require us to drive into Sulmona but proceed from Torre dei Nolfi. It seemed a short distance on the map, and Paula, the wife of Clive McComb, assured us that it was no more than a half hour drive. But in the words of the Beatles song, it was a “long and winding road.” And narrow! Often there were curved mirrors on the curves so that a driver could see whether or not another car was approaching from the opposite direction. Prior to reaching the town, I was confronted by two carabiniari, (the Italian police and a branch of the army) and directed to park. They cordially asked for my driver’s license, and then when I responded that I was an American, for my passport as well. Within a few minutes, we were on our way. Scanno proved a delight. It was a medieval town that had seen little change in architecture. We sat in the main square, had a coffee, and watch the brilliantly blue sky, the sun drenched mountains, and the people, mostly otto’s (short for ottocento or men in their 80's) who in turn watched us–or perhaps mainly Nicole. I particularly marveled at the church of San Maria della Valle (of the valley) from which we began our walking tour. Almost every step presented a photographic opportunity; the selection here is limited. On our stroll, we encountered a few cats which always engaged Nicole and Jared. One seemed a bit leery of them, but a man watching us said something to the cat who immediately jumped up to a low wall and allowed itself to be petted.



Rear view of San Maria della Valle

Baptismal font of San Maria della Valle

Front view of San Maria della Valle



It was time for lunch, an occasion that demanded our children to be fed–and generously. I inquired as to where we might find a trattoria and surprisingly I was able to follow the directions given. As we enjoyed our lunch outdoors, we were able to observe the locals amble along the street which we might consider an alley (vico) as it was only about ten feet wide. Trucks making deliveries to shops came and went along with passing cars. I noticed that no one seemed to express frustration nor inconvenience; either the vehicle blocking the way would move, or the vehicle passing through simply waited. I thought it a very pleasant way to live. We returned to Sulmona, but it was only about 3:00pm. I wanted to visit the Ufficio Anagrafe del Sulmona, the office that maintains records of births, deaths, etc. in order to determine whether or not it had a military record of my grandfather Alfredo and my uncle Armando. We had a gelato and then Kathy and I entered the city’s administrative building. Surprisingly, we quickly found the office, and with one false start, found the appropriate window. And here my shortcoming in Italian became clearly evident. I could ask but the response from the clerk brought a torrent of words for which I had no comprehension. As best I could understand, she was looking for the birth record which I knew to be in Popoli and Napoli, respectively. But Beatrice had said that Alfredo had been in the army, and since his passport clearance was received from the Sulmona office in 1905, I thought that it might have his military records. But certainly I did not adequately communicate this information, and so I left emptyhanded. So now we had about four hours with nothing planned. In hindsight, we should have traveled to Popoli to observe the passeggiata and make inquiry at the municipio in order to: 1) determine whether or not a map of the city for the period 1879 to 1896 existed so as to determine definitively the location of their house; 2) ask the reverendo to examine the church records for a church marriage of Alfredo and Beatrice in Popoli (in addition to the civil marriage record in Napoli). Instead, we visited the civic museum in the church of San Chiara as evidenced by these pictures.
The church of Santa Chiara is not only a church but a monastery, too - dating back to the year 1200. However, the church as you see it now dates back to 1711. You have to go inside to see how great it is, in its baroque style with paintings by Sebastiano Conca e Altiero Salini. There's also a small art gallery in the precynt, as well as an old people's home. A curiosity: the clarisse nuns used to inhabit this convent and it is rumoured that it is they who brought to Sulmona the art that made the city famous worldwide. the art of making sugar-coated almonds.

This next episode is entitled, A failure to Communicate. In pursuing the genealogy of my Italian ancestors, I had met a woman through the internet whose mother was a Paolini from Popoli. We had exchanged information, suggestions, and encouragement. Norma Milas had mentioned that she had not known the address of her mother when she was last in Popoli, and so I volunteered to take some photographs if she provided the address. She responded with two addresses: Via Cavour 6 and Porta di Napoli. I took the pictures of Via Cavour 6, but there is no current street in Popoli called Porta di Napoli, but there is one in Sulmona, and so I wanted to take a picture of it, knowing that there was still a real porta or gate.



Diocesan Civic Museum in San Chiara

Diocesan Civic Museum in San Chiara

San Chiara through the Swabian Acquaduct


Nicole and Jared needed some time to themselves, and so Kathy and I walked the Corso Ovidio to the porta. Taking a picture inside and then outside the city wall, I noticed the car rental office which was fortuitous since I needed to know where to drop off the car the next day. W e entered in order to inquire as to where to leave the car and where we could catch the bus to Napoli as she had mentioned on the day of our arrival that it was within five minutes walking distance. She pointed and gave directions, but to make sure that we knew where the place was located, Kathy and I walked–and walked, and walked, but certainly it was not within five minutes of our walking time. W e turned around and on the way back, I asked a news-stand vendor where to catch the bus. He directed us to a place around the corner, and I did see a bus stop the indicated Napoli but certainly not a bus station to buy the tickets. So we entered a women’s cosmetic store that was directly in front of the bus stop, and she directed us to just around the corner–then actually escorting us and pointing to the sme car rental office. W e entered and asked, “Do you sell the bus tickets?” “Si!” I thought to myself, well why the F%#*$@% didn’t you say so?!!! I had pointedly asked the food-handlers in the Greek take-out when they would reopen, and I was assured that they would open at 7:00pm. That hour came and passed, and still no signs of opening. W e watched the passeggiata for awhile, but the temperature was dropping and so Kathy and I retreated to the car while Nicole and Jared waited for the place to open. It finally did, but at 8:00pm, the manager telling them that the day staff probably didn’t know when the place opened. I had examined the map of Sulmona and the area of Torre dei Nolfi closely, and I had asked Paula how to reach Torre dei Nolfi without going through Bugnara. “Just keep taking a right, except for one left,” she said. That certainly made our decisions simple. “And take the street just after you cross the bridge.” Luckily I was able to identify the street just after the bridge, and so we set off in darkness: no street signs, and a map with no street names. And yet, with just one small hitch--failing to turn left at the church in Campo di Fanno–we reached our destination in about fifteen minutes instead of the usual half-hour. Better late than never! A Failure to Communicate–again Tuesday, September 30 th W ith a bus to catch at 11:40am, the family moved more quickly. To our relief, Nicole’s luggage had arrived the previous day and now she could wear different clothes. W e said goodbye to Clive and Paula and drove to Sulmona. W e filled the tank with gas and then drove the street alleged to have the bus stop. Indeed we did find a large parking lot, big enough for buses to turn around, but I quickly determined that the bus did not enter the lot but simply stopped on the street. Needing my navigator at all times, Jared and I dropped off Kathy and Nicole with the baggage, and then we drove back to the car rental office. And now the real comedy began. I had paid i100 as a deposit and so the remainder was about i150 plus 20% tax. The agent said that the payment had to be in cash. I didn’t have that amount, but I knew there was an ATM nearby, and so Jared and I went to withdraw. The Banc di Roma does not like me, or at least it doesn’t like my bank. W e tried twice, and I even went inside the bank and had the guy watch my procedure. No help there. Jared wandered off and I went back to the car rental as said that I didn’t have the cash. W e talked, and then it became clear that only the 20% tax had to be paid in cash; the remainder could be paid by credit car. F&*$%#@* why didn’t you say so? Luckily Jared had enough cash and we completed the transaction.

Luckily Jared had enough cash and we completed the transaction. We hustled back to the bus stop and waited. Now Nicole and Jared had to find a bathroom. Off they went, and the clock was moving to, and now past, 11:40am. They had used a restroom in a coffee shop, and when Nicole closed and locked the door from the inside, the key fell out, and she could get it back in the same position to open the door. After a great deal of struggle, she was able to open the door. Recognized for this accomplishment by her brother with applause, the other patrons of the shop joined in the accolade. The bus ride to Napoli was uneventful though the first half was through the mountains and valleys of the Abruzzo and so quite scenic; the second half was through the industrial zones of Napoli and was not! We arrive at Piazza Garibaldi, and I recruited a taxi. In Chicago and most American cities, giving a street address is usually sufficient; most taxi drivers know their city. I assumed the same for Napoli, but I quickly recognize that the driver was uncertain. I had printed a small map of the neighborhood of our accommodation so that we could find it, never thinking that the taxi driver would need it. The word vicolo proceeds the name of the street: Sergente Maggiore. Vicolo means alley, and certainly Sergente Maggiore is no wider that any American alley; in fact, it is less. In addition, it is on a hill, and so slants down toward the main street of Via Toledo. Yet entrances to apartments, shops, and restaurants front this access. And it is a beehive of activity: pedestrians, motor-scooters and cars (one-way for them) constantly move up and down this cramped thoroughfare paved in the 17th century with lava stones. I had chosen our accommodation, Case Così primarily for its location: it was in the heart of downtown and at the center of all the different quartieri. I thought that it would be a safe neighborhood, but one guide book described Quartieri Spagnoli as “...one of the city’s working class districts: densely populated and rather run-down (tourists should take care when visiting this area.” I intended to ask our guide, Santiago, to define the boundaries of Quartieri Spagnoli so as to avoid it. Soon I realized there was no need to ask: we were staying in the heart of Quartieri Spagnoli! Case Così was an apartment building with an atrium–-a word much too fancy to describe a bleak and dark space with a small open skylight. The furnished apartment was hardly furnished: four beds, night-stands, a sofa, and kitchen table and four chairs. The kitchen had a sink, stove, and refrigerator but lacked even a decent frying pan. On the plus side, it was relatively quiet given the stream of vehicles outside and the number of tenants within.



Centro di Napoli

Via Sergente Maggiore

Quartiere Spagnolo

Via Toledo

Via Toledo

Piazza Trieste & Trento

Naples - Centro

Palazzo Reale

Piazza Plebiscito

Stazione Maritima

Castel Nuovo

Galleria Umberto II Galleria Umberto II

We quickly unpacked and then went for a stroll in the immediate vicinity. I had hoped that we could take a sight-seeing bus tour, but I couldn’t determine a location to buy tickets and catch the bus. But we hit the main tourist attractions: Galleria Umberto I, Piazza Trieste & Trento, Piazza Plebiscito, the church of San Francesco di Paola, Palazzo Reale, and Castel Nuovo. We entered the latter, and inspected the room and exhibits. I found the Sala dei Baroni (Hall of the Barons) to be the most fascinating as Ferdinand I of Aragon got wind of a plot by the barons to overthrown him, and so he invited them to a meeting and banquet in the hall, where they were arrested, imprisoned and finally executed.

The castle was called nuovo (new) to distingush it from two earlier ones, dell’Ovo and Capuano which were too small to accommodate the entire Angevin court. Charles I of Anjou began construction in 1279, but the Cappella Palatina is the only part remaining of the original building. Alfonso V of Aragon (who later became Alfonso I, King of Napoli and Sicily) began to rebuild it completely in 1443, the year that marked his triumphant entry into Napoli. To celebrate this event, Alfonso later ordered the construction of the superb Arco di Trionfo, one of the most significant expressions of early Renaissance culture in Southern Italy. The castle, with its five impressive cylindrical towers, is designed on a trapezoidal plan facing onto a beautiful central courtyard.

While viewing the architecture of the castle, its chapel–the Cappella Palatina–and works of art, Jared and Nicole were equally fascinated by the cats that resided in the castle. After a brief rest at Case Così, we walked a few yards down Vicolo Sergente Maggiore to Il Gobbetto (The Little Hunchback), a cozy restaurant that probably has seven tables, and single waiter, and probably a single chef. Best of all for me, it had soup that was delicious and more than sufficient, but for Nicole and Jared, they were adopting the Italian menu of antipasto, prima corsa (pasta), seconda corsa (meat, fish), and dolce (sweets). Going After Santiago Wednesday, October 1st Our guide, Santiago, appeared promptly at 9:00am. He had driven a motor-scooter and was carrying his helmet. The morning air was cool, probably in the mid-sixties, but he was wearing a sweater and two jackets shedding the latter only after the temperature had reached the high seventies in the afternoon. We concluded that the comfort temperature for southern Italians must be between eighty and a hundred degrees. We proceeded to Piazza Plebiscito and faced the Palazzo Reale which is one of the four residences used by the Bourbon Kings of Napoli during their rule of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies (1730-1860); the western façade of the building (fronting on Piazza del Plebiscito) displays a series of statues of the rulers of dynasties that ruled Napoli since the foundation of the Kingdom of Napoli in the twelfth century. They are: Roger II, Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, Charles of Anjou, Alfonse of Aragon, Emperor Charles V, Charles III of Bourbon, Joachim Murat, and Victor Emanuel II of Savoy, the first king of united Italy. Santiago gave a timeline history of Napoli using the reign of these rulers as marking points. I remember somewhere in his description that of various periods that he ended with “the modern era, 1400 to the present.” It seems quite strange to an American to hear the modern era as starting before the discovery of the new world.

We proceeded northwest through the Piazza Municipio and then to the post office, a building renown for its fascist style architecture built during the era of Mussolini. We then plunged into the area known as Spaccanapoli, which means the split of Napoli, referring to a long street, primarily Via Benedetto Croce. The guidebook describes this area as a “rich array of churches, squares and historic buildings ...called an ‘open-air museum.’” It is also the area in which the family of Alfredo and Beatrice Paolini resided in the ten years they lived in Napoli, 1897 to 1906. We stopped in the Piazza Del Gesù Nuovo in front of Gesù Nuovo, originally built as Palazzo Sanseverino in the 15th century and then converted to a church by the Jesuits in 1584. “The Baroque interior is richly decorated with multi-colored marbles and ornate works of art including statues, a reliquary and vivid frescoes.” Most notable was the chapel housing the remains of San Giuseppe Moscati, a doctor who treated the poor but also gained the reputation as a miracle worker. As testament to their belief, patients have left silver icons of their recuperated body part. Persons visiting the chapel could be seen rubbing their hand on his hand and then touching a part of their body. I did the same for my left knee–and three weeks later, I think it’s working. In contrast to the opulence of Gesù Nuovo, San Chiara is simple and austere. Near the apse are fine sculpture groups of the royal Angevin tombs, who, when alive, held the kingdom’s assemblies in the church. Upon exiting, we passed the tomb of the Italian national hero, Salvo d'Acquisto, a carabiniere who sacrificed his own life to save the lives of 22 civilian hostages at the time of the Nazi occupation. I don’t remember entering the church of San Giorgio Maggiore, but I do remember that as we passed a building, Santiago became more animated, and sought the entrance to the cloister of the church; and so we entered and toured the cloister of San Gregorio Armeno. Unfortunately we took only a few pictures. As we walked through Via San Gregorio Armeno, we observed the many miniature nativity and home scenes that are sold at Christmas.
Chiesa di San Gregorio Armeno (1580) is one of the richest Baroque churches in Napoli, with a cloister. Benedictine nuns still preside over this church. The convent attached to it earned a reputation for luxury since the nuns, traditionally from the noble families, were accustomed to lavish living, which continued here. According to tradition the monastery is located on the site of the remains of the temple to Attic Ceres. It was founded in the 8th century by a group of nuns belonging to the order of St Basil who fled Constantinople with the relics of Saint Gregory, Bishop of Armenia.

It was now time for the quest: the location of one of the four addresses listed on the birth records of the four sons of Alfredo and Beatrice that were born in Napoli: Via Sapienza 29. We reached the street and turned east and walk quickly, looking up at the numbers high on the facade of each doorway...21, 23, 25, 27, and finally 29. We looked down: it was a small tailor shop! Santiago talked to a man and a woman, the proprietors I assumed. The name of this section of the street was not Sapienza but Via Anticaglia; Sapienza was to the west.


W e retraced our steps with the same anticipation: 29 Sapeinza. A young woman was exiting the door of a large metal gate that covered the entrance to an interior courtyard. Santiago spoke to her, and she allowed us to enter. She called to an elderly man who appeared in a third story window, and he and Santiago conversed. Santiago reported that he had lived here for fifty years, and remembers that there were shops in the spaces framed by gothic arches and now used as garages that were closed from view by large doors. I couldn’t be sure, of course, but I felt that this was the place–that my ancestors had lived and worked in one of these apartments one hundred and two years ago. It was a special moment. W e had an excellent lunch at the restaurant across the street from 29 Sapienza. But the center of our attention focused on a young girl, probably 3 or 4 years of age, who probably was the owner’s daughter. She sat at a table and appeared to be drawing. W hen all the other tables in the restaurant became occupied, the next group of patrons–a party of three–appeared and had no place to sit. The owner tried to coax his daughter to move, but she would have none of it. But she slid off her chair and approached the party of three, and clearly directed them to sit at her table–which they did. Kathy and I were watching our daughter of thirty years ago. I mentioned to Santiago that I had written to churches in the area in an attempt visit the one at which my grandparents attended and in which my uncles were baptized. I had written to three but received a reply from only one. Flustered, I could not remember their names and even forgot that they were listed in my travel notebook. W e walked to several churches at which Santiago inquired as to whether there were baptismal records. I did not note the names of the churches; all seemed not have such records, or no one was found who knew about such matters. At the last church, San.Maria Di Costantinopoli, Santiago made inquiry by yelling up to a man on an upper story, who said that the church was closed. “W hen will it open?” shouted Santiago. “In about twenty-years,” replied the man. W e came upon the Museo Archeologico Nazionale which we definitely wanted to visit, but I didn’t think that we needed Santiago’s expertise to view the collection. W e visited the Stazione Neapolis, the below ground exhibit that reconstructs the history of two ancient towns that stood within the boundaries of the present-day center of Napoli. But I had an objective that only Santiago could assist: to identify and visit the cemetery in which Attitlio Paolini, the infant that died at six months, was entombed in a mausoleum somewhere in/near Napoli. Santiago believed that it had to be Poggioreale, an area and cemetery named after a villa.
“Poggioreale” m eans “royal hill” The nam e “Poggioreale” now m eans other things to m odern N eapolitans; it the site of the largest cem etery in the city and the site of the largest prison in southern Italy; the m ain train station is there; it is, broadly speaking, the grim y and degraded industrial section of Napoli (thoroughly bom bed in W W 2); optim istically, however, it is also the location of the gleam ing new Centro Direzionale, the new Civic Center, an island of glass and steel skyscrapers. The Angevins were driven from Napoli in the early 1400s by the Aragonese, who took over the kingdom and started an expansion of the city to the east, through the city walls at the Nolana Gate and along the slopes of what is now called the Capodim onte hill. It was a bucolic area and perfect for a royal residence. Such a residence, the Villa Poggioreale, was begun in 1487 for the ruler of Napoli, Ferrante, who ruled from 1459 to 1494.



Guglia dell'Immacolata Post Office built in the Fascist Era

Santiago in front of Gesù Nuovo

Dome of Gesù Nuovo Nave of Gesù Nuovo

Tombstone in Gesù Nuovo

Silver symbols of cures by San Giuseppe Moscati

San Giuseppe Moscati San Giuseppe Moscati


Santa Chiara

Santa Chiara

Santa Chiara

Santa Chiara Salvo D'Acquisto

Santa Chiara

Spaccanapoli, Naples

Cloister of San Gregorio Armeno

Via Benedetto Croce Via San Gregorio




San Angelo al Nilo

Spaccanapoli, Naples

Tailors at Via Anticaglia 29

Via Sapienza 29

San Paolo Maggiore

Unknown church

We hired a taxi and sped through the city and into an industrial zone, which is to say, a mostly cleared area with modern ruins–similar to the south side of Chicago. We stopped to ask directions to the office, and then proceeded to and through the entrance to the cemetery. What a shock! A pattern was emerging in the course of our journey in Italy: whatever expectation or assumption that I had was wrong. My expectation of this cemetery was that it would look like that of most cemeteries, for example, Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillsdale, Illinois where Alfredo, Beatrice, Angelina, and Aldo are buried: gently rolling hills with large family plots and gravestones and a scattering a small mausoleums such as the Del Grande’s in the same cemetery. No! This was a necropolis, and literally a city of marble buildings. I had thought that we might wander about in the hopes of spotting the name Attilio Paolini, but such an attempt would be as fruitless as wandering about Napoli itself, hoping to find Via Sapienza 29. It was late in the afternoon, and I didn’t want to unduly impose on Santiago. Perhaps we had time for one more site. He suggested Castel dell’Ovo, but I had schedule that site as part of our walk along the Bay of Napoli. “How about Castel Saint’Elmo,” thinking that I might as well use the cab to reach the top of hill in Vomero, a section of the city we planned to visit anyway. It was a good choice. The view from the castle was magnificent in every direction, and we could pick out each of the places that we had visited. It was as though we were viewing a miniature of the city, and with the zoom lense of the camera, we could look closely at any building or neighborhood. The sun was shining brilliantly, and the bay was azure blue. One could have gazed on the panorama for hours. We talked a while about the problems of Napoli, succinctly stated by Santiago as congestion, pollution and corruption. He was stating the obvious, and I realized that I could never live in Napoli. Like my father, I like “clean.” And yet, I would love to be able to wander about a city where there were new places to discover, and beautiful and exotic things to admire. I had looked forward to using the funicolare, the cable railway, to descend. The station was a few blocks away, but Santiago knew the way down by steps, emphasizing the views as we descended. My left knee was advocating the former, but I relented; I was both tired and sore when we reached the second funicolare that took us within a few feet of our accommodation on Sergente Maggiore. It had been a long but wonderful day, and Santiago had made it so.


Poggioreale Cemeteryand Views from Castel Saint’Elmo

Views from Saint’Elmo

Notes from Underground Thursday, October 2 nd Our first item on the agenda was a guided tour of Napoli Sotterranea, a tour of an underground section of the city. Though I had not booked in advance, I was told to meet the tour at 9:00am at Bar Gambrinus in Piazza Trieste and Trento. But with four tired people, and one bathroom, it didn’t happen. After breakfast, we hired a taxi to take us to Napoli Sotterranea, again on the assumption that the driver would know the way to a tourist spot. Again, the assumption proved wrong. W e reached Piazza Del Gesù Nuovo, but the driver was baffled as to how to proceed. He tried to gain information from persons in the piazza but to no avail. “È quella direzione” he motioned, and so we plunged into Spaccanapoli on foot. W e had passed the entrance on our walk the day before, but I certainly had no idea of where it was now; but by a miracle, or Jared’s better sense of direction, we found the entrance. And on this occasion, we were lucky: the tours started at noon–now just fifteen minutes until noon, and just time for a second cup of coffee. Alex was our guide, part historian and part thespian; he explained the underground features with both exuberance and flair. I thought he was surely angling for a big tip, but when I offered him one at the end of the tour, he refused. Again, my assumption was incorrect. W e first visited a multi-storied building, the first floor having been the home of a family when they discovered some stones that they suspected were Roman. Archeologists confirmed that the building was over the site of an ancient theater. W e then descended stairs that led to a cistern, both Roman and Greek sections, noting the wells through which water was drawn by earthenware jars. The cistern was also used as a bomb-shelter during W orld W ar II–bombing done by the Allies, mainly the Americans, though I noted that Alex did not emphasize or dwell on that point. A graffito, probably etched by a child, showed a plane and a bomb falling. One part of the tour required each of us to hold a lit candle (with holder) and proceed through a narrow passage, so narrow that at times one could not put one foot in front of the other but required shuffling sideways. Somewhat claustrophobic, Kathy trailed the group, thus allowing herself to retreat at anytime, but she made it. And it was worth the effort as shown in the photographs of the well. W e emerged from darkness, and tried to follow the route of one of the walks I had planned, and to locate a restaurant for lunch, but as usual we fell off the trail and found ourselves heading toward the Museo Archeologico Nazionale which was our final destination. After lunch, we entered the museum. I had identified specific pieces to see but as usual Kathy and I simply wandered about and chose whatever looked interesting, which of course were the mosaics. I had hoped to take many pictures here, but the battery of the digital camera expired, having not been recharged as I had forgotten to pack the charger. Too many things to do, and too small a brain. I was determined to attempt a bus ride, and I thought that I had heard that the R-4 would take us to Piazza Trieste & Trento, but as usual I was incorrect, and the bus veered east toward Piazza Municipio where we descended and then walked to Case Così.


Napoli Sotterranea

Entrance of the underground In the Theater


Greek jug retrieving water from a well

National Archaeological Museum

Entrance to the museum Ferdinand II

Alexander fighting Persian king Darius III. Darius III

Column from Pompeii

Artemis & Actaeon Bacchus as a grape cluster

National Archeological Museum



Consulting the Hag

Picking Flowers

After a brief rest, it was time to venture forth to a restaurant. As I was not in favor of a prolonged search, I urged a return to Il Gobbetto which was located about fifty yards down the vicoloI. We emerged from Case Così to watch and then join the modern-day passeggiata al Napoli on Sergente Maggiore. There were certainly no strollers but pedestrians bent, especially those going up hill, on quickly reaching their destination. But the main contingent for which one needed to be watchful and alert were the motor-scooters that whizzed up and down and entered and exited the narrow thoroughfare so that we moved quickly from one safe spot, often inside a row of upright pipes, to another. Usually two but sometimes three men and/or women with no obvious destination but for the purpose of seeing and being seen. When we emerged from the restaurant, sometime between 9:30 and 10:00pm, the event was over and there was hardly a soul present. Darkness at Night Friday, October 3rd I awoke at about 4:00am and noticed that the room was completely dark; even the glare from a green emergency light was out. The light in the bathroom failed. I recalled the power failure of 2003 that encompassed all of Italy when Kathy and I were in Rome. At 8:00am, we arose and determined that we were the only apartment without power. Jared found the switchbox and reset the circuit breaker. The power came on to my relief. We decided to return again to Spaccanapoli in order to locate two more addresses of the Paolini’s, and visit the Cappella Sansevero, a chapel that Jared knew contained the Veiled Christ that supposedly was a masterpiece of art. There might have been a faster way to reach Salita Ventiglieri 36, but I used what I had: the Napoli Guidebook which showed two funiculars that could bring us close to the address. It did, and it also revealed two train stations called Montesanto through which rail lines led to Campi Flegrei, our destination for tomorrow. But which line and which station? All very confusing. Again pangs of hunger versus seeing the sights caused contention but we were close to Salita Ventiglieri 36 and so visited the street first before seeking a pasticceria. Unfortunately the address numbers probably were changed and so we did not find number thirty-six. I was not over joyed to pay i24 or about $32 to see another church; but I was wrong–this was worth it. I would not have given ten years of my life to have been the artist of such a masterpiece of the Veiled Christ as would one Antonio Canova, but it was one of the highlights of the trip. If the artist Giuseppe Sanmartino had quoted Groucho Marx, “Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?” I would have had to say him, because I really could not believe my eyes.



Niche on building in Quartieri Spagnolo

Guglia di San Domenico

Via Salita Ventagliri

Campanile of Santa Maria Maggiore della Pietrasanta Via Francesco Del Giudice 6_1 Via Francesco Del Giudice 6_2


Veiled Christ in Cappella Sansevero

San Lorenzo Maggiore

Graffito Jared’s colored pasta

San Domenico Maggiore Multi graffiti

After lunch, we returned to the train station at Montesanto and traveled to Mergellina enabling us to walk back toward our accommodation. Unfortunately a downpour halfway along the lido nullified our walk. We took refuge in coffee shop and had a gelato while discussing health care policy in the United States until the rain dissipated, then took a taxi back. We each had a hot shower, a rest, then a reading of Virgilio’s Odyssey, a story of a man captured during the Battle of Caporetto as had my uncle Armando. Finally we had a wonderful meal in a restaurant found by Nicole and Jared. Case Così may not have been a very relaxing and comfortable abode for us weary travelers, but it did afford a glimpse of what living in Napoli must have been like for the Paolini family. We Should Have Come 2000 Years Ago When It Was Open Saturday, October 4th It was time to move to our next location: Campi Flegrei or the Phlegrean Fields from the Greek meaning burning fields. It is a volcanic and thermal area, it has several sites that I thought would be of interest: • Greek ruins since the area had originally be colonized by Greeks, starting at Cumae, which became the site of the Sibyl • The beach of Miliscola, in Bacoli, was the Roman military academy headquarters. • Lake Avernus was believed to be the entrance to the underworld, and is portrayed as such in the Aeneid of Virgil. During the civil war between Octavian and Antony, Agrippa tried to turn the lake into a military port, the Portus Julius. • Baiae, now lying underwater, was a fashionable coastal resort and homed the Roman emperor's summer villa. • A Flavian Amphitheatre (Amphitheatrum Flavium), the third largest Italian amphitheatre after the Colosseum and the Capuan Amphitheatre. • The Via Appia passed through the comune of Quarto, entirely built on an extinguished crater. • The tombs of Agrippina the Elder and Scipio Africanus are here as well. • At Baiae, a hot spring complex was built for the richest Romans. It homed the largest ancient dome in the world before the construction of the Roman [Pantheon, Rome|Pantheon]. We took a taxi to Piazza Amedeo and then the train to Pozzouli where we were picked up by the proprietor, Attilio Mazzoccoli, of our accommodation called, appropriately enough, Campi Flegrei. It was a pleasant change from Case Così; there were two rooms, each with a bathroom; each room was large and with a balcony from which one could view the surrounding area. And clean! And best of all, an espresso coffee-maker. I thought this third portion of the trip would be great, but I was too cocky.

W e noticed that there was a restaurant nearby, and Attilio drove us to it. I, as usual, was hoping for a light lunch but I have come to the opinion that there is no such thing in Italy. W e were the only customer’s as well, and so we were going to have to make the owner’s profit for the mid-day meal. An antipasto platter of meat, vegetables and bread soon appeared, then a course of pasta and then a course of seafood. Too stuffed to consume it all, we took the remainder to our accommodation to serve as our dinner that evening. Attilio was to arrange for a car, driver and guide for the next day, but he was having difficulty; for this day, he would drive us to Pozzuoli to visit four sites: Solfatara, anfiteatro Flavio, tempio di Serapide, and rione terra. Kathy had not slept well the night before, and therefore decided to rest; so Nicole, Jared and I ventured forth. The Solfatara was open but of little interest; all the other sites were closed, either permanently or for the day. W e did have an excellent view of the tempio di Serapide but we were really hoping to be able to visit rione terra, the site of an ancient Roman city that had been unearthed when developers wanted to build apartments in the area. W e reached the Bay of Pozzuoli, and we would have been content just to rest while sitting in a nice park by the water’s edge, but even the park, which seemed quite new, was closed for repairs. W e wandered back into the center of Pozzuoli and its Piazza Republica which was quite charming. Un Spettacolo (without subtitles) Sunday, October 5 th Because the Archaeological Park of Baia would be closed on Monday, we decided that it would be our prime site for Sunday. Attilio dropped us off but luckily he stayed
The Castle, located in Baia (sm all town near Napoli), was built between 1490 and 1493, when Alfonso II d'Aragona (king of Napoli), chose this coast -with three sides overhanging the sea - to built a fortress that had to control the access in Pozzuoli's Bay, defending The aqueduct is another m onum ent to the engineering capabilities of the Rom ans. Despite the technical and organizational problem of excavating such a big cham ber, there is the problem of stability. And finally the floor and walls were lined with a thick layer of pounded terracotta. This is an excellent hydraulic cem ent for lining cisterns and used to the present days. The Piscina M irabilis was the largest freshwater cistern ever built by the ancient Rom ans. It was located on the M iseno cliff at the western end of the Gulf of Napoli, and was situated there in order to provide the Rom an western im perial fleet at Portus Julius with drinking water. Probably the water was drawn from the cistern by hydraulic m achines and then it was canalized. This hypothesis seem s to be confirm ed by the lack of openings at the walls. There is a terrace of cocciopesto (m ortar with potsherd) at the entrance, supported by the barrel covering of the cistern. his reign.

before driving off: it was closed because of a spettacolo was to be held that evening. Recognizing that it was the only way to see its attractions, we made reservations. W e stopped at the harbor of Pozzuoli to inspect the tempio di Venere (temple of Venus) which was actually a Roman bath and part of the Archaeological Park. W e then visited the tempio di Diana (temple of Diana (Artemis)), also a Roman bath, and then spent about an hour in the Castello di Baia. W e then drove back across the peninsula to Villa Vergiliana but it too was covered with scaffolding and obviously closed.


Using a little phone book, Attilio called the site called Piscina Mirabilis which I translate as the “admirable swimming pool.” It is, in fact, a huge water reservoir entirely dug underground into a tufa bank with a capacity/volume of 12,000 cubic meters (ca. 36,000 cubic feet) and supported by vaulted ceilings and 48 pillars. It was built during the Augustan age, to be the terminal outlet of the Serino aqueduct. W e parked the car in the piazza and then walked up a vicolo and turned right and proceeded up another. As we were passing the walls and iron gates of some houses, Attilio stopped and called in to one of the houses. An elderly woman in a house dress walked ungainly toward us and then continued to the entrance of the site and opened the gate for us. W e wondered how many out of town tourist find this place and her house in order to gain access. There seems to be some disagreement as to the purpose of the reservoir, some believing that it was only to supply water to the large villas of the Roman aristocracy while others believe that it was to supply water to the Roman fleet, some 1000 kilometers distant. After departing, we drove to the top of a ridge for a view of the surroundings and lunch at a restaurant known to Attilio. It was delicious, particularly a thin crust pizza bread that had been baked with a sprinkling of olive oil and rosemary needles. Favoloso! Having been shaken, not stirred, by all the riding around the peninsula and rather dejected at having seen only one minor site, we agreed that it best to return to the accommodation, sit in the sun, and play with the cats of which there were six in Attilio’s home. But before we turned up the road to his house, he turned down toward Lago di Averno, a lake at the bottom of a an extinct crater. He led us to Azienda Agricola Mirabella, a small farm and orchard operated by his friend Mariano. W e strolled about the grounds while Mariano, translated by Attilio, identified the various plants, provided samples of fruit (possibly a quince), and proudly showed us several large cacti, and then took us to the winery which seemed to be composed of a press, two casks for fermentation, and five or six barrels for aging. Attilio asked how many bottles he produced each year, and Mariano replied about 15,000. I inquired where was the bottling operation, and Mariano pointed to a small plastic funnel: each bottle was filled by hand–his hand–from a cask, an intensive manual operation to say the least.
Considered since old tim es a site of Giants, it was identified as a residence of the gods of the underworld and of the people of the Cim m erii, inhabitants of the caves which ran away from the light of the sun. They were the Greeks who wanted to recognize in this place the Hom eric descriptions connected to the episodes of Odysseus. It was considered also the fact that the lake had no bottom . Strabo describes the thick woods which surrounded the lake and the exhalations which prevented the birds from flying over it, causing their death. The sam e supposed derivation of the toponym Avernum from the Greek aornos (without birds) seem s confirm ed by som e verses of Lucretius (De Rerum Natura). Also its waters or the fresh-ones of the neighbouring springs were considered undrinkable because connected to the infernal river Stige. But the real peculiarity of the lake was the presence of an oracle, presided by Persephone, to whom the pilgrim s went after having m ade blood sacrifices. Also Hannibal, in 214 B.C., visited the oracle, but it seem s that his real aim was that of attacking Puteoli.


The Phlegraean Fields

Pozzuoli Temple of Serapis

B&B Campi Flegrei

Temple of Serapis with Jared

Castello di Baia

acello degli Augustali

Temple of Diana


Lake Averno

Attilio Mazzoccoli, et al


Attilio asked whether or not we would like to have lunch there the following day. We were planning on having lunch at a big restaurant in Baia called Il Gabbiano (the gull) so the thought of having two large meals in one day was not desirable; still, it was a wonderful opportunity to sample home made foods in a picturesque setting, one that travel writer Rick Steves would contrive for his travelogue. We accepted the invitation. We arrived promptly at 7:30pm at the spettacolo to be part of the first group to be led through the park. It was dark, and candles were provided for any of the attendees but there also lamps along the path. At various points along the way, our guide would describe and explain the ruins we were viewing which were lit by floodlights, and videos were shown, some with computer generated models that provided an image of the structure as it was 2000 years ago. In one instance, an actor called upon the audience to imagine the past, and in another, our guide conversed with a Roman citizen from his bygone era. Unfortunately, all this speech was in Italian, and certainly above my level of comprehension so that I could not translate for my family. The photographs, pulled from web sites, show that which we could barely see in the dark.
Baiae, named after Baios, the navigator of Odysseus who died near the shores of Baiae, is now largely under the sea. The city is located in the Campania region of southern Italy, on a hillside, towards the western end of the Bay of Napoli. Once, it was one of the most luxurious and fashionable resort areas in the Roman Empire. Prominent members of the Roman aristocracy, such as Julius Caesar, Nero and Gaius, had villas built there.(Guido 30) Some of the most notable events in Roman history occurred in Baiae; Nero murdered his mother Agrippina, Hadrian died there in 138 AD, Gaius, better known as Caligula, built his famous bridge of boats and Claudius built a great villa for his wife, Messalina. It is said that Cleopatra was staying in Baiae at the time of Julius Caesar’s death in 44 BC. It was Baiae’s mild climate, attractive surroundings and medicinal springs that attracted some of the most important names in Roman society.

A Walk Around the Lake
The Arco Felice is a landmark that dates back to ancient times. It was built by the Romans in the 1st century A.D. during the construction of the Domitziana. (the road that connected Napoli and Rome). Because the Roman's always tried to make their roads straight and level, they did not always choose the easiest path. In the case of the Arco Felice, they would not go around the hill nor would they go over it. They went straight through it! The arch was constructed to reinforce the hillside where the road cut through. Although the upper most portion of the arch has collapsed, the Arco Felice is still an impressive structure. The road that passes beneath the arch is paved with the original cobblestones. It is still in use today. However, because it was constructed in ancient times it is too narrow to allow two-way traffic, so two stop lights have been installed, one on -61either side of the arch. Traffic from each side passes in turn. (NOTE: This is one of the few stop lights in the Napoli area that is usually obeyed.)

Monday, October 6th We were heading for rione terra but decided to take another chance on the anfiteatro and to our pleasant surprise, it was open. It was quite impressive, about as large as a mid-size college football stadium; but the fascinating part was the underground rooms and vaulted ceiling. Primarily used for gladiatorial combat, lifts that could raise cages of animals, gladiatorial teams, and artificial forests could be raised. Also of interest were the walls of brick which, instead of the linear, horizontal pattern had a reticulated work of the tufelli (tuff stone), called "opus reticulatum" in which the square bricks were layed to appear

Archeological Park in the Phlegraean Fields



Stairs to the Sybil View from Cumae Cave of the Sybil


On the acropolis

View from the acropolis

Lake Averno

On the acopolis

Walking around Lake Averno

Temple of Apollo

Temple of Apollo

Again we tried rione terra, but as we walked toward the entrance, a man came forward and clearly indicated, “Chiuso!”–closed for repairs. Even Attilio seemed perplexed and exasperated. We drove back toward this Bed & Breakfast and through the Arco Felice, a Roman gate to Cuma or Cumea. Kathy and I had visited this site before but I was more than willing to visit it again. The ticket we purchased for the castello also admitted us to Cumea, but when I looked for my ticket inside my money belt, I couldn’t find it. Rather than pay again, I simply stood back while Kathy, Jared and Nicole waved their tickets at the official who allowed us to proceed. We walked a few paces, and I took off my cap to scratch my head and there in the cap was my ticket. How do I do these things? Cumea, as for most Greek sites that Kathy and I have visited, is a place where we just slowly walk around, not hurrying to see this or that construction, but simply taking in the ambience, the view, and the history of it all. Now it was time for lunch at Azienda Agricola Mirabella. A long table covered with a checkered red and white cloth had been set in the lawn, and soon bruschetta and wine appeared. Bruschetta is typical of Italian food: simple–merely bread, garlic, tomatoes, and maybe basil–but bringing out the natural flavors of the ingredients. Delizioso! The difficulty in eating an Italian meal is not too over indulge in any one course, because there are many more to come. Next was linguini in clam sauce; here again, the Italian version is not a heavy layer of sauce but just the minimum to give the pasta flavor. We had been asked the day before which meat we preferred. We had said chicken, but based upon menus that we had viewed throughout our trip, chicken did not seem to be a popular item. Rather we were served veal patties, but the main entree was lamb steaks, very thinly sliced. Even Nicole and Jared were filling up, and so bits and pieces of our steaks were given to the two dogs that sat in rapped attention of our lunch. On a slight elevation towards the side of the caldera, there was a small plot on which a black African–I don’t remember the tribe or nationality–was sowing seeds. As he worked his way toward us, one of the dogs, the pit bull, became quite agitated and ran up the hill, barking furiously; but having observed him during both days that we were at the farm, I was sure that he wasn’t vicious nor uncontrollable. Mariano called him and returned to the table. The question was posed as to whether or not dogs were racists. Some in the group believed they were while others voice no opinion as did I. The meal concluded with coffee and liquor, and then it was suggested that we take a walk. I had the impression that it was to be a walk along the lake, thinking that a walk around the lake was out of the question. But I was wrong as usual. We were joined by Mariano’s fiancee (I didn’t catch the name) and his friend Allesandro. We passed the tempio di Apollo which we had observed and photographed the day before, the cava di Sibila, and the grotto di Cocceio. The crypt of the Sybil is actually a military passage dug in the tuffa to link the lakes of Averno and Lucrino in the building of Portus Julius. The cave of Cocceio is a tunnel built by the architect Cocceio on the order of the emperior Octavius to allow the rapid movement of soldiers from one side of the peninsula to the other without being seen by the enemy, who, at first, was Sestus Pompeius, and then Marcus Antonius.

I was a little apprehensive about this walk. People spoke only Italian or only English; only Allesandro and I spoke a little of the other’s language, Attilio having departed. But people seemed relaxed and conversed amongst each other. Allesandro, Kathy and I hung together for much of the walk, and we talked; obviously not an involved conversation yet we did talk about the location, about nature, about history, and even about politics. It was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon, perhaps because we had no other objective than to enjoy the moment. After our walk, we all traveled to Attilio’s home, and sat in his back yard (I’m sure the Italian’s have a more lyrical name for such a place but I don’t know it), sipped wine, and watched the cats. The Paolini family then rested for we had another large meal to devour at 9:30pm at Il Gabbiano. Again, Attilio served as our chauffeur and drove us to the restaurant. I was hoping to sit on the veranda but we were directed to a relatively small room with a balcony and windows overlooking the Bay of Napoli and the Tyrrhenian Sea. The dinner was good but not exceptional, plus we were still somewhat full from the afternoon’s lunch. Kathy and Nicole went to see the veranda on which Kathy and I had one of the most romantic evenings we had ever spent together on our last trip to Italy; but those are the events that can never be repeated, and things never stay the same: the veranda had been enclosed. The Long Schlep Tuesday, October 7th I left a note for Attilio in which I profusely thanked him for his hospitality and the kindness of driving us to all the sites we wished to see, even staying while we visited a site. I had offered him extra money, but he refused. Still, I left an extra i100 on the bed. Attitlio drove us to the train station at Arco Felice where we caught the 10:22am train–which actually came at 10:45am–to Rome. This train was not a milk-run but a EuroStar that made no stops until the station of Roma Termini. Here we had to change to a metropolitana linea B. It was a long schlep with our baggage, and I couldn’t find a cart; so we had to carry our luggage, and my knee did not enjoy the walk. At station Piramide, we transferred to another train in order to reach Lido di Ostia, a town on the coast near Fumicino Airport and also the ancient Roman city of Ostia. It would be our final tour.


We disembarked at Lido Centro, and we called our accommodation, La Dolce Sosta (The Sweet Spot) and were told that “my daughter will pick you up.” But is was son who picked us up and drove us to an apartment building. I had selected a quadruple–a room for all four of us–but he gave us an apartment with two separate bedrooms that was extraordinarily spacious. We searched for a place to eat, but as it was almost 3:00pm, we didn’t have time to sit two hours in a restaurant. We had to settle for a pasticceria that sold white bread sandwiches of either mozzarella cheese and tomatoes, mushrooms and tomatoes, or one prosciutto sandwich–sparse fare and not especially healthly. Outside the large cities, there does not seem to be eateries that serve more than a sandwich and less than a six-course meal. No wonder McDonald’s are starting to appear.


Ostia Antica

Everyone seem to enjoy the visit to Ostia Antica, a place that one could spend days inspecting. W e had expended all the shots on our second single-use (film) camera, and so Jared took photographs using Kathy’s cellular phone camera. Hence many shots were not well focused. W hen the site closed at 7:00pm, we returned to Lido di Ostia and began to search for a trattoria but after a few blocks I protested: my knee was crying ‘stop!’ I suggested that they could continue the search and bring me something from the restaurant while I would return to the apartment, or we could shop at the grocery store near where we were standing and fix our own dinner. W e chose the latter for which I was grateful. Besides, shopping in an Italian grocery store is interesting and exciting, seeing some items that your recognize but with Italian language labels, and others that you have no idea as to what they are. As the dinner was being prepared, I opted to take a shower but within a few minutes, the water turned cold. At Montevista in Torre di Nolfi, Nicole had taken her usual half-hour shower and expended all the hot water in the thirty-gallon water heater affixed to the bathroom wall, but I could not locate any such tank in the apartment; I assumed that there was one water heater for the entire apartment building and then, with everyone returning home from work, they had used all the hot water. W e later learned that in turning on the lights in the kitchen, we had turned off a switch the controlled the water heater; the next morning, there was plenty of hot water. Italy had fooled us again. Arrivederci Roma W ednesday, October 8 th W e were ready to return home. Nicole’s flight was at 12:05pm, so we had time for a breakfast of coffee and croissant at a nearby pasticceria which was the breakfast part of our Bed & Breakfast. The taxi was on time, and we were off toward Fumicino and Leonardo da Vinci Airport. W e each obtained our boarding pass, checked our luggage and then escorted Nicole to her gate but had to part when she had to pass through passport control and security. It had been so wonderful to spend two weeks with her. Jared, Kathy and I had to wait two and a half hours, and so we settled into a café for a second coffee and croissant; then Kathy and Jared shopped for gifts while I read the International Herald Tribune: the economic crisis continued and the stock market had plunged; our world was coming back into focus. The vacation had not been the success that we experienced on our vacation at the Grand Teton National Park in W yoming two years ago nor our vacation in Chicago last year. Italy presented difficulties and obstacles resulting in frustration and waste of time: getting around and finding places, conflict of our schedule with the hours of operation of sites, sites that were closed, the distances and time to travel from our accommodations to sites of interest, and places to eat that provided either too little or too much. Yet in writing this travelogue, I realize how many beautiful things and beautiful sights we had seen, how wonderful it was to be in the places my grandmother had been, and how interesting and fascinating Italy and Italians were. It was an experience that will stay with us for a long time. Arrivederci, Roma!

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