The country is everything you imagine and more. The history of Rome is fascinating; the food is unbelievable and the landscape is gorgeous. It left all of us promising to return and explore more. But, the highlight of the trip was our day trip to the town where Catherine 'Penello' Ellison's (Grandma Kitty’s) family lived before they immigrated to America in 1898. Italy is separated into regions and the region Grandma always talked about, Basilicata, is located in the southern part of the country spanning from coast to coast just above the arch of the 'boot'. Basilicata is divided into two provinces, Potenza and Matera and Grandma’s family was from the area of Potenza, specifically from a small village that sits on top of a mountain and overlooks a beautiful valley. The town is called Marsicovetere. We learned how to pronounce it (pretty well) and you have to kind of say it real fast to get it right. Marcy-co vey tay-ray (emphasis on the ‘vey’ syllable). It’s a town of a little over 5,000 inhabitants, which sits at 3,402’ elevation.
You'll find Marsicovetere straight to the left of Basilicata, then slightly down towards the yellow line.
Could this be it? No, we still had quite a way to go, but sure is a scenic area.
Could that be it way up there?
We continued to make the climb. Love the no "trumpets" sign! Haha
I also saw the main page of the book showing Basilicata in large fancy print as the region for the marriages in the book. Oh, my heart skipped a beat and I asked, "can I take a photo of this?" and she frowned saying, “no photo” and I thought to myself, you’ve got to be kidding me! Okay, I then calmly asked, "can you make copy?" “no copy”. Oh my gosh!! She went on to speak in Italian so many words that we had no idea what in the world she was saying. All I wanted was a photo of that beautiful page. I’m sure she could see the look of hopelessness in my eyes. We finally caught the word “certificato” out of everything she was trying to say and we said, “yes, certificate”. That was all we could think of at this point. So, off she went. She was gone for about 45 minutes.
In a last desperate move, Jim suddenly got the idea to Google translate on his phone “do you know where the church is that they were married in?” She read it and said “no”. Googled again, “do you have the information about Teresa Russo’s husband, where he would be buried here?” “no”. “Do you have birth records for Teresa Russo?” “no”. With each 'no' we realized we were done. Great try though, Jim! (Now I’m wondering if ‘there’s an app for that’… one that translates what a person is saying in an unknown language? Hmm… would have come in handy!) In any case, the woman had gone out of her way to help us and stayed overtime as well. I don’t think she would have done as much as she had if she did not found it curious that we were ‘Pee nel la’s’ too! We thanked her repeatedly for all her help as best we could and she smiled as we left while she locked up her office.
We found steps that led to old church ruins that sit in the center of town. We got caught up in imagining that this could have been the very place that Grandma's parents were married. We will never know for sure, but it sure was fun to think about!
We also stopped at the local cemeteries and walked around to look for other Pinnella’s and Toscano’s and Russo’s. We did find several Toscano’s and Russo’s, but no Pinnella’s. There were many old unmarked crosses either made out of iron or wood that could have been Teresa Russo’s husband’s gravesite (Guiseppe Pinnella), but we will never know. We were looking for his in particular, because he died five years before their departure to America. And all the Toscano’s and Russo’s could very well be related to Grandma’s mother, Maria, or her grandmother, Teresa, but there were too many to know for certain. I have photos of those we found should anyone have an interest in seeing them at some point.
The journey to Marsicovetere was definitely worth it, and way beyond my expectations. I will return one day. When I do, it will be with a translator and a much quicker finger on the camera! What I can say is that our family emigrated from a BEAUTIFUL part of God’s creation. They must have really believed in the dream of a better life in America to leave all this natural beauty and those they knew and loved behind. I know I am grateful that they did, selfishly speaking of course, or I would have never been born into the wonderful family I am blessed to be a part of today.