Thursday, October 10, 2013

Back to our Roots! Part I... Friday, June 28th

This is it!  The big day!  The day the entire trip was based on really!  It’s the day we’re going to Fallo! This is the town where my great grandfather was born. And it’s actually the town that several other relatives came over to the US from as well.  But today is also our last day in Italy. Such a bittersweet day, I'm not ready to go home! This has truly been the most amazing time ever.

Anyway...on with the story!  This particular adventure is going to have to take more than one post.  It was quite an adventure going to Fallo, a tiny village in the Abruzzo region of Italy!

Originally we thought about driving to Fallo on our own. It’s a good thing we didn’t! Not because of the drive, but as we’d later find out – we would have been absolutely lost once we arrived!

As luck would have it, during my research I found out that Rome in Limo, one of the most commonly used tour companies for cruise passengers, happens to do a tour called “Back to Your Roots”! I stumbled across this when I was looking for our port tours. Interestingly for some reason we didn’t book any of our ports with them, but I did find this tour! I contacted them, and they were very easy to work with. Jany always replied by email very quickly – it seemed day or night! Did she ever sleep? Was there more than one Jany? 

Back when we started planning our trip, last summer, I started doing some pretty heavy family research. Sure – we knew the basics, but if we were going to try to find the “homeland” we had to know the details! So I went onto and did the whole family tree and I have to say it was absolutely fascinating! I found the immigration records for my great grandfather, Grandpop as we all know him as in the family. I saw the ship records for each and every time he came back and forth from the US to not only Italy but other places in Europe! I saw the paperwork where he became a US citizen, with his signature! So, on these papers, his hometown would be listed, with his birth date as well as his parents’ names. Which of course my grandmother knew, but to have it documented was fascinating!

I did hit a wall at my great-great grandfather. Once the records get to Italy it stops. I ended up researching both my mom’s mother’s family and her father’s family. Her father’s family will have to be our return trip to Italy!  His side is quite interesting! That one may make for a whole novel, not just a trip report! 

Anyway, as our trip got closer, I emailed Jany some of the details so our driver/guide would know where we would be going and what we’d be looking for.

We knew our drive would be about three hours or so. Keith decided to stay back at the apartment again today. He didn’t want to spend more than six hours in the van. Today he planned to check out some of the craft breweries in Rome. Not only is he a chef, but he is a pretty talented home brewer as well. 

So, while he slept in, we met our driver, Vincenzo, right at 8 am! We had a nice large van and Vincenzo told us that we’d take the highway out towards the Adriatic Sea and then back track towards Fallo, which is in the Abruzzo region of Italy. He said this would be a smoother ride, less mountainous… even though we’d be backtracking a bit. Coincidentally he was from a town about 25 minutes from Fallo, although he’s never been there himself. 

For those interested, Fallo is a tiny town with only 150 residents, maybe less. At the time when my great grandfather left Fallo, in the early 1900’s there were over 1000 residents! 

We rode along while Vincenzo drove. You would have honestly thought he was going to visit his home town too! He was so enthusiastic about this trip with us! The drive was so scenic, and apparently this wasn’t even the scenic route!

We stopped at an Autogrill for a bit of a break, filled up the van with gas and got some snacks. I got an ├ęclair type pastry. And once again – I was quite impressed with the freshness and quality of the food! So far train stations and roadside food has not disappointed us!

When we got close to our destination, Vincenzo told us to get our cameras out! He was funny – he wanted to be sure we’d get pictures of the road signs for Fallo!

And the “Benvenuti Fallo” signs! 

He was great. I feel so lucky that we’ve had such great drivers and guides! Here we are on our last day and every guide and/or driver has been wonderful!

As we approached the town, we were actually a bit surprised at just how modern it all seemed, with respect to where we were! First we saw an actual hotel! Shocking! When the town has 100 or so residents, you don’t expect a hotel!

But it certainly was filled with old world charm. This was absolutely nothing like my mom expected. I’d seen some pictures online in my research. She was maybe expecting something more farm like for some reason. I knew it was a medieval hill town type place. It was lovely!

Vincenzo slowed down and spoke Italian to two gentleman on the street, asking them where the City Hall was. With some enthusiastic hand motions we were on our way. Which was funny because there was only one road into the town!

We parked our very large, and seemingly out of place van and piled out. I felt like we stuck out like a sore thumb! 

We walked into the City Hall building and the first thing we saw was a poster on a bulletin board from a recent election. It may have been in all Italian, but my mom could not believe that of all the names listed she recognized the surnames of more than half of them! If they weren’t family names they were certainly names that she knew! They were families that also came over with her grand father!  Names she's heard of all of her life!

We walked up the steps of the very modern City Hall building and found someone in one of the offices. Not a soul spoke one word of English! Thank Goodness we didn’t make this trip on our own as our original plan was to do! It would have been right then and there that we would have hit a dead end! But we had Vincenzo with us now, and Vincenzo explained why we were here and who we were looking for. 

It’s not unusual for Americans to come to parts of Italy looking for a piece of their heritage, but I’m also pretty sure that this little town doesn’t get too many people stopping by too often! They have approximately 30 families that live there! 

Next up.....introductions with the county clerk and conversations in Italian!  Would we find our roots?


  1. Sounds amaze shell! Felt like I was kinda there

  2. The entire trip was great, but to go to Fallo, with the family history - now that was truly amazing! The people there were so friendly, even though we couldn't really understand one another! I'd love to go back, it was a beautiful part of the country!