ItalianSide stories: travel to the roots (part 3)

ItalianSide stories: travel to the roots (part 2)
February 10, 2013
Sanremo 2013 – Italian Song Festival
February 13, 2013

by Virginia M.

We don’t know why, but all four of us expected a small Sicilian village, not a metropolis.
There is a daily street market that spreads over a huge area with great bargains.
If you are looking for food then it is best to visit in the morning.
It was Christmas, the weather was beautiful and we drove out of town towards Dagala del re Santa Venerina, the home town of the Russo’s, the maternal side of the family.
We had bought a lock of Mum’s hair; the idea being to return part of her to her birth place.

Although still alive back in Australia, at 88 there was no chance of her returning herself.

Steve&DiatDagaladelRe There is an Italian tradition of bonfires being assembled in the main square of town on Christmas Eve. In Dagala del re the fire was still burning Christmas morning. This was the perfect spot for our own small ceremony.
There were some young men from the parish visiting the church. When we explained why we were there they invited us in and gave us pictures of Mary Immaculate to take home for Mum.

The Church was called Maria SS Immacolata di Dagala del Re.
From Catania we drove to Palermo with suitcases full of dirty washing. If you are going to Palermo and you are looking for a Lavanderia, then write this down. After spending two hours driving around town we finally resorted to Google. There are many what appear to be lavanderias but they are actually dry cleaners. Make a note it is called “Lavanderia a gettoni L’oblo” and the address is Via Volturno 62 – Palermo.

Our family searching was over but our holiday wasn’t. Venice for New Year in a wonderful old apartment called Stella. The weather was freezing cold for us Aussies who are used to sun, surf and swimming at Christmas and New Year, but great fun none the less.

From Venice we caught the train to Florence where we picked up a car and drove to the Siena countryside. We stayed in an Agriturismo, Castel di Pugna in the grounds of a vineyard and olive grove. Sunrises to write home about and Siena, what can one say. A must see on a visit to Italy.

Next stop was Levanto and the Cinque Terre. Another must see. At the end of our Italian sojourn we had determined we would be back. We would do the apartment thing again where we could, we would drive again and most important of all we would stay longer and have letters of introduction for the relevant civil communes. We also decided that as much as we had enjoyed the cold weather and spending Christmas in a different country, for ancestry searching, December and January were not the ideal months.

In closing I must say that although I travelled with my husband, his sister and her husband, I also travelled with a great driver, our own personal chef and a professional photographer, but there was only the four of us.
You may well ask, what did I do, I was the keeper of all papers, train tickets, accommodation vouchers, tourist destinations.

I gave the history lessons as we entered a new city, iPads are a great source of information and I was the mediator in times of discourse, which of course there always is between siblings. But in truth we had a marvellous holiday, discovered new things about ourselves and discovered a family history seen through the DNA of not only my husband and his sister but of our children as well. Naplesinthebackground1


  1. Mary Jane says:

    Great story of your travels and genealogy research, thank you! I picked up some great tips (like letters of introduction) for my planned trip in the Fall of 2015 when I expect to visit Ravello to learn more about the Rufolo’s (the great aristocratic Maritime family of the late Middle Ages) and Marano Marchesato where my father and his more recent ancestors (Ruffolo family believed to be Michele>Gaspare>Pietro>Luigi>Achille(my father) who were all born in MM.

  2. JenC says:

    Great story…really interesting to hear about your journey from the point of view of discovering your family’s roots…and some good travel tips to boot!

  3. Fil Vandertuin says:

    What a lovely story! I also went to Italy last year and did some family history research and visitng last year. Our family roots are in Grottaminarda, Avellino, in the Campania Province.
    I can relate so much to what you say about the italian people, roads, food and the way that people and relatives are so helpful and friendly. I’m in Australia too and the cost of food and meals was great and the produce fantastic even in supermercati!
    Aussies I think assume Italians would be mad drivers, but they are as you say, very courteous on the road, merging is no problem, and even the constant beeping of horns in Naples was really just to let you know where they were- not the loud insistant blast you see drivers give each other here.
    All I can say is- we are now planning our next trip back next year and can’t wait. We are back at our Italian language lessons to improve those skills- we enjoyed ourselves immensely.
    I enjoyed your article Virginia M.

    • Virginia Miranda says:

      Thanks Fil for your kind words. We are also planning another trip in September this year. We have a nieces wedding to attend in France first and then we are going back to Sorrento and will be visiting Terzigno and San Giuseppe. We have been in touch with the Comune in Terzigno and are hoping for some further family information. Just can’t wait to get back in amongst the drivers, wonderful food options and friendliness of the people.

  4. Thomas Mc says:

    A wonderful finish to the holiday Virginia.

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