Italy 7: April 23, 2007 -- Visit to Terrasini, Sicily on a geneological search. Notes from both Bob and Sally

Bob Corbett's note:

Folks, it is Monday night and we are back in Palermo, Sicily awaiting a night train to Rome tonight, just a couple hours. We were able to get two lower bunks, which is nice since we didn't get to the train station until after 2 PM and wanted the beds for tonight. Often that doesn't work that quickly.

Terrasini -- this one will be a challenge to describe. What a marvelous tiny village, and awesome time. We took a bus from Palermo and when we got there in the early afternoon into the town square, there were some teens sitting on some steps at the Duomo, the cathedral. One girl spoke English without any accent and I asked them if there were any hotels. They said almost none, but if I went about 2 miles down this road to the right, and then left, I would find one.

I started walking, left the real town in about 5 blocks and was on a street with lots of broken beer bottles and other trash. I'd walked over a mile and came to the first business I'd seen, a garden/flower place. An older man and young man were working. I asked about the hotel, and the older man pointed the way, but shook his head, not to go. I asked if he spoke English -- no. But, he insistently shook his head and pointed back to town. I trusted him and was about to walk back when I hear this music in my ears: "Sprechen Sie Deutsch?" I spun around with a huge smile saying, "Ya, Ich kann shoen Deutsch sprechen." It was the old man and he said there was a hotel but it was lousy and so far from town. I said, but there are no hotels in town. He said no, but there was a nice B&B, go to the main square, where I'd begun and left Sally with our bags, and ask for Pizza Arabesque. I beat it back and told Sally I'd be back, I had a lead. One 1/2 blocks later I was at the Arabesque and shown a STUNNING room, huge 20x15 (measured it) plus an entry foyer and lovely bathroom. It had massive old and beautiful dark wood furniture, and even a lovely painting of the Mona Lisa! I was terrified, it looked to be a $200 room. I asked the price: 38 Euro each, included breakfast. But, this is Italy, so I tried to bargain down to 70 E for a night, no luck, so I took the 76 E a night room. Sally was most pleased with that find, being the neatest room we've ever stayed in on one of our trips.

Terrasini is tiny. About 5 streets deep, about 10 streets wide at the most. Only a few blocks of shops, but it is a major tourist destination since it has a natural reserve in the area, and is just lovely, right on the sea. About 1/2 dozen or so restaurants, but we only needed one.

We found this neighborhood place, totally not a tourist place and it even had an English name!!!! The Spaghetti House. It closed at 3 PM and we got in at ten minutes to 3 but were welcomed. We ordered a fish pasta for me, salmon pasta (one of the few fish Sally will eat). We added a salad for after the meal, and a bottle of house red wine for RIGHT THEN. Then three young workmen from the neighborhood came in big boots and all, nice guys, having lots of fun. Within 20 seconds there were served huge piles of spaghetti and they were drinking pitchers of white wine from a huge container.

After our food was served, and it was just so delicious I wanted to cry, they got gigantic platters of fish, various sorts. One guy had some marvelous looking small fish, so I took the menu, went over and asked them to show me what that was. They were delighted, offered me some, but I said no, we'd eat there tomorrow. (I did know the Italian word dimani for tomorrow.) However, when I got back to the table I did order that a pitcher of the white wine be sent over to their table. Well, they were really pleased, and so was the owner who then came out, introduced himself and sat with us. Next one of the guys came over and dumped a lovely portion of the fish onto our platter --- he, he, he, I had a good deal, Sally wouldn't touch one, I was just in heaven. The owner didn't speak English, but we communicated well.

The next day we went back. It was Sunday afternoon and the place was deserted. They were all so happy to see us. This time he hurried to the table with a huge container of lasagna and said we had to have it. Sally was just delighted, most places in this area serve little or no meat. I said it looked great, but I wanted fish pasta again, but this time we ordered the pitcher of white wine (again and again and again). but we weren't drinking fully alone. Sammy Maniachi, the owner sat with us the whole meal, and mid-meal his wife came out with her lasagna and joined us but refused wine. Next in came Tony Truppino, who owns a near-by game shop and he had been invited because he spoke English. We had a marvelous party. After leaving there we went home, fell asleep and slept 13 hours!!!!

However, we had reason to be tired. Before going to the restaurant on Sunday, and before that meal, we had walked all the way out of town to the local cemetery and found lots of Ciaramitaros (Sally's name is spelled Sharamitaro, but that was a change made by the family when it came to St. Louis). And we found a number of Bommeritos (the grandparental family). None, however, seem old enough to be direct relatives.

After getting back from the cemetery (having walked EIGHT miles according to my pedometer, I took the list of Ciaramitaro names we had found in the phone book and started looking for people. On one street we came to the home of Dominico Ciaramitaro and I told Sally I'd just knock on the door. We were discussing it and the next door people were on their second floor roof watching us. The woman asked what was most likely, who you looking for, and I said Dominico Ciaramitaro, she said, knock there. No answer, and in a moment the woman, a bit older than Sally and I, was there at out side. Are you from the U.S.? Yes. Well she had family in Detroit, California and (as about everyone in this town, Gloucester, Mass -- all the fishermen).

She just talking and talked and talked, took us into her small but very clean and lovely, if gaudy, home. She called a cousin who spoke English, and a four-way conversation took place, the cousin, Sally, the woman and her husband, who wasn't too pleased with the whole business.

We were about to leave AGAIN, the third or fourth time, when people appeared at the second story window of Dominico's house. Two teens and a wife. Dominico was getting cleaned up and would be down soon -- back into the woman's home for more one-way-million-miles-a-minute Italian conversation. Hilarious. Here and there she would take a breath and saying "capito?" And we would shake our heads and say No capito. And, now having had a breath she was off again.

Dominico arrived and he could converse a bit in English and had his own family tree. We compared notes and, nope, not direct relations. After a while and much more conversation from the lady we made our way to that meal described above at The Spaghetti House.

More on that restaurant. It is new. But the building, about 50 yards from the sea, is very old, and the ceiling was arched in the Romanesque style. It looked brand new, but I couldn't stop staring at it since it seemed to be real stone. I figured either it was totally fake, or it was real and ancient and had been sandblasted. I finally asked Sammmy about it, and all of a sudden light bulbs went on for him. Oh me, he managed, and Tony translated. The ceiling was very old, much older than Terrasini itself. It had been a warehouse in ancient times OWNED -- GET THIS -- by the Ciaramitaro family. They used it for dying and drying their nets. They not only have to stay dry, but me but dyed regularly with some black stuff that keeps them from rotting. But, we were sitting at this sumptuous meal/wine feast in the ancient building of the Ciaramitaro family, virtually all who were fishermen.

Our good fortune was not yet over. This morning about 10 AM we set out to find the city hall. And did. We walked in and there is a porter's office and it was open but no one there, so we just walked up to the second floor. No people. We wandered down a side corridor, and an office door was open a few people in. A woman saw us, came out, and we began in our stumbly way to say what we were looking for when she interrupted us with a beautiful smile and asked in PERFECT English if we spoke English, were we from the states? Where had we been staying? The Arabesque? The Arabesque, oh my, she said, I have a B&B, you must have been paying too much....

And she took Sally into her arms. First she went to her office (she just happened to be visiting the other office), gave sally some lovely lovely books, real BOOKS on Terrasini in English and other languages, and then said we were in the totally wrong place for family records, she would show us where to go.

Out we go across the street to the records department -- NOW, GET THIS FOR OUR LUCK OF MEETING THIS WOMAN -- no one working the records area speaks a word of English, but the person who runs it and is the primary researcher is this best friend of the woman we had met and who was with us.

They drug out ancient books from 1868 (birth year of Giuseppe Ciaramitaro) and they hunted to see if before or after, in 1866-67-69-70 there may have been other children born to the parents. But, time was getting on and they had to go. The woman in the office got all Sallyís info and told here that in her free time she will do some research for her and mail it to her.

Are we about the luckiest folks you can imagine to have run into that first woman, and us in the WRONG BUILDIGN to begin with.

Okay, long story and lots lots lots left out. Today we won't be quite as tired as yesterday afternoon after our 8 miles, we've only walked 5 miles today.

More will follow I'm sure.....

Off to Rome.

Sally's note

Hi Everybody

Well, its Monday in Palermo about 6:20 (Palermo time). Bob and I are here at the Internet Point, right across from the train station.

We have our night train ticket and compartment for Rome and we leave around 8:30 tonight.

We had a lovely visit in Terrasini, though we had no luck finding Ciaramitaro family or relatives. Didn't even find any at the Terrasini cemetery. Though we spent lots of time there yesterday.

Arrived on Saturday around 1:00ish, and Bob again left me with the bags in a cute little park right next to the Duomo (cathedral) in the square in the heart of Terrasini, while he went searching for a room for us.

He stopped and talked to several folks on his way, the first a young student (or two) who didn't know exactly where a hotel was, but they thought it was 'that' way. As he walked Bob could tell that it must be a long way away, so he hailed another older man who it turned out spoke GERMAN! That man told Bob that there was a B&B if we were interested right down the street from the square. Bob walked right to it and reserved a room for us.

What a beautiful B&B!! Antique furniture and a very secure situation where we had a key to a separate front and back door. The B&B was attached to a restaurant too, which looked very nice.

He came back and got me, hoping I would agree to the slightly higher price than we paid in Naples. I of course agreed after I saw the room and the B&B!

It turned out that we had a wonderful stay there, though breakfast plans left a little to be desired. Didn't find the 'Extra Bar' right away as it was a block away from the B&B, and its where we had a 'free' handwritten ticket for a pastry and a drink. And the second morning, we checked there 4-5-6-times.... and when we walked by to get the 11:30 bus... it still wasn't open. I think Bob said the owner (who must sleep in on Monday morning arrived about 10:00) did give us a slight break in the price for our inconvenience. :)

Saturday afternoon we did some sightseeing, and checking on where the Terrasini cemetery was located. And on our search we found a great little restaurant... you wont believe the name... Spaghetti House! But we couldn't have had a more wonderful experience and the owners, food and wine were delightful !!

Saturday night there turned out to be a celebration in the square which was half a block from our B&B. Bob slept right through the noise and beeping, lucky duck!!

I finally fell asleep, though it was early morning by then. So I was pretty tired Sunday on our 8 mile walk out to and back from the cemetery.

We did find a wall where lots of Ciaramitaros were buried and I did get some photos before my camera battery died. Meanwhile Bob jotted down the names and dates for each of them. But I could tell that the dates weren't old enough for them to be parents of Giuseppe (who was the first in the family to come over)

We searched for Bommaritos too, but they were more scarce which surprised me quite a lot. [Corbett adds a slight disagreement here -- later on: Actually when we first walked into the cemetery there were some huge sections where the obviously rich were buried. These were nearly ALL Bommoritos. However, we just figured that the poor fisherman, Giuseppe Ciaramitaro was unlikely to be married into THOSE Bommarito families.]

We returned to our room after that and showered and dressed for dinner as it was a hot day and we were exhausted.

But Bob had brought a computer listing of the Ciaramitaros on the telephone listing for Terrasini that Joe had suggested we check. He was excited by then and just knew there was a possibility that we could 'find' one that was related.

So we set out on the way to dinner with the list and we tried a couple before we came to Dominico Ciaramitaro. There was no answer at his address but a couple was looking down from the rooftop garden and called to us in Italian, not home... vBut after Bob told them I was a Sharamitaro looking for Dominico Ciaramitaro and hoping to find a relative, the woman walked down and spoke to us though none of us could really understand the other, but she was interested. Later we found out that her name WAS Gracie Ciaramitaro, and her mother was Angela Ciaramitaro. No relation!!

She eventually invited Bob and I in to her house because she just had to call her cousin Carlo on the phone as he was able to speak English. Thatís how I knew that there was no relationship to their Ciaramitaro family.

But while we were talking, Dominico came home and there was much explaining and he could speak some broken English, bless his heart.

He almost immediately jumped up from where he was sitting after we introduced ourselves and said he would be right back. He went home and brought his genealogy page With him and the generations of his family... also underlining that there was no relationship.

But how sweet is that!!! I eventually got out my Italian/English book and Gracie and I could talk about how ourselves, and how many children we have, etc. She was just darling, and both of us wished so badly that we could speak the other's language.

There was lots of talk about the Ciaramitaros in California, Detroit Michigan and Glouster Mass. But none in St. Louis.

After that visit Bob and I decided to go back to the little Spaghetti place and have another dinner with them.

Well, that turned out to be another adventure! The owner ...Sammy Maniachi, couldn't speak English either, well... just a couple words, as he said... table, house, etc.

But sometime after we got there and settled in... as his only.... ONLY customers (we wondered later if he was closed on Sunday afternoon) he called a friend of his... Tony Trupiano who was visiting his brother right around the corner and who lives in the states and could speak English.

Sammy just had to know more about us, and to tell us more about the Ciaramitaros. I brought copies of both the two birth records and the marriage record from Terrasini with me and showed them to both of them (oh, and Sammy's wife Maria joined us too).

Well, it turns out that Sammy knew the address where Rosalia Bommarito Ciaramitaro lived... and walked me over to see it!! AND... the very space where their restaurant is now... used to be owned by a Ciaramitaro family of fishermen, and they kept their nets there!!

Well, the more we talked the more wine we drank, and by the time we left Bob and I were flying!! What a fun time.

As I said, no relatives were uncovered, but there we were where the Ciaramitaros used to live and work and fish!

And Terrasini is a beautiful, beautiful place. The sea is so close you can see it from several locations, the weather seems to be perfect... (We have had not a drop of rain since we left St. Louis)

And though life for them at the turn of the century must have been very difficult, it must have been hard for them to leave such a beautiful place.

But wait... the Terrasini adventure is not over!

Sunday, after we eventually bought our own breakfast, and packed up to leave with the 11:30 bus, we took a walk to locate the City Hall, and when we found it we walked in and nobody was around, then we walked upstairs and a woman came out of an office and greeted us asking if we spoke English. She DID!!

Josephine took the paperwork and said she knew where we needed to go. And she walked us across the street actually around a corner and to another building where her 'cucina' worked.. and she explained to them there what I wanted... were there any other children of Mercurio Ciaramitaro and Rosalie Pellerito?

She and her friend/cousin looked through several huge old log books but weren't able to find anything. Then she asked me to write down my name and address and I gave her a card that my daughter Tricia had printed for me and wrote my address on the back. Josephine said her friend would do more checking when she had time and would send me any information that she could find.

Ah!! Nothing for sure, but thanks to Josephine, bless her heart, its not over.... yet.

Our trip to Terrasini is over however, and we are back in Palermo, but we will remember Terrasini with fond memories and will write about our new acquaintances there and remember them fondly.

What a wonderful Terrasini adventure!!

And special thanks to Bob for his excitement about the family research while we were there. I know for a fact that his knees are best when he walks, so the 8 miles yesterday werenít as difficult as the standing at the cemetery wall documenting the Ciaramitaros and their dates.

Tonight.... on to Rome for our next adventure !!





Bob Corbett