In celebration of our upcoming Italian-American Heritage Tours, Travel Italian Style team Member, Francesca Panzariello tells the story of visiting her family's home town in Italy for the first time.
My mom’s childhood home was left as if they had emigrated the previous day rather than 30 years ago. Children’s schoolbooks filled dusty drawers and glasses remain stacked in the kitchen. Bisaccia is one of those small towns in Italy that you wouldn’t necessarily visit unless you had family there. Quietly resting on a hill above the stretching green countryside outside Avellino, I can easily see the soft-spoken Casarella clan inhabiting such a place, especially my Nonno. Always the reserved, observing type, I understood why he craved the tranquil days of his birthplace over the busy suburban lifestyle.
In contrast, arriving further south along the coast to Castinatelli in the province of Salerno, I realized why my Papa would have never been able to live there. Always the loudest, liveliest presence in a room, my Papa needed more space to thrive. He was simply too big for the confines of his small town. Of course he had to leave his mark on the town before he left.
Although he was perfectly content in his new life in America, my Papa wanted his children to experience the Italian way. In the early 70s, about the time my mom was leaving for a new beginning in America, the Panzariellos arrived in Avellino. After roaming the Avellino streets, I can visualize my dad and his crew of troublemakers strutting around town looking for the next adventure. Creating stories that are still retold over bottles of wine when they reunite by their old stomping grounds.
Those closest to me stress the importance of my Italian heritage. However, I didn’t fully come to appreciate it until I saw it for myself. Now some of my most treasured memories are from learning about my family’s time in Italy. Whether its walking along the route my dad used to take to school, stopping every two minutes in hopes of finding a familiar name on a door, or eating gelato with my mom overlooking the place she once called home. I now know where my family comes from and, furthermore, I know where I come from.
Interested in finding your family? Check out our Customized Italian Heritage Tours. We actually work with professional genealogists on finding information about your ancestors and then create an amazing tour to celebrate your family's history!
Francesca is an Assistant Travel Consultant for Travel Italian Style and is pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations with a concentration in European Systems at SUNY Geneseo. She highly values and maintains close ties with her Italian heritage. As a longtime traveler, Francesca wants people to have the opportunity to experience the real Italy to the fullest. The Italy that takes place around a large dinner table with homemade pasta and Limoncello surrounded by people who are filled with humor and passion for life. Francesca joined Travel Italian Style to be part of a company that gives people the chance to experience that authentic Italian lifestyle.