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  • Writer's picturePatty Vitale

Meeting Our Italian Cousins

Yesterday was so incredible that it’s hard to know where to begin or how to describe it. A couple of months ago I hired Joe DeSimone, a genealogist in Italy who I have used before, to research whether or not I still had relatives here. Three weeks ago I got the good news. He found two cousins, Manfredo Ferrara, age 88, and Antonio Girardi, the son of Manfredo’s sister. I sent them both letters, which Joe translated for me, and waited eagerly for a response.

I was so happy to learn that Manfredo and Antonio (who goes by the name Tonino), both have families and they all seemed to be as excited to meet us as we were to meet them. Manfredo’s daughter is Pina (short for Giuseppina – her name is Giuseppa Ferrara, the same as my great-great-grandmother). Pina’s husband Gerald is from Scotland, so he speaks English and translates for us. They have 3 sons, and one son is married with an adorable 2-year-old daughter, Denise.

They live in the town of Avellino, close to Prata. (Prata, Pratola Serra and Avellino are all in the province of Avellino.)

Sharing photos of my family

Me and cousin Manfredo Ferrara

Gerald & Pina with Eli & me

We met at Pina & Gerald’s home and they took us out for an incredible lunch in Prata. I’m going to have to dedicate an entire blog post to the food we’ve had. Fantastic, and the meals last 2-3 hours.

After lunch, we all went into Prata and Manfredo gave us a tour. He took us to the home where he was born and raised, and showed us his elementary school and the churches he went to. The first church is closed and the grounds are no longer maintained. Such a shame, but right around the corner is another church that we went into. Manfredo said that it’s exactly the same as it was when he was ten years old.

There was an old mill on the river – another building that is closed and deteriorating – where I believe that at least one of my ancestors worked. Records indicate that my great-great-great-grandfather Pellegrino Vitale was a miller.

Manfredo is such a character. He will be 89 on January 25, but he can run circles around all of us. When we arrived, he said that we should not have rented a car. He would have been happy to have us use his car during our visit. A little later he said that if we have any problems with our apartment, we should stay with him. By the end of lunch, he was insisting that we return the car and stay with him. By the end of the day he was saying that we could not possibly be family because if we were, we would be sleeping at his house and driving his car. Every time he got back on the that issue, the entire family would roll their eyes and shake their heads – oh no, not this again. It was hilarious. So the lesson for any of my siblings, aunts & uncles or cousins who visit Prata is that you must stay with Manfredo and drive his car. You have no choice.

Much more later – we’re out the door again.

Exploring Prata

Tonino and his wife Lucia, who live in Prata

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