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Mulberry Tree & MeJust like the ones they left behind in a tiny little village called Pontelandolfo, grandma and grandpa planted mulberry trees.  It was a touchstone to the past for them and a touchstone to who I was for me.  Nonna’s mulberry tree was the perfect tree to climb.  I’d creep higher and higher into its branches surveying the world as I knew it.

Lots of little girls imagine themselves princesses – twirling, whirling and prancing at the ball.  Well, I tried to imagine that, but after tripping over a hoe and feeding chickens,  somehow I knew that my family wasn’t royalty.  Actually, I heralded from a long line of serfs!   Hey, quit smirking – a lot of us first generation folks come from families who – well – didn’t have the proverbial ‘pot’.

Salvatore, the patriarch of my family, was a contadino, farmer.  Don’t think of the agri-businessman of today or even the great local organic farmer.  In the Pontelandolfo church and commune records my family members are all listed as contadino and/or bracciante.  They were peasant farmers who  “gave their arms work” for another person.  Serfs or sharecroppers – these men and women worked the land for a piece of the garden pie  – a very small piece.

As I searched for my past to help me understand my present, I discovered family that no one in New Jersey knew existed. Over a period of twenty years, I have shared many a long and wonderful Pontelandolfesi meal with my new extended Italian family.   When the coffee was served, I often steered the conversation to stories about my bisnonno.  The elders, his grandchildren – my dad’s first cousins, vaguely remembered him but really remembered the stories about him that their parents told.  What was he like?  Where did he live?  What did he do?  These alert and fun filled octogenarians regaled me with tales of the past – all in the dialect of the town.  I didn’t have a clue as to what they said.  They knew I didn’t have a clue, but kept right on talking. Today, having taken years of Italian, I still only understand about 20% of what anyone says in dialect.  Not to lose the stories, I shoot lots of video-tape.

Join me on my journey, through the past, present and hopefully future investigations of my Italian roots.  Why?  Why not – spying on someone else’s life is always fun. Maybe, my questions are your questions and this blog will give you a gentle push or massive shove into exploring your own roots too.  I’ll be a regular chiacchiera chatting about finding my family, visiting places that most tourists don’t see, eating, shopping and unearthing the dormant Italian in me.

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Come along on my adventure, la mia avventura, as I explore Italy and the small Italian village that my family comes from.  Pontelandolfo, in the Province of Benevento, is the tiny mountain town that mia nonna remembered whenever she sat on her Flagtown, New Jersey front porch and smiled at the mulberry tree.

Ci vediamo,

(To become part of the adventure explore our events through Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo.)

Midge

24 thoughts on “About

  1. Hi Midge!
    My mother was a Guerrera, Catherine and she married her second cousin, Anthony Longo. My brother Bob Longo passed your website address on to me. I am going to enjoy reading your blog.

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  2. I have enjoyed your writings, and would like to say “Thank you” for bringing my husbands 2nd Great-grandfather [ Salvatore ] to life for me, and in return, to our daughters.

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  3. Midge,
    You just recently met my sister and her new husband when they came to Pontelandolfo in July. We are close friends with Nicola Ciarlo and his parents here, and Nicola is the one who showed them around. Is there a more private way for me to contact you regarding the Guerreras that are on my father’s side? Thanks!

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  4. I thought all the Guerrera’s of Pontelandolfo landed in Waterbury, CT. There are hundreds if not more, plus an impressive Ponte Club in town. My mother was a Guerrera, her parents (Catarina and Ferdinando) born around 1900.

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    1. Diana,
      Peek at some of the earlier posts that talk about my grandparent’s homes and journey. I have my family tree done to my great-great grandfather. I wonder if we intersect??? Thanks for reading the blog.
      Midge

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  5. Some Guerrera’s landed in NJ, and I know of at least one that traveled up to NY state, that would be my Mother-in-Laws father, Michael Guerrera, [ Salvatore was her G. Grandfather through Giovanni]

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  6. Midge, you’re right, for some reason I typed brother’s, when I had meant to say cousin’s.. [ my only excuse is that it was pretty late here ] My MIL didn’t know much about her family, I guess her Dad didn’t talk much about them “?”, so your blog has been a true delight in helping us both in getting to know what the family was like, as well as the place they were from.

    As for the tree you mention, I didn’t know there had been one done, I’ve been working on one myself so that my daughters can see where and who their father’s family descended from 🙂

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  7. Loved your Festa della Trebbiatura piece, Midge. We have a similar festa in Corinaldo but it always seems to fall when we’re away. There is also a Festa del Ringraziamento which is a bit like an English Harvest Festival in that it is organised by the church. Also thanks for the Like. I am so pleased that someone with italian roots enjoyed a mere foreigner’s blog!

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  8. OK so I was looking for a recipe for cacchiarella and I landed on your site. I grew up in Pontelandolfo. I moved to Canada at the age of 12. Right in front of our house up in the Acqua Del Campo contrada was a beautiful Mulberry Tree!!! We would spread a big tablecloth at the foot of the tree and shake the tree to have the mulberries fall to the ground so we could feast on them. How nostalgic it is to read your posts and comments! How many wonderful memories, sights, smells, foods… I really wish i could go back in time. Went back to Pontelandolfo a couple of years ago and had the pleasure of spending a magical night underneath the stars at B & B Il Calvello which happens to be my great great Grandparents house. Angela Maria, who is my parents’ first cousin, and my Mom, cooked up some out of this world pizzas which we enjoyed eating outdoors. And, let’s not talk about those sumptuos figs for dessert!!! Keep on posting…I will keep on reading! Paola

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