Travel blog

I’m Not Italian; I’m Sicilian

By on April 6, 2013

We’ve finally arrived in Sicily, or I can say my ‘homeland.’ My dad was born here, as was my granddad and many other components of my family from my dad’s side.

The last time I was here it was during the summer, when I was 4 or 5 years old. I really have no memories about that time.

We’re now in Messina, my dad’s hometown.

I recently started to research and build a family tree, because of the new life coming our way soon.

I would really like this ‘new person’ to appreciate my work and know where he/she comes from one day. I don’t want to lose this opportunity right now, since many relatives are still here to help me with information and stories.

When I’m riding around on my bike in Messina, I don’t recognize any place but…I recognize the smell, or the perfume. The sea, the Sicilian patisseries and something else that takes me back to my childhood, something I’ve catalogued in my mind and is still there.

I spent some time in the main cemetery yesterday. I was able to find the family grave from my grandma’s side. It’s a beautiful chapel with the family name right above the entrance.

When I went in my emotions came out. Faces in black and white. Years of birth and death. Memories.

In the chapel there my great grand dad and mother, other relatives and also my Auntie Anna, my dad’s sister who died at just 9 years old: in the picture she looks so lovely.

My dad never told me about his sister, I just found out a few years ago from my auntie. I’m guessing she was really important to my dad and that it was better for him not to speak about her.

In the grave, many deaths have the same date: 28 December 1908.
Perhaps the most powerful earthquake and tsunami combined to destroy the city of Messina. Half of the population of Messina died that day, at 5.21 in the morning. The city was at ground zero.

I have a particular story about that night- allow me to tell you about it right now. The night before the disaster, my great-grandad and great-grandmother (Enrico and Giuseppina Costantino) went to the theater and left my granddad Armando (he was born in 1907, so he was just one year old) with relatives.

I still need to find out more specific information about which relatives-?

Anyway, they were staying in the same family house, but in another room. When my great-grandparents came back from the theater, they decided to let the little boy continue sleeping and leave him in that room.

At 5.21, when the earthquake arrived, part of the house fell down and if my granddad had been in that part of the house, I wouldn’t be here writing to you now. Coincidence we can say. Life.

I saw my dad few times during my bike ride: like it was in a movie. I saw him 70 years ago, playing on the beach, smiling and running. I saw him with my granddad buying some vegetables at the local market. I’m Not Italian; I’m Sicilian

Everything goes back in the time. Even if we are in 2013, I feel I can see how this city was with my dad’s eyes. His perspective.

I’ve applied for a birth certificate for my granddad. I know when he was born, but I need to take it step by step, in this way, to go back. And back, and back…on the journey to finding my roots.

I also had the opportunity to meet Carminella and her son Antonio, my auntie and my cousin (actually they aren’t really my auntie and my cousin but I feel that they are).

They have memories about me when I was little- it’s such a pity that I can’t recall them. We had a nice chat about our families, and we also had a delicious opportunity to taste the typical focaccia from Messina.

1 Comment
  1. Reply


    April 13, 2013

    Would have never guessed that you were Sicilian….another cool leg to an unbelievable adventure. Your description give such a keen visual. Messina is really a pretty name , too.


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