It is going to be difficult for me to put into words this extraordinary experience. Emotions are running high at the moment as there are only 2 and a half days left of this journey. I will take in every moment until I step on that plane Saturday morning as the sun starts to rise in Napoli and I say goodbye to a breathtakingly beautiful country called Italia. The family found here in Melfi and the hearts I’ve connected with in my 2 short weeks here have touched me in ways I never imagined.
The magnitude of my 100 Years tribute to my grandfather has doubled and tripled many times as the people of Melfi have embraced my visit and my story. Melfi is a big little town, close, connected and with both modern and ancient ways. I see a people who can accept change but continues to respect its cultural past. If ever there was a place that could balance the two worlds it’s Melfi.
Nestled in the Mountains of Southern Italy its beauty is hard to ignore and the Castello di Frederico II sits at its highest point. There is “Old Melfi” which is built around the base of the Castle and there is “New Melfi” which of course is built further out to absorb the population and keep the younger generations near. Old Melfi homes are small and very, very old. Not the amenities that the younger population are willing to live in. The roads are so narrow you could get hit by a car just stepping out your front door. They are still paved with hand cut stone and they are either straight up or straight down, nothing in between. These paths were for horses and donkey and people, not for cars. In New Melfi the homes are really not homes but more like condo’s and apartment buildings. I personally didn’t care for the look of them. They are polar opposites of their historical counterparts, straight lines, stark colors and very modern looking. Not my style but that seems to be what they like. It’s too cold for me, I prefer warm colors, details, interest, vintage and history.
Melfitani people are proud of their city, heritage and history. Melfi possesses great and important historical relics and places. The photo above is during one of the celebrations that the people of Melfi have each year. Called The Pentecoste, it is a combination and recreation of Mid Evil times, a festival, an Honoring to Saint Anthony, an educational experience for the young and a carnival of sorts. Sadly one of the things that is being lost or replaced by modern times is the Melfi language. As with many communes in Italy, the dialect is vanishing. Few speak or know the Melfi dialect in these modern times. Many years ago I remember hearing a story about the different American Indian languages and how they’ve all but disappeared. There were some who tried to preserve these languages and were somewhat successful. I would love to see this in Melfi – a preservation of their dialect, BEFORE it’s too late and the elders who know it are gone.
The focus of my visit to Melfi was in fact to connect with family, to research deeper into the roots of my grandparents and most importantly to Salute my grandfathers immigration from this land to America. Not only did I accomplish my immediate goals and desires, I found so much more than I could have ever dreamed of.
I was overwhelmed by the response of my visit. Future posts will reveal the depths of my visit but for now all I can say is “surreal”. The family came, and came and came. My first week was filled to the brim with meetings, food, tours, food, short trips and more food! Did I mention food? Plates just kept being placed in front of me. I ate what they offered because I did not want to offend but by the end of the first week my best pronounced Italian word was “poco” meaning little or small. The food was amazing but I just couldn’t get any more into me! There is no weight scale in my house so I’m pretending I didn’t gain that much. We all know better and I’m thinking I will spend a good part of my summer trying to lose a few kilo.
This post was started in Melfi and is ending in Rochester. I returned last night, without my luggage, which I personally placed on the belt in Philly. US Air was amazing, they tracked it down and delivered it to my door sometime during the night last night. All of my belongings were in intact and there. I brought home a few souvenirs and was hoping that they made it – and they did. Today, (Sunday) my Rochester family is having a gathering for me. It will be really nice to let them know how much our Italian family wants to be connected to us here in the States.
The gates have opened to connect US and Italian family and it’s magnitude was something I never expected or planned on. In future posts I will detail the “Heroes Welcome” on both sides of the ocean. It was so far beyond my intentions and dreams but my 100 Years project touched so many people it’s sort of hard to put into words right now. Maybe after my jet lag settles some and I can think a bit more clearly.
Thank you all so much for listening and following my incredible journey. More posts to come……