Sunday, November 23, 2014

This is a continuing blog about our genealogical journey through southern Italy.  It is supplementary stories from our book, "1800 Kilometers in a FIAT 500", available at Amazon.  This is the third episode covering our stay in Sassano.

Driving to Sassano

It is about a 2 hour drive from Avellino to Sassano, our next stop.  The drive is mostly on one of Italy's fine autostradas and even though it is raining, we are enjoying the ride.  When I'm not getting beeped at for driving too slow, I'm even able to enjoy some of the spectacular views.

Io sono confuso
 The roads become a little narrower when we leave the autostrada, but our GPS is barking Italian commands and we seem to be getting there.  This intersection only slowed us down for a second or two.

We are headed to Sassano to search for records of the surname, Barbella.  My great grandfather was born and married here.  We are hoping to meet up with the local priest who has access to the church archives.  

Eventually, we roll into the small town.  We have a reservation, and sure enough, there is our hotel, the Park Hotel Montpellier.  It is a little strange to drive into the parking lot and notice that there are no other cars parked here.  It is a little stranger to knock on the door and not get a response.  This hotel is locked up tight.  

The Park Hotel Montpellier in Sassano
OK!  Our next move is to drive around to see if anyone knows why the hotel is closed.  So we entered the driveway of a nearby home and a young man came out to greet us.  We told him our predicament, and he pulled out his cell phone to make a call.  Apparently he knew the hotel owner.  By the time we exited his driveway, the hotel was open.

OK!  Still, it is a little strange to be in such a nice and modern hotel, and be the only clients.  I guess for 50 Euros a night (breakfast included), I shouldn't have expected a doorman, eh?

We settled into our room and ventured out to find some lunch.  The hotelier recommended La Campagnola, a place down the road.  We drove there, and found the food to be excellent.  The company was good, as well.  The head waiter had been in the states and new some English.  We had their special, pasta fagioli, and it was very good.

 With some food for energy, it is now time for a little exploration.  We go on a mission to find the church of Saint Giovanni Evangelista.  This is the church where my great grandfather's parents were married.  

Thanks to google, we already knew that Sassano was built on a hill.  But we were not prepared for what we saw.  This "hill" rose sharply up the mountain.  It seemed like a 45 degree angle.  Although we saw some cars entering the incredibly narrow streets, we decided to park our car in an open area near the bottom of the town.  

We met some workmen who gave us the bad news that, although the church was not far away, it was at the top of the town.  They directed us up the narrow streets to the church.  So, in the constant drizzle, we set out up the mountain.  Somehow, the labyrinthine streets all seem to converge at the piazza where the church sits.

Mother Church of Sassano, San Giovanni Evangelista
To our disappointment, we found the church locked.  There is no one inside.  We will not be searching records on this day.  We took some pictures and began the descent back to the car when we came upon two women sitting near the church.  We exchanged greetings and began to converse.  They told us that the church will be open in the evening for a mass at 5:30.  

These women are simply hanging out at the church.  This is a very poor town, and these women are unemployed. However, they were friendly and seemed genuinely interested in our quest to find family members.

Word must have quickly spread that "two Americani" were roaming around town looking for family.  Everywhere we went, eyes seemed to follow us, and more often than not, someone would come out to greet us.

We next went to the home of Don Otello Russo.  There we encountered a group of young people playing soccer, but no priest.  He was out.

We went back to our hotel room and began pondering on how we were going to connect with the priest and look for records.  Our plan for the next day included a trip to Padula, and a return to the church for the daily 5:30 PM mass.

Next Post
Padula and another climb up the mountain

No comments:

Post a Comment