Welcome to the Home Page for The DiCrocco Family or anyone who loves Itri and Campodimele, Italy! Entra, siedi e goditi una bella tazza di cafe mentr navighi! Come in and sit for awhile! Enjoy a cup of espresso and browse! Read a little history of Itri and of our family. Maybe you know some of us or are one of our relatives - please email us.
Dedication: This site is dedicated to my wonderful in-laws - they opened arms wide and embraced me, the American, into their family with love and joy that has never ceased to amaze me!
Valentino often tells wondrous and poignant stories of his childhood in Italia – land of pasta, people, and passions. The DiCrocco family has embodied every one of these- huge steaming bowls of spaghetti on groaning tables with all of the family gathered together to feast, to laugh, to cry, most of all to remember and love! All of the passions of life and Italia. Money was never plentiful but the love of family was bountiful and overflowing – And it still is!
Itri on Market Day with view of castle
Bridge of Twentyfive Arches in Itri
Road to Formia
A Little Bit of History of Itri
Itri is located almost midway between Roma and Napoli. Over the centuries from before the Roman Empire, Itri was always a well-traveled town because of the location. War after war was fought to control Itri and the surrounding area because the one who controlled Itri would control what would become the Appian Way. The Tomba di Cicero is located just at the southern edge of town on the way to Formia. Formia and Gaeta as well as nearby Sperlonga have some of the most capitivating shorelines and beaches. The mountains are dotted with magnificent olive groves. Itri produces some of the world's finest olive oil. In the opposite direction is Fondi. Each of the towns are also hosts to weekly mercados where most shop for fresh vegetables, beautiful fruits, cheeses, and even flowers along with the usual other interesting items. A short distance from Itri sits Campodimele, up on a mountainside. This small village is reknown for some of the longest lived folks in the world. It is a beautiful little place that welcomes tourists. Whether it is a quiet stroll on the piazza or sitting sipping espresso at a local bar or shopping the mercados, there is no more inviting place to be than Itri!
The famous bandit Fra Diavolo lived in Itri. He was more of a mercenary than a true bandit, selling his services to the highest bidder. Many years later Padre Pio would also seek solace in Itri living in the mountains with the Cappucian monks. Up on the tallest mountain is a church built to honor the Madonna. The tradition is that the famous painting of the Madonna della Civita was lost at sea when stolen by bandits. There are several versions told of the painting and its discovery by a young deaf mute shepherd searching for his lost cow up in the mountains. The most repeated version tells how he found his cow kneeling at the base of a tree. When the boy knealt and prayed, he was instantly healed. He brought villagers to claim the painting. Once again everyone began to battle over ownership. The painting was taken to a local church but it disappeared again. The villagers found the sacred painting back in the same tree. It was decided the Madonna gave them a sign telling them where She preferred to be. A sanctuary was built on the spot with a glass altar encasing the tree trunk. Adjoining the church are several large rooms where hang hundreds of written testimonies and photographs of miracles attributed to Her divine intercession on behalf of the ill and injured as well as preventing serious injuries or death in travel accidents. Cranston, Rhode Island now is home to St Mary’s Church where a replica of the Madonna della Civita is honored with a Feast commemorating her holy days in Itri. Campodimele and Itri still argue over ownership of even the Sanctuario to this present day.
During WWII Itri was unfortunately again on the direct route for all of the armies between Rome and Naples. Everyone marched right through Itri or bombed their way through just as they had for every major conflict before. Itri grows some of the finest prickly cactus figs in the world. A favorite fruit, it was known in many regions but not by the German soldiers. The German soldiers were hungry but clever enough to pay attention to what the natives ate and where to find the food. The people of Itri were also starving and resented the Germans taking their food. They did not offer too much in the way of help. The Germans found the cactus fruit and began to eat and because the fruit was so plentiful, they ate to over-eating. They gorged themselves to the delight of the locals. Too much of a good thing causes severe stomach pain and constipation!
Old theater in Itri
Why Research Family in Itri?
Someone, a friend asked me why I chose to write. She noted the time I was investing in the writing of all the stories here. She felt family probably already had heard most of them a hundred times over. Young folks don’t care anyway, they find it all boring. Maybe she is right because although my family and childhood were filled with good talks and family stories, I am not sure I heard all or listened closely enough to remember them all. How I wish I had now. Sometimes it seems so important and just out of my mind’s reach – fleeting, moments in time that I try to grab but miss.
Valentino relishes telling family stories about life growing up in Italy. Every so often a memory will trigger another long forgotten tale from his past. When he was a young boy, many of the older generations were already gone. Names and dates were unknown. No one took the time to record them in family bibles and many records were lost first when City Hall was bombed and then later when it burned. Surrounded by the ancient beauty and history of Italy, their lives were seen as part of the bigger picture so no one thought to preserve names and dates. It becomes obvious that we will never regain all of the lost information but we can reconstruct quite a bit of the family history.
So I write and with each story hopefully family is reminded of another story to record for future generations. I hope the younger ones will learn and remember and pass on to the next generations. For it is here we find ourselves, to know ourselves. For in each of us is a bit of those who lived before us. A smile, a glance, a curl of the lip, an arch of the eyebrow…. Bits and pieces of others caught in us. A love of land, a passion for a special food, a sense of having been in this place before. We carry those bits of DNA from the past forward with us into the future to pass to the next generation. For through them we find ourselves.
Join me as I go about this journey to bring the past to our present - as I seek to ensure the future of this wonderful family remembers those who gave it its life and passion! Visit here often - I will add stories and fond memories of then and now, of near and far , with tears of joy and sadness ... but always with a deep unbending, unyielding, unconditional love of family!
Natale in Itri
Valentino would tell wonderful stories about Christmas in Itri. Zampogne, the fabled bagpipers, would spend Christmas week serenading the townspeople with their bagpipes still crafted from the old techniques. Shepherds would practice their bagpipes while watching the herds up on the mountains and then play strolling through the town during the holiday season. Craftsmen in Italy still construct the bagpipes using the traditional methods, carving wood pipes by hand, and turning the leather skins into the bagpipes.
Christmas Eve Concetta would bustle about getting everyone ready for midnight mass at the local church. Everyone would fast until after mass. Concetta would have a huge meal planned – the traditional La Vigilia (The Wait for Baby Jesus). It would consist of seven fish dishes – smelts, baccala, calamari, mussels, anchovies, clams, and shrimp or a type of crawfish. All told there had to be twenty-one dishes and everyone was expected to taste a bit of every one – something no one had to be forced to do! Even now family, including those of us here in the US, still follow this tradition although we often wait for Christmas Day to serve all twentyone dishes.
By the time Valentino was a teenager they would have Christmas trees but as children they would have only a huge nativity that he and his brother Carlo would save their few coins to buy figures for. Concetta would somehow manage to sneak Baby Jesus into the manger each year right at midnight without anyone catching her. Valentino and I followed this tradition starting our first year of marriage. Every year we added figures and buidlings to the set, and then began a set for each of our sons to have for their families someday.
Campodimele, Village in The Mountain
This village is known for being home to some of the longest living people known. They average much older than most, so much so that studies are being conducted to see why. Set high in the mountains, they and Itri often have fought over ownership of the Sanctuario di Madonna della Civita. Yet these folks are some of the warmest, friendliest to be met in Italy! Campodimele is the birthplace of the maternal grandfather's line we are searching. A trip through the beautiful secluded cemetary shows most families share our family name so research is time consuming and tedious on the one hand but exciting on the other. We were fortunate to meet the Sindaco of Campodimele and he graciously allowed his staff to assist us in a search for family in the old record books. To see hundreds of years of family records for the town lovingly preserved in the old ledgers was a thrill for us. Privacy laws of Italy do not permit these to be photocopied or filmed but the officer in charge has promised to research as much as possible for us as time allows him.
Campodimele, First View
Be sure to visit again soon - our saga will continue!
Surname List - Names Found in Our Family Trees
Ando Arzano Bedente Bessette Brunori Buonaiuto Carroccio Chalmers Ciccone D'Arcangelo De Nofio De Simone Di Bello DiBratta Di Crocco Di Fusco Di Mezzo Di Segna DiCrocco Dittes Dowling Drolet Durante Fantasia Fumarola Gesualdi Lorenzo Maggiarra Mancini Mateo Moretti Muller Nesca Ocello Palazzo Pannozza Pannozzo Parrillo Pezza Picano Raspallo Reali Riccardi Ricone Rubino Saccoccio Savarese Soccia Soccoccio Stefanini Szumilo Tarallo Tufo Villano Vitale
If any names look familiar, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bonnie Jean Valentino
Copyright 2006 B. J. Di Crocco All rights reserved. All photos are personal property of B. J. Di Crocco and may not be copied, used, reproduced without express permission of photographer.
Here are some of my favorite websites:
http://www.gentedimareitaliangenealogy.com/main/index.html Fantastic group of fellow Italian Family researchers - join us on the community forums!
Italian Genealogy.com http://italiangenealogy.tardio.com/ This awesome group is dedicated to finding our Italian relatives, history of the local towns, and just plain fun! There is no finer group in Italian Genealogy online!