Return to Celenza: Our Stories

Torre Cousins
Photo courtesy of Dave Pettinicchi. Dave's Torre cousins in Celenza.

Many of our ancestors dreamed of returning to Celenza: its winding cobblestone roads, expansive green fields and warm community. Others made a new life for themselves in America and never looked back on the poverty and hunger. This small town, 5000 miles from where most of us live in America, where virtually no one speaks English, may seem entirely foreign to us at first glance. The amazing thing, however, is that over 100 years and 5000 miles can never break the bonds of family and friendship that perhaps you never knew existed. The Celenzani's love of their countrymen and women (paesani) has never waned. If you visit Celenza, you will know what it feels like to return home, to your home. These are the stories of some fellow descendants of Celenza Valfortore and their return "home." Tell us your story.

Richard's return to Celenza

Richard Serluco with Mayor of Celenza
Photo courtesy of Richard Serluco. Richard with the Mayor of Celenza

"I want to thank you again for the information you previously provided to me relative to Celenza Valfortore. In September of this year, I visited Celenza with my wife and daughter for two days. Three (3) families met us at the Hotel San Pietro. The maiden names of the three women who came to see us were D'Attelis. The Hotel Manager, Giovanni Gadeleta, acted as a translator for us. I provided them with information about my Grandfather and an Uncle who came from Celenza; however, we could not determine if we were related."

"The three (3) couples then showed us around the town. It was a wonderful experience. The only difficulty we had was that we did not speak any Italian, and they did not speak any English. Fortunately, they knew a young man who spoke English, and he was able to translate for us. They also took us to the Mayor's office. The Mayor indicated they would check the town's records to obtain information about my family's roots, if possible. We are hopeful we will be able to find additional information about my family."

"You will be interested to hear that I stopped in a Café in town to see if anyone spoke English. No one did, but one person knew of Waterbury, Connecticut!"

"The Hotel Manager, Giovanni Gadeleta, also joined us and arranged to have a driver take us to the town of Montaguto where my paternal grandfather was born. We visited with a woman named Serluca in Montaguto."

"Again, Lori, it was a great experience. Your Website about Celenza Valfortore and the other information you provided certainly facilitated the trip and made the visit more enjoyable. Thanks again for your assistance."

"Sincerely, Richard J. Serluco"

Michael's return to Celenza

"Well, my family and I visited Italia for first time and had unexpected pleasure and surprises almost every day. We went from Rome to Naples then rented a car and went south and east. We swam in the beautiful Adriatic. It was quite hot in late July and early August, but we adapted well. We ended our 3 week stay in Celenza."

Angelicola Cousins
Photo courtesy of Michael Angelicola. Michael Angelicola's cousins in Celenza.

"The only nearby hotel was the Relais San Pietro. The staff was unusually helpful, friendly and personable. The ride up the winding two lane road was beautiful with vistas of rolling farmland, wooded patches, and other hilltop towns. I personally would not drive the well surfaced and maintained roads after dark. The comune of Celenza itself is hilly with cobblestoned streets. The people we met were very outgoing, friendly and curious of our relationships with present and past Celanzani. Through some luck and help from town hall, we met a second cousin and his family. The Marzanos and Fabales were delightful and showed us around town, including where my greatgrandfather once lived in the mid to late 1800's. Even with my limited Italian, we could communicate effectively until a younger relative who was bilingually fluent made conversation more spontaneous. We loved our visit to Italy, Celenza, relatives and the large number of helpful people we met. My suggestion is that you should not delay a trip to Italy and your "hometowns" like I did for so many years. Salve tutti!! If anyone wishes specific answers to questions about my travels through Rome and southern Italy, feel free to email me at"

Dave's return to Celenza

"I travel a lot for my job and managed to reconnect with the Pettinicchi cousins, some of whom live in the UK, where I visit often for work. . . . Back in 2001 (just before 9/11), we arranged for my dad to join me in London. We flew with the UK cousins to Pescara then rented a car to Petrella Tifernina, in Molise, formerly a part of Abruzzi, to visit the Pettinicchi cousins. We spent 6 days with the family. During the visit, my dad and I thought we'd take a ride down to Celenza, which of course turned into a caravan, because all the Pettinicchi cugini had to come with us!!!"

"We parked in the piazza in the center of Celenza (beautiful views from everywhere, as you know), then walked to a small gift shop. A very nice young woman was behind the desk, and we asked if she knew of the Covelli/Torre family. My dad showed her a picture of one of his Covelli cousins, and she started crying. It was her father, who had recently passed away. What a coincidence to happen to run into our second cousin out of the blue. Well, the frenzy started all over town . . . cousins everywhere. In a span of about four hours, we visited at least six families and homes . . . and were stuffed full of food at each stop."

Dave, his dad and the shopkeeper
Dave, his father, and his cousin, the shopkeeper

"We also went to city hall where the mayor himself showed us my grandmother's birth entry in the city record book."

Dave and his at the town hall
Dave and his father at the Ufficio Stato Civile (town hall)

"It was a short but memorable visit. I'm still in touch with one of my cousins, Nicola Torre, who is an artist and has a website of his own, with many watercolor paintings of Celenza."

Robert's return to Celenza

"I visited [Celenza] a couple of years ago and found it an incredibly charming town with beautiful people. My nonno's name must have been in honor of the church there, San Francesco. . . . Celenza grows olives, walnuts and the food is really terrific. I ate in a restaurant owned by Antoinetta who made by hand her own macaroni, olive oil and put together a meal that I'll long remember."

Robert in Celenza
Robert Vitarelli in Celenza

"My son, Gregory, and I drove across Italy and found Celenza Valfortore with the help of two really helpful policemen (who drove God knows how many kilometers to show us the correct way.) My son had a videocam and I hung out the window filming our trip up the mountain. It was March, cold, some very light snow horizontally following the wind. I must say that when we parked the car and I set foot on the cobblestones there, I began to cry. Knowing my grandparents were born there and I was seeing the same scene on my arrival that they saw on the day of their departure for America really touched my heart."

Gene's return to Celenza

Gene Traczyk was kind enough to share some memories of his return to his grandfather's town of Celenza. Gene's grandfather was Vincenzo Recchio (originally Recchia). Gene's grandmother was from "Carlantino," a sister town located very close to Celenza Valfortore. Her maiden name was "Poce".

"I first visited Celenza with my family in the late 70's while stationed for four years at Aviano AFB. I returned to Italy on vacation in (1987) [and] visited Celenza the second or third time. I remember arriving late at night (11-12 PM), and a wine festival was still going on. Thought everyone would have been sleeping. I stayed at my grandfather's brother's daughter and husband's home (Mr. Tony and Rose Gallo), if I remember correctly. The next day we met their two sons Michael and Daniel's family and had a wonderful time. Lots of laughter trying to make the family connections especially when my Italian language was very poor. It improved later. I also recall the evening town walks near . . . 'il punto,' 'the point.' This is where folks from the town (Celenza), gather in the valley, near a little stream, and pass each other walking back and forth stopping to discuss everything . . . includ[ing] family, politics, current events, news, or whatever. From my understanding, this is a fairly common practice in southern and many parts of Italy. . . . [H]owever, the biggest thing that impressed me about Celenza was how independent [and] hard working my family and the people from Celenza are and what a warm, fun-loving sense of humor they have."

"My grandfather was a farmer and my grandmother a baker. He migrated to the US around 1905. He enlisted in the US Army when WWI broke out and was sent back to Europe to fight in the trenches. It took until my later [years] to realize the hardship and sacrifice he experienced. He settled and built a house in West Haven, Connecticut, which is still standing, worked for Armstrong Rubber Co. in West Haven for many years, and passed away when he was 85 years old. What a hard working, strong, and dignified man he was, despite not having a formal education. He lost a couple [of] fingers on one hand in machine accidents at work and could still play the accordion. . . . [A]s you can see I'm very proud of my Italian heritage and my family."