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Calabria: Father and daughter return to the Old Country – Part One

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By Karlie Marrazzo

The day that I had been impatiently waiting for since my first trip to Italy in 2008 had finally arrived; I was taking my dad to Piane Crati, a small town in the hills of Calabria outside of the city of Cosenza. This sleepy town is where my father and his father before him (my Nonno), were born, and which he hadn’t seen since the family left for Canada in 1958. Neighbouring Piane Crati is the even tinier village of Donnici Superiore, where my Nonna hails from. It is likely that I had really been waiting for this trip for my whole life; although I was born in Canada, the passion and soul of Italy has always coursed through my veins, and I’ve always felt a deep-rooted connection to the land of my ancestors.

To read the introductory post to this series, please click here! This trip took place in August and September 2016.

My eyes snapped open at 2 am, a combination of excitement, jet lag and heat waking me from my light slumber. Today was our first full day in Cosenza, in Italy! I opened the window to let any hint of a breeze flow through and cool down my high-ceiling bedroom at the B&B Paparelle. I heard my dad awake in the other room at the same time; nervousness and excitement likely coursing through his veins even more so than in my own. Eventually, we drifted back to sleep, waking up again at 8:45 am and having a slow breakfast of coffee, fruit and packaged pastries.

It was 10:30 am by the time we got into our compact rental car and headed for the hills. As we drove through the old streets of Cosenza, so narrow that you sometimes find yourself involuntarily holding your breath in hopes that you’ll be slim enough to make it through, my dad exclaimed how cool and beautiful everything was, the word “wow” escaping his lips multiple times. To see him be so in awe with his country of birth, after describing my awe to him for years, brought me so much joy, and still does to this day.

Continue reading Calabria: Father and daughter return to the Old Country – Part One

Quest to Calabria: Uncovering my Italian ancestry

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A narrow cobblestone street in the village of Donnici Superiore, Italy

By Karlie Marrazzo

Like millions of Italians before and after them, my family was part of the great Italian diaspora that took place at the end of the 19th century and well into the 20th. Almost 30 million Italians emigrated during that period for similar reasons – to escape poverty, war and lack of work and to start better lives for themselves and their families. One of those emigrants was my five-year old father, Carlo. The Marrazzo family left poor Southern Italy in waves beginning in the mid-50s. My Nonno (grandfather) followed in his parents’ footsteps and left for Canada in 1956, working hard for two years to save enough to bring the rest of his family over. At the end of 1958, my Nonna, along with three children between the ages of three and seven, said goodbye to their small town of Piane Crati, Calabria, and never looked back. They made the 300km journey by train to Naples, where they boarded the Saturnia ship and spent a week crossing the Atlantic Ocean. This was followed by a week-long train trip crossing the vast expanse of Canada and finally arriving in their new home of Edmonton, Alberta, a place immensely different from the home they had just left behind.

Continue reading Quest to Calabria: Uncovering my Italian ancestry