Traveling to Vasto in Search of Distant Cousins


October 4, 1993


Packed a backpack and took a bus to the Port of Authority in New York City. From there I took a bus to Grand Central Station to catch another bus to Kennedy Airport. I recall the bus driver drove like a madman cutting through the side streets to avoid traffic on the major highways. At the airport I recall sitting a bar and waiting for my flight. Out of the blue I saw the comedian and director Mel Brooks racing though the airport.


October 5, 1993


I took a cheap flight and ended up at an airport in Belgium for seven hours waiting for my next plane. I finally arrived at an airport in Rome. I was not sure on how the trains worked and I received help from a Sicilian couple who took the same train as I did to Rome. Around the train station in Rome there was a few hotels, but they were expensive and could not find a room at a fair price. I met a police officer and asked him for help. It turns out the police officer was named Mark and had lived in Paterson, New Jersey for a few years and moved back to Italy to become a police off icier. He helped me call my cousins friend Erene to find a place to stay for the night. I took a cab to Erene's apartment and I recall the cab driver had to drive up a one way street to get to her apartment. I recall Erene had a tough life due to the fact she had a baby for an African and he was not around to help out with the baby.


October 6, 1993


The next day I search and found a room at hotel called Albergo Abruzzi, right across from the Pantheon at the Piazza Della Rotonda. I recall going for a cup of expresso and seeing roaches in the expresso machine near the piazza.


October 7, 1993


I visited the Vatican Museum and the Roman Forum. Later, I hung out around the Piazza Della Rotonda. I ate some pizza and drank some beer.


October 8, 1993


I visited the Augustus Mausoleum, the Augustus Sacrifice Alter, and the Villa Julio where I met a lady named Julia for Kenya. Later, we went to the Piazza del Popolo and had something to eat. We made plans to meet later that night, but nothing ever happened. I called her and the line was busy and I never met her again. That night I ate a restaurant, it sucked. That night the Piazza Della Rotonda was a real mad house. There were many teenagers outside hanging out and making a lot of noise. My room was right above this mess. I decided to go out and in the lobby of the hotel I met some ladies from America. Nice ladies, but little too old for me. Around six o'clock it poured rain.


October 9, 1993


That morning I packed up and went to the train station in Rome. But, I found out it is better to take a bus to Vasto. So, it turns out that near the train station is a bus station. I got my ticket and then went to the Roman Museum by the train station. I had a beer and then met a man named Fabio who was also going to Vasto. But, anyhow, Rome is beautiful, except fro the air pollution. It took four hours on a bus to get to Vasto from Rome. I arrived in Vasto at seven at night. I had a hard time finding a hotel. Most were closed for the season. After I found a place to stay I found it hard to find a restaurant. Most restaurants close at seven at night. I found a restaurant and saw that a lot of people had the same eyebrows that I did. Also, they seemed to have the same hair and face. After a very fatty dinner, I walked around the main piazza in Vasto. It was like a homecoming. The piazza was filled with people, young teenagers, and I felt they had rolled out the red carpet.


October 10, 1993


I went to Tana Pizzeria and met a fellow who knew Johnny Manna, a cousin to the family on my grandmother’s side of the family. The owner was a Tana, but it was hard talking to him. Later, at the same piazza, I went to the Pietrocola Pharmacy, and met a Pietrocola who know no one from America. But, he gave me his grandfather’s phone number. Since, my Italian is pretty bad I asked for his address because it is easier to talk Italian person to person than on the telephone. See Photo Vasto Piazza.


October 11, 1993

What a disaster! I received some maps of the city, but the addresses that had brought did not match. Certain streets were missing and the address numbers have changed over the years. At one address I met a Nicola Aradatelli, in Vasto Marino. She was a friend of the family, and spoke English. She helped me a little, but later, I tried to find relatives with other addresses in Vasto. I recall walking around the outskirts of town looking for another address and I received help from some children. The children brought me a house that had an adult who would help me. I recall the children talking to the lady. The lady then approached me and put her arms up to grab a clothes line. When I saw her arm pit hairs that she had I could not stop laughing. I have never seen long hair under a woman’s arms. All the children and adults could not understand what was so funny. I guess they thought I was glad they were helping me.  After getting the children and adults helping me I was almost being delivered to the address I was looking for. Another friend of the family named Rachelle Arditelli. Afterwards, I was driven to Giosaffatte Pietrocola’s house in the old medieval section of Vasto. After our greetings I was asked to return to the next day for dinner. Later, I rested and stop by Tana Pizzeria to confirm if they are related. It turns out they are very distant relatives on the Tana side of the family. After, I ate, went to the piazza, talked to some locals, and then headed to the hotel. At the hotel I met Pietro, an old man who is from Vasto, but lives in Rome, and  Giosaffatte, from Turkey and from Vasto, and spoke English and helped me learn about Vasto and my family. See Photo of Vasto Marino. Also, See Photo of Children of Vasto.


October 11, 1993


In the morning I tried to find a Laundromat that was close to the hotel. It turns out that it would take two days to wash my clothes. So, I used shampoo and water in the bathroom sink to wash my clothes. Afterwards I put the clothes on the balcony to have the sun dry my clothes. It turns out the sun did not dry my clothes fast enough and I ended up wearing shorts and a blue shirt to Guiseppe Pietrocola’s house. I purchased a bottle of wine and I left the price on it. Woops! Then I went to their house on 10 Valerico Loccetti. Before, I met a woman at the hotel who knew a lot about Vasto and knew the people in the photos that I found in my grandmothers apartment after she past away. At the house I met Giosaffat Pietrocola, his wife, Argenti Vigilia, their son Carlo Pietrocola, and Alfonso Pietrocola, who was Giosaffat’s brother, and Alfonso’s wife Santa D’Angelo. One thing we did was researched a picture I brought from America. The picture was that of my grandmother, Filomena Pietrocola, and a bunch of other friends and relatives at Carlo brother’s wedding back in the 1970’s. I recall Carlo made and outline of the photo, since there was a lot of people in it, and wrote down the names of the people that he knew in the photo on the outline. One funny incident happened when I asked who was living and who was not in the photo. Since I was not too sure of all the names I recall confirming with Carlo saying “O.K. he is dead, he is alive, and she is dead etc.” Then I pointed to a person on the photo and said, “Is he dead?’ and Carlo said, “No,” and pointed to his Giosaffatte in the room and said that he was alive.  At dinner we talked about the family and distant relatives and I hit the jackpot. I turns out that Carlo had a full family tree already made. So much for the Mormons and their microfiche. The tree goes back to 1600’s. We talked, we ate, had coffee, and then I went for a ride to Alfonso’s house in Carlo’s car. I recall saying that the Alfonzo’s house looked like a “museo” or a “museum.” After, Carlo stops at a place that made copies and made me a copy of the family tree for me. That night I walked the piazza and everyone was staring at my shorts. I guess I looked out of placed since most people had their autumn clothes on and I had shorts. At the hotel I watched the television in my room. I recall watching the movie “Roots” on the television. It odd watching American television with Italian voices. See Photo of Dinner.


October 12, 1993


I woke up early to dry my clothes and then at nine o’clock I went to Saverio Tana’s house in the old section of Vasto. After talking on the intercom, I finally met Saverio and his wife Margerghita. Saverio could pass as my father’s brother. He was bald like my father and had the same eyes and mouth. We talked about our families and about my grandmother. Tomorrow I am going to have diner with them. After coffee, Saverio and I took a bus to get his car at his son’s job, a huge indoor garden in Vasto Marino. We took a ride to the Vasto Marino resort area, then to Vasto, then to the “Hotel dei Siete,” my hotel, to get rid of my jacket. It must have been seventy-eight degrees fahrenheifdt. Later, I took a bus to Alfonso Pietrocola’s house for dinner. Along with Santa Angela, his wife, we had pasta, steak, and cabbage with vinaigrette eggplant. They lived like slobs, but in a nice house. Now I know where my father received his bad habits from. Later, Alfonzo and I went for a walk on the beach, which was polluted, and then back to the house. I said my goodbyes, and took the bus back to the piazza. Note: Alfonzo lived in Australia for thirty-two years, then return to Vasto. Amazing. That night I return to the hotel and watched television with many American programs. Later, I set off and right outside the hotel I met Michele, a friend of Saverio Tana, who lives in Boston, U.S.A. We talked about the city and it’s habitants. Michele was a very nice man who brought me a drink at the hotel. Later, I finally went to a pizzeria that was open. I found it, the pizza looked horrible. I asked if they had any more. The lady noticed I was American and told her husband. I was stuck there for two hours talking Italian with the husband. But, I did get a free slice of pizza. We talked about Italy, America, and women. See Saverio's House.


October 13, 1993


I needed some money and I went to a bank. The bank wanted a relative to co-sign my Travelers Check. Another bank said that their computers were broke. Another bank did not accept Travelers Checks. Finally, I found a bank that would exchange the checks, but received a horrible rate. Right now I am getting ready to eat a Saverio Tana’s house. At Saverio’s house I arrived, showed the photographs, and he spotted his sister. Her sister is Gina with Bernato Tabilio in their wedding photo. I brought a bottle of vino for dinner. Before eating Saverio and I went on a ride to Vasto Marino and north to Punta Pena to see a port with private boats and later to archaeological site. By coincidence, Gina’s daughter was working there. He took me through the industrial section, it smelled like home, then to where his son Fabio worked. Also, we went by the cemetery and the local schools. We picked-up Fabio at the garden center, then off to his apartment. There I met Patricio who is another son. We ate a pasta meal with a fish sauce. The fish sauce had some type of small lobster and some type of fish that was little. We also had another type of fish that was dry with roasted peppers on the side. We had ice-cream and expresso afterwards. I recall Saverio Tana was jokingly yelling at my why I was not working. I said in my bad Italian “me no piace a lavorare” or “I do not like to work.” His sons all looked at me and started to laugh because I guess being lazy was Saverio’s idea of life in general. I recall Saverio also showing me his photos of him in the Italian navy and other photos of the family. I recall asking him if he was a facist during the war and he replied that he was not.  We watched television, talked, and later Saverio, Margherita, and I took a ride to Gina and Bernato’s house where I met them, their son Giovanni, and Gina’s Greek classical tutor. We talked for awhile of the family and me. Gina is a teacher and constantly corrected my bad Italian and had her son translate most of what I said. Later, we went back to a bus station to pickup Fabio, and then to Saverio’s house. I also met another son, but I cannot recall his name. I found out later it was Michele who lives in Milan. Later I dropped the film of the family snap shots and waked back to the hotel to face the bad news. It cost $8.00 to make the two phone calls to Rome to change my flight back home. Another problems I faced that day  is that Saverio drives like a nut and after eating fish at his house I could not get rid of the smell of fish from my hands. Tomorrow I have plans to eat at Gina’s home in the new suburban section of  Vasto. See Photo Gina and Family.


October 14, 1993


Today I started with a walk to the Library of Gabriel Rossetti which was very small and hard to find. I found a census of this town dating back to 1748. Afterwards, I stop at a pastry shop and ate a Sfogliatella. I was the best! Afterwards, I went to Saverio’s house, then walked to the town commune or town hall, and met Bernato who worked there. He was in charge of the school bus system. Bernato could get me in the town museum and get my grandparents birth certificates. There I met Giovanni. We took his car to pickup his mother Gina. First, we went the wrong school, then to Gina’s house in the new suburban section of Vasto to drop off Gina. Then we went to a bar for drinks. We talked about America and how American Italian males are called “Guido’s,” and how Andrew Dice Clay makes fun of Italians. Giovanni could not believe of the tales I told. Later, we went back to his house for dinner around 2:00. There I met Anna, Gina’s daughter and we ate and talked. The food was excellent. A baked ziti dish with no sauce, but it was made of ham, cheese, peas, and noodles. Also, we ate eggplant in sauce with cheese. Later, friends of Giovanni came to the house. There was Carlo, an English speaking Italian, and another person, I do not recall his name, who had a dog, came by the house. We all talked and later Gina, Anna, who was in car accident that day, and I went to an archeological site near Punta Pena. At the site there were the walls of an old medieval house and a roman house that only had a mosaic floor. I recall in the old medieval house a student was taking out the bones of a person. She told me that in medieval time the people would bury their dead in the walls of their houses. Afterwards, we went to Lucia’s house. Lucia is the sister of Gina. At Lucia’s house I met her two daughters and many grandchildren. She looked a lot my aunt Gilda. Afterwards, I met her husband Americo. We then were driven by Americo back to Gina’s house because Anna took the car to an eye appointment. At Gina’s house I met Giovanni, Giovanni’s friend Carlo, Gina’s nephew, I forgot his name, Bernato, and Anna. I recall Gina’s nephew gave me books and a video on Vasto which came from a travel agency. There I saw a picture of my grandmother with other relatives. Afterwards, Carlo, Giovanni, and I went to a bar near the piazza. The beer was very strong. I had two beers and I felt I drank a six pack of regular beer. At the bar I met a girl from Boston, a niece of Michele, who I met earlier at the hotel, and her name was Carla. Also, there was a Canadian and a girl from Vasto. Afterwards, we went to another bar near the Castello Caldoresco. We talked about girls generally. Later, I was driven back to the hotel around 1:00 A.M. See Photo Piazza di Gabriel


October 15, 1993


I woke up early, another beautiful day, went to the Commune, met Bernato, who introduced me to Luigi, and Luigi and I went to the museum, which was closed for the winter. But, Luigi had the keys to the museum and opened it for me. I saw many pictures, Roman and Medieval artifacts, and Greek objects. Later, Bernato at the Commune received the birth certificates of my grandparents Filomena Tana and Gregorio Pietrocola I. One problem was they were newly written copies, not copies of the original documents like the ones from the Mormon Church. Another problem I had that day was that the photos that I had developed in  Vasto had six picture missing. In Italian the lady at the photo place said, “normale” when things go wrong. It turns out that they do not print out dark photos. I had them developed in the U.S. Americo, Lucia’s husband, picked me up at the hotel at 12:00. From there we went to the cemetery so I could find the graves of the past relatives. Unfortunately, the place was so big, all the burials were marble mausoleums or in Italian “chapellas.” After walking around for a short time I gave up. At the cemetery I met Saverio Tana and his wife Margherita. I recall Margherita was moved by my search for dead relatives in the cemetery. Saverio showed me his relative’s chapellas. Saverio knew exactly where they will bury him when he dies and showed me his chapella. After, Americo and I went to his house where I met Francesco, Lucia’s son, and his wife, Antoinette. We ate a chicken soup dish, with manicotti shells filled with chicken and cheese. Also, we had chicken and mash potatoes. Francesco and I hit it off. He made his own wine. Later, we had biscotti like cookie filled with marmalade grapes. After, Francesco and Antoinette left. It turns out that Antoinette was into karate. Americo, Lucia, and I talked. After, Lucia and I went to Nicoletta’s house who was Saverio, Gina, and Lucia’s sister. There I met Nicoletta’s son Marco, his wife Mariella, their two children, Aldo and Luca, and Nicoletta’s other son Dominico. I could not believe that Nicoletta had the same eyes, face, and hair as me grandmother’s Filomena Pietrocola. Later, I was driven back to the hotel. It was a cold that night. I picked-up my jacket and went to the piazza. First, I went to the West Coast Pub for a strong beer called Ceres. Later, I went for some pizza at the same pizzeria I had gone earlier. Then to the piazza where I met a girl who I had met earlier when I was lost last Sunday. Later, I went to another Pub near the castle. There I ate a sandwich which was horrible. It had tomato, cheese, and ham on burnt toast. I then had more Ceres beer. Then I went back to the hotel. See Photo San Pietro.


After visiting a lot of relatives, here are some stories that I recall on my family.


When my grandmother Filomena Pietrocola took a train to Vasto there was some men who were sleeping on the train with their shoes off. The smell from their feet filled up the train car. So, my grandmother woke the men up and told then to put their shoes back on.


My Uncle Joe Pietrocola visited Vasto back in nineteen fifties. The relatives in Vasto said he ate a lot of cheese.


People could not believe the tallness my grandfather, Gregorio Pietrocola, and the shortness of my grandmother, Filomena Tana.


My grandma Filomena Pietrocola brought the wedding dress for Gina Tabilio’s wedding.


October 16, 1993


First, I went to the photo store to complain of the bad quality of work. But, it turns out in Italy they do not process bad photos quality wise, only the good ones. I recall the girl at the photo shop saying that not printing dark photos was “normale.” Later, I went to Giosaffatte’s home. I met Argenti Vigilia, Giosaffatte, and Carlo took more photos and made plans of visiting tomorrow morning. They told me we are related to Dr. Giuseppe Pietrocola who owns a pharmacy. Later, I went to Pietrocola Street, took a photo, but the “l” and “a” in Pietrocola were missing at the end of the name. Later, I went to Dr. Giuseppe Pietrocola’s house and no one was home. Also, I stop by the Pietrocola Pharmacy and they were closed for vacation. After, I returned to the hotel. Around 12:15, Gina picked me up and we went to a shop were they made books and other artwork. The brought me a history book on Vasto and a pamphlet on Vastese songs. Later, we went to the produce shop for fruit and then to her house. At her house Giovanni showed me his synthesizer and computer which had many different programs. Then he showed me a video on Vasto tourism. We ate a dish that had eggs with bread with cheese on a type of soft biscuit in a thick tomato sauce. Also, steak with roasted peppers, and for dissert a type of cheese and liqueur yogurt pie. After, Giovanni friends, Carlo, Luca, his dog Decca arrived and we all went in Carlo’s Maserati to visit Vasto Marino for ice-cream. There we ate and went for a walk on the beach that was deserted. There, I told a dirty joke and English and Carlo translated it in to Italian. We all laugh because it was a very dirty joke. Later, I was dropped off at the hotel. Carlo drove the Maserati like a nut and they could not believe that the speed limit in the U.S. is 55 miles per hour. I recall going to sleep that night and I was watching the movie “Roots,” by Alex Haley. It was odd watching the movie dubbed in Italian. See Photo Vasto Street.


October 17, 1993


In the morning I brought my sfogliatelle, then I went to what I believes was my grandmother’s house and took a picture. Later, I was told that all the numbers on the houses have been changed and I may have taken a photo of the wrong house. Then I went to Giossaffatte Pietrocola’s house for more information on the family tree. There I met Carlo’s sister Susa and here two children, Brigitte and Federica. There I found out that Carlo was making an updated version of the family tree. Giosaffette started singing, I believe his old age was making him do some crazy things, and said I should start working and get married or “You will die like a dog.” From there Carlo drove me to the hotel. I washed up and then went to Saverio Tana’s house for dinner. Patrizio, Fabio, Margherita, and Saverio and I ate. We had home made spaghetti with a type of manicotti with meat, spinach, and ricotta cheese. Also, meatballs, brasoille, mash potatoes, mushrooms, and stuff peppers with meat and ricotta cheese. After, we had melon and cake and coffee. What a great meal. Later, Lucia and her daughter Sylvia and two grandchildren stop by. After, leaving Saverio’s house I went to the hotel to sleep, but I could not, so I went to the piazza for a walk. There were a lot of people at the piazza. Also, I met Lucia, Anna, Sylvia, Lucia’s daughter, Sylvia’s husband, Francesco, and al of Lucia’s grandchildren. I only recall Barbara’s name. Then I went back to the hotel to sleep. See Photo of Dinner.


October 18, 1993


The first thing I did was to run around looking for a bank that had the best exchange for the dollar, but really what counted was the crowd  and the caliber of the bank tellers. I returned to the hotel and talked to the manager for a while. Later, I went to Giosaffette Pietrocola’s house for dinner. There I had minestrone soup, veal cutlets, salad, and bread. Carlo Pietrocola and I talked of the family. To my surprise, there was a family crest. The family crest had a female face with wings on its side. He also told me that “Pietro” means rock and “cola” means bird. I guess “cola” is a type of bird that must live in this area. Later, he showed me the site were the Pietrocola crest is located. It is located on a side of a building near the San Pietro Church, which has only the front of the church because the rest of the church fell down the side of the mountain. Later, in Carlo’s car we returned so I could take pictures of the family crest. Later, I walked to the hotel and talked to another manager. That night I went to Saverio Tana’s house to say, “Good-bye.” I ended up eating there for dinner at nine o’clock. We had rice with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, salad, but it was really cabbage, stuffed peppers, and a green tomato that Saverio loved. Fabio, Patrizio, Margherita were also there. A funny incident happen is that television and dinner is a common companion. While eating and watching television there was a sitcom on the announcers from different parts of Italy. The sitcom was soccer announcer from the big cities such as Rome, Naples, and Bari. What I could not believe was that the comedian making fun of the announcer from Bari resembled the person I knew from the United States. I used to work for a pizzeria delivering pizzas and his name was Joe from Bari. But, what was so funny was that the person on the television and Joe the pizza man were identical. Later, we had desert. Saverio and I did a shot of Sambuca. I thought it was crazy, after eating all that food, but I did it anyway. Later, I said “good-bye” and then went back to the hotel. See Photo Pietrocola Street.


October 19, 1993


That morning I said “good-bye” to one manager, Signora Barone, and her mother, who knew many people in Vasto, including some relatives. I recall as I was leaving the mother stated to cry because of my departure. I went to the ticket office to buy a bus ticket to Rome. I recall, eating a quick lunch, a sandwich, and a beer. After eating I met Bernato Tabilio in the street to wish him a good-bye. I went on the bus to Rome. In Rome I went back to the Albergo Abruzzi, instead of a noisy room above the piazza I had a noisy room in the back of the hotel. But, this time I had a television. I could look out my window and look across the alley and see a television in some other person’s apartment across the alley. Also, before I went to the Saprena Airline office to change the date of my departure. I had no problem making the change. I told them it was an emergency, but really I was out of money to stay in Italy. That night I ate at restaurant near the hotel called Antonio’s for dinner. The pasta was very good. I recall asking the waiter if Mussolini ate at the restaurant. He said, “No.”


October 20, 1993


This morning I went to work. I walked to the train station and after much confusion; I went to the airport where I caught a plane to Brussels. On the plane I met a girl named Akemi of Japan. Landed in Brussels and had to change the date of departure again without any penalties. In the airport I brought come Cuban cigars. On the way to New York I met a woman who had traveled the West Coast of Africa. I met another man who had lived in Africa for six months because he had a girlfriend in the Peace Corps. I finally landed in New York and called my house and took a bus back to my house.