In 1928, my great aunt, her 3 brothers and her mother boarded a 2 week long boat ride. They had never left their small town outside of Naples and they definitely did not know English. The braved their way across the Atlantic and into America. They settled in Greensburg, Pennsylvania like many of their old Italian friends.
Fast forward to the 1990s, when almost every July my family would drive up to celebrate “The Feast” with my grandma and her sister, my great aunt and the rest of the descendants. There would be tons of food, a bad DJ and lots of stories. As a kid I never understood what we were celebrating at mass just that we got to spend time with my family.
This is where I tried espresso for the first time. I remember specifically telling my aunt that I didn’t like coffee without sugar or cream. She said ” Angela, stop trying to make it something it isn’t and enjoy it for what it is”. That has haunted me ever since.
It is with this full heart we decided to plan a trip to Cecremaggorie after both my grandma and great aunt passed away last summer. We traveled for the feast of the Madonna, a statue of Mary that was buried to be protected against a coming war and lost for centuries. Only to be found by a farmer with her hands turned up as in protection.
This small town is 2 hours outside of Naples. Most of the men sit outside and sip coffee not unlike my American Italian New York neighbors. Few of them speak English, wifi is a lofty dream.
We spent the next 3 days in Cercemaggorie touring around with our cousins of my great aunt. It was incredible to walk the streets knowing 90 years ago my family made the incredible decision to up route their life and move to America. In the next few days we got to explore the small town, attend the feast and meet our cousins still living in the town. If only my great aunt could see us know or her mother for that matter, I like to think they would be proud.