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Faicchio | Italy | Italy Travel | DNA Travel | Italy Off the Beaten Path | Travel Stories | Off the Beaten Path Destinations Faicchio | Italy | Italy Travel | DNA Travel | Italy Off the Beaten Path | Travel Stories | Off the Beaten Path Destinations Faicchio | Italy | Italy Travel | DNA Travel | Italy Off the Beaten Path | Travel Stories | Off the Beaten Path Destinations

Faicchio, Italy: Meeting Our Italian Family for the First Time!

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I’m one of those rare Americans that actually knows a good chunk of my family history…partially because it’s easy. I’m half Italian. My Grandpa was born in the US to two Italian immigrant parents, while my Grandma was born in Italy and moved to the US when she was 13 years old.

Now for the in-depth version.

My Family’s Story

My Grandma grew up in the small town of Faicchio, Italy where the only real way to make money was farming. In the 1920s Italy’s economy started tanking and the farm wasn’t making any money. After many failed attempts at finding a job and supporting his family, my Great Grandpa decided his best option was to move to the US, a country that, at the time, was accepting lots of immigrant workers and offered the appeal of a better life.

For six years my Great Grandpa worked in the US, regularly sending installments back to Italy to support his family. Out of those six years in the US, he only came home to Italy once for a few months to visit. According to US law at the time, having lived in the US for 5 years, my Great Grandpa was eligible to apply for citizenship, which was granted in 1930, just after he returned to Italy at the start of the Great Depression.

Following his return to Italy, he met my now Great Grandma. They married and started a family of 3 children. Shortly after they married, the Great Depression went global and devastated an already broken Italian economy.

During the depression, the farm was, once again, not bringing in enough money to support the family. After seven years of depression and poverty, my Great Grandpa decided there was no hope for a better life in Italy. With the US economy growing again, in October of 1937 my Great Grandpa decided the time was right to make a permanent move across the ocean. The plan was for him to move first, find a steady job and good place to live, and then move his family over to start a new life in America, maybe a year or so of separation.

san-pasquale-faicchio
Panoramic views over the town of Faicchio, Italy as seen from San Pasquale Convent.

Well, as they say, best-laid plans. Little did he know that before he was able to save up enough money to bring his family to America, the second deadliest war in history would break out, World War II.

When the war started, all immigration from Italy to the US came to a screeching halt, and my Great Grandpa lost contact with his family. It was several years before he was able to receive any information about his wife and children living under what was then a Fascist regime in Italy.

When the war ended in 1945, my Great Grandpa heard the news that his family was alive, and could start the process of bringing them to America. After 9 years of separation, on February 5, 1947, following an 11 day trip across the ocean on a converted WWII battleship, my Grandma and her family were finally reunited in the United States.

And they lived happily ever after! Sorry you guys, just had to add that in there. So, yeah, there you have it. That’s their story or as much as I know of it anyway.

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That little annex off of the big house is a remnant of the house my Grandma grew up in.

Planning Our Trip

Now, fast forward to the present. Let’s get real for a second because I seriously can’t even imagine what that period of time must have been like for my Grandma’s family. I mean can you imagine moving to another country and not knowing if your wife and kids are alive for almost 10 years?! And, to be honest, probably wondering, “Do I assume the worst and move on, or wait, possibly never being able to find them again?” And then on the flip side, living in poverty in a war-torn country unable to escape and separated from your husband or father?

Man, you guys, of all the possible outcomes and decisions that could have been made, the fact that they had a happy ending and were able to reunite in the US is pretty dang extraordinary. In fact, what’s equally extraordinary is that my Grandma and her parents kept in close contact with the rest of our family in Italy after they moved. They would actually make long distance phone calls across the ocean to talk with the family. Can you imagine how much those phone calls cost back in the day?!

To this day my Grandma still calls our Italian relatives to talk to all of her cousins and their kids and see how everyone’s doing. How amazing is that!

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Justin and I admiring the views over Faicchio.

Of course, growing up with my Grandparents and knowing about our Italian heritage, I’ve always wanted to travel to Italy. My Grandparents have been back to Italy a few times since the big move, but I, nor my parents had ever been. I don’t know what it was about the year 2017, but this was the year that would all change.

Ideally, we wanted to make this a big family reunion in Italy where all of my immediate family would come over. We could reconnect (us living in China and all), meet our relatives, and travel around the country. Well, as I said earlier, best laid plans. Matching everyone’s schedules just never works out, but Justin and I, my parents, and one of my cousins were still able to make it to Italy at the same time to meet the family.

Meeting the Family

My family and I took the train to Telese, the closest train station to Faicchio, where we were met by one of my Grandma’s cousins. He is my Grandma’s only cousin who also moved to the US with his family, but, unlike my Grandma’s family, didn’t cut as many ties to the country. He still has a house in the countryside outside of town with a small farm, now managed by a family friend. He goes back every year for around a month at a time, and it just so happened that our trips coincided.

After arriving at his home, our immediate reaction was, “Why did you move?!”. The stunning view out his kitchen window was enough to make us want to stay forever. And that doesn’t even count the fact that you can literally walk out his front door and pick fresh figs, lemons, and a plethora of other fruit from the trees in his yard. His answer, “My wife and daughters wanted to move to America. I would have stayed but, you know, you can’t win with one woman, how was I gonna win with three?!”… He’s got a point.

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Some of our relatives and us on the terrace of their house in Faicchio.

As we learned, everything grows in Italy. Italian agriculture is so much more than just olives and grapes. And I have to say, after living and traveling around the country for five weeks, that statement is absolutely true, everything grows in Italy. The produce in Italy is on a freshness level unparalleled to anything I’ve ever seen. The food is so delicious that you really don’t need to doctor it at all. It’s the reason why even the simplest pasta with just olive oil and garlic, or a tomato salad can absolutely burst with flavor, and easily become your favorite dish in Italy.

I could go on and on about the food in Italy, and we ate a lot of it. In the three days we spent in Faicchio we probably had about 5 three-course meals (and this was just the beginning of the trip). Every day we met new relatives, all of whom wanted to feed us. And we let them (yes, I have been avoiding the scale since we got back in case you were wondering).

Speaking of meeting people, let me tell you, I never realized before just how much of a blessing it is that my Grandma keeps in such good contact with all of her relatives in Italy. Despite the fact that most of them don’t speak a word of English, all we had to do was mention my Grandmas name and our relation to her, and they knew exactly who we were! It was insane, in the best way.

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One of many delicious family dinners.

I only wish I could speak more than a couple words of Italian. After working on a horse farm for three weeks in Tuscany (prior to meeting my family) my Italian was basically limited to things only horse people would say, like I can tell you how to say hay, grain, and straw in Italian, but I have no clue how to say “nice to meet you”. Not so useful for the average conversation.

I do really want to learn Italian and was hoping to know the basics before I went over there, but life just got in the way and I never found the time (you know how it is). I was traveling like crazy in China for most of the summer, which brushed up my Chinese but was a huge hindrance to the Italian learning process.

Now that we’re back from our trip, having met most of our Italian family, there’s no better motivation for me to learn the language. It’s on my bucket list to go back, spend more time with the family, and actually be able to communicate with them on my own. Please hold me to that Internet fam!

I think I can speak for everyone when I say we were all so incredibly grateful that my Grandma’s cousin was there to show us around and introduce us to all the family members. Without him, the conversations would have been extremely limited, and probably involved a lot of help from Google Translate. So, to my Grandma’s cousin (you know who you are), shout out to you if you’re reading this, and a HUGE thank you!!

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Our family makes their own wine in their basement! Best wine we had in Italy!

Things to Do in Faicchio

While we spent a lot of time meeting different family members in their homes and eating until our stomachs wanted to burst, we also had some free time in between meals to explore a bit of the town and surrounding countryside. Well, mostly the countryside, as Faicchio is what you would call a “one street town”.

And holy moly my friends, Faicchio may be but a dot on the map, but the scenery there is to die for! Faicchio is tucked in the Matese Mountains (the ones that make up the spine of Italy) just a 50-minute drive inland from the city of Naples. While Faicchio itself isn’t much to see, the countryside around it is dotted with a bunch of little medieval towns, all built on a hilltop, that literally looks like they were created from a postcard.

cusano-mutri
Views from the mountain top town of Cusano Mutri we rode to on the bike.

Faicchio’s mountain views are incredible. The area is home to some of Italy’s most luscious green valleys nestled between 2000 plus meter tall rocky topped mountains. It seriously looks like something out of a fairytale. The entire Matese Mountain Region is part of the Matese Regional Park, which boasts some amazing hiking trails and stunning roads that are a cyclists dream.

We had such a blast riding our tandem around the area. The terrain is super hilly with some great climbs and descents, but at reasonable gradients (unlike some of the roads we conquered in Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast). For an outdoors lover, the whole area around Faicchio is just a blast to explore.

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Beautiful riding around Faicchio.

Ugh, I’m getting doey eyed just writing about it it was so perfect. I really cannot imagine a better place to live, and I still have to pinch myself that my family is from such a beautiful place. Is there any better win-win situation than getting to see your family and some stunning countryside at the same time?

Overall, I think our family really appreciated us traveling halfway across the world to meet them. I know we had such a blast meeting everyone and touring the incredible Faicchio area. The funny part is, while I know that all of the US-based crew have been itching to go to Italy for a while now when we asked our Italian relatives if they would come visit us, most of them said they had absolutely no desire to travel to the US! My how times have changed!

Some cool spots to see in and around Faicchio:

San Pasquale Convent

Cusano Mutri

Lago del Matese

Where are you from? Have you ever traveled based on your heritage?

Let us know in the comments!

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