So, I went to the city hall and met the mayor. I had sent an email to the city hall a month ago and he responded. He said it has always been an aspiration to reconnect with emigrants, and he was excited I was coming. We had the best conversation we could have given our language barrier. He gave me a beautiful ceramic vase as a gift, a personal note, and also showed me the 1880s original birth certificates of my great-great grandparents.
Translation, the best I could:
“Grateful for your coming and your attachment to this village and to your origins.”
“Best wishes to all of ours in Cleveland and in the United States, you are always in our thoughts, particularly the children of my aunts Filomena and Carmela. With affection.”
A few different people passed through the office and all of them got involved in the conversation about me, but I couldn’t understand what they were saying. One guy turned to me and asked me if I lived in the Mayfield part of Cleveland (not joking) and he said he knew a guy who lived there. I met an employee of the city who had the same surname as my ancestors here so she must have been a relative somewhere along the line. Another lady called another relative.
This relative no longer lives in Matrice, she moved to Milan. (Another example of emigration.) She has a family tree and lots of information. I sent her an email and she responded with some charts. I now have some branches of our family going back to the 1600s, and she is going to send more.
Then we walked outside and the Mayor asked if I wanted a coffee. As we were walking, we ran into a guy named Pino. They started talking about Santa Maria della Strada, a nearby church, and told me I had to go. All of a sudden I was with Pino in his car. Normally I don’t care for getting into cars with strangers but I really trusted the mayor.
I drove with Pino for about 5 minutes and he was hard to talk to. I find some Italians are more patient than others when talking to me in my broken Italian. I also think he was speaking in a thick accent or possibly dialect which made it more difficult to me. But he brought me to this church which dates back to 1100 AD and is a national monument in Italy. Turns out Pino is helping with some restoration work on the church. He let me check it out for 20 minutes while he did some work in the garden.
After that he drove me back into town. I walked up the street to the “Alimentari” or small grocer and introduced myself. He sold me some fruit and some deli meat. His surname was familiar to me, as are many of the surnames I’ve come across in my short stay in this area… it’s almost like a mirror image of Mayfield/Cleveland.
The people I’ve met here in Matrice have been incredibly accommodating and welcoming and I’ll always think fondly of them and this experience in the future.
After that I went back to my B&B, ate lunch, and did some research. I talked to my host about the relative with a family tree and it turns out she also wrote a book about Matrice. The host had the book, right in her living room. I spent a few hours thumbing through it translating what I could. I ended up scanning the whole thing with my phone.
And then I spent the rest of the day relaxing and working on travel plans. It’s nice to have some downtime after three weeks of constant movement in Rome, Florence, Venice, etc.