My Day in Alcara

Where I last left off, I had just arrived in Alcara li Fusi on Tuesday afternoon. After I arrived and checked into my room, I relaxed for a little bit as I had a very early morning that day.

In the early evening, I decided to go and find something to eat. I walked until I found the local bar and went in and asked for a sandwich. I received one of the best sandwiches I’ve had over the past four months. The tomatoes were blood red, bursting with flavor.

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I talked to the owner and the waitress and told them who I was and why I was there and they were both very friendly. I told the owner how I had journeyed through Italy from North to South and he congratulated me for “saving the most beautiful (Sicily) for last.) I told him my grandmother’s maiden name (her father was born here) and he said he knew it but that there were many, many people in this town with that name. I told them both that I would stop in again and wished them a nice evening.

While I ate, a bunch of families and a small band marched by the front of the bar with a statue of a Madonna. Some sort of procession and I’m not sure what it was for. The main festival of Alcara is in August but I guess they are just always having festivals. Maybe it was a rehearsal. I regret to say I didn’t have a chance to get a picture. Sorry everyone, some things you just have to come to see!

I stopped at a small grocery store on my way back to my room and picked up some snacks and deli meat and bread and went to my room to sleep.

In the morning, I started to walk around the town. I was looking for the city hall but failed to find it. It started to drizzle so I started to head back to my room to get my rain coat. On the way back, I noticed a small stationary store with my grandma’s maiden name on it. I stopped to talk to the people. I met the girl working, who shared the surname, so maybe a distant, distant cousin, and also the guy who owned the place next door. They both recommended I go to the city hall to do research. I told them I couldn’t find it so the guy ended up driving me there.

I had a actually corresponded with this particular city hall a few years ago. I wrote them a letter and they sent me my great-grandfather’s birth certificate, just when I started to get into genealogy. So I didn’t really need anything from them. I decided to just kind of pop in and thank them for helping me a few years ago, and see what happens. They were very nice, and happy I thanked them, but the conversation sort of fizzled out so I said goodbye and left. I went to my room and had a sandwich.

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As I was walking away, I realized I had one other question for them but forgot to ask. I was looking for Via San Vincenzo, because I had my great-grandfather’s address from his birth certificate and he was born on that street. I couldn’t find it on google maps. I was a bit disappointed I forgot to ask, but I figured maybe I could ask the owners of my guesthouse later on.

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In early evening I decided to go find dinner. It was way too early for dinner in Sicily, where they eat at 8 or 9 PM, but I went anyways. On the way, I passed the bar I had the sandwich in the night before and the owner was sitting outside with some friends. He looked at me and shouted “vieni qua!” (“Come here!”)

I walked over to him and he introduced me to all of his friends. A few of them had my grandma’s maiden name which I’m starting to realize is every other person in this town. I talked to them for at least a half an hour before I asked one of them, Enzo, where Via San Vincenzo is. He told me he’d take me.

He took me on his Vespa. It was only about a minute long ride but still I held on for my dear life. When we arrived at the house number I was looking for, #8, it was a church.

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This was obviously not the correct place.

Then, we walked down the hill where a family was hanging out in front of their house. Enzo started explaining the situation. We talked for a while about my ancestors/relatives but the general consensus is that 1884 is a really long time ago to find current relatives, and they’d be 3rd or 4th cousins at a minimum if they existed. To be honest, I’m happy just meeting people in the town and I don’t necessarily need to find my closest living relative.

A few other people joined the conversation. Some people opened their second story windows and contributed from above. Then the subject changed back to Via San Vincenzo. Apparently we had the wrong street. They told us where to go, and we did, and I found it. The house my great grandfather was born in.

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Imagine the day he left this place to head to Naples and catch his ship to New York. The last time he walked out of that door. How nervous he must have been. How little he slept the night before. Such courage. Just the day before, I was nervous to drive a car with zero-deductible insurance for two and a half hours.

After that, we headed back to the bar and I chatted with everyone for another hour. Then, I finally headed to the pizzeria and had my pizza.

I went back to the guesthouse and now the family invited me to eat with them! I explained I had just eaten a pizza but at the same time I could not turn it down. I had a nice meal of spaghetti with olive oil, homemade cheese, and homemade salami with them. We shared some good conversation. There was a brother of the family there with his girlfriend and the girlfriend spoke very good English, as she worked in the export department of a company.

Finally, I went to bed. I am amazed at how friendly and open the people are here. I simply walked down the street and made friends. What a great day.

The town is beautiful, too.

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