In search of My Italian Roots (by Chris Lucie)

Our client, Chris Lucie, an engineer from Chicago, recently made a trip to his ancestral town in Italy. Chris, with the help of his talented nieces, wrote about his experiences in Liscia and was kind enough to share his unforgettable journey with us. Thank you, Chris, for allowing us to play a small part in your Italian family story as researchers and guides!


My wife and I, and three of our nieces recently traveled to Italy to visit the ancestral village of my great-grandfather.  Prior to the trip, I contacted My Italian Family and they were able to provide two of their researchers, Filippo and Marina, who not only performed the research, but guided us on our journey to reconnect with our ancestors. While I knew I would be excited to see original documents, and the village of my ancestors, I wasn't sure if my nieces would be excited or bored.

The morning we arrived in Liscia (a small town in Abruzzo), the researchers had arranged for us to meet in the "Municipio" (Town Hall). Once we were all seated, they pulled out giant ledgers that had been bookmarked to specific pages of our family history. The heavy binding and old leather spine gave off a musty aroma. Dust had settled on the fringes of the page. As we sifted through the ancient reports ever so gingerly, we discovered stories and rites of passage about people who we only knew the names of previously. All of a sudden these reports weren’t just names on a page, but births and marriages and death, it was as if we got to peel back generations and see our lineage evolve from its core. To see these humble records and watch a family member’s life unfold before my eyes struck me with a pang of nostalgia and reverence for their honest way of living. My nieces were as excited and awestruck as I was.

After gathering a brief synopsis of our family history, we set out on foot to the older section of town where my great grandfather and his siblings had lived, to see their dwellings. Liscia itself is a rather quaint town with a seemingly simple and peaceful way of life. Residents could be seen in groups of two or three meandering lazily down the old cobbled roads. Children ran around and through their mother’s legs, bunching up her dress and poking their heads up warily at strangers. Laundry warmed with the steady breeze that only picked up enough so you could feel its presence on the back of your neck. Everything seemed to have a purpose and everyone seemed to know their place. As we walked down the main road we watched merchants open their shops and tidy their displays. Walking among the village and dwellings where my Great Grandfather was born and lived as a young boy was exhilarating.

We came to a stop in front of a rather humble looking abandoned residence made of stones and old wood. Filippo and Marina explained to us that this was where my great-grandfather had lived as a child, had previously been owned by my great- great-grandfather. I can’t really explain why but there is a strange sense of humility that befell upon me as we stood there. I ran my hand along the old stone and began to think about the life its old walls once housed. The stories the gossiping floorboards could share should anyone happen upon them again. After spending a couple of minutes taking perfunctory pictures to prove seasons on that “we were here” we made our way to the town church. The church was absolutely lovely. We walked in and I was instantly hit with the image of the records we read earlier about the baptisms and marriages and was in awe that we were in the same building where those ceremonies took place. Looking at the pews I wondered where my ancestors would kneel and what burdens they gave up to God. The building was exquisitely simple and had a cozy sort of charm. The old bells chimed and made its voice echo throughout the town.

From the church we headed on to the cemetery. Between the song of the cicada and the sun casting its rays on the graves, the cemetery seemed anything but at rest. We walked among the markers searching for familiar names and realized in one way or another that probably everyone laid to rest here had some sort of relation to one other. Despite it being up on a hill the grounds looked well maintained and cared for.
From the cemetery, we went to the town’s primary restaurant, "I 5 Tigli", where we enjoyed an authentic Italian meal. Everything was absolutely delicious and the service was amazing. We dined on specially prepared traditional dishes and the best house wine I’ve ever tasted. The restaurant had a rustic appeal and the food was always warm and abundant. We even were lucky enough to enjoy some entertainment by way of karaoke; good times and laughs were shared all around, along with a refreshing shot of Limoncello.

After lunch we met with the mayor for cappuccinos and conversation. We enjoyed lattes on the patio and listened to stories about the town we were from.  Citizens’ young and old alike wanted to be by the mayor and it was easy to understand why. He was diplomatic in the most genuine form. He was kind and warm and very easy to talk to. He appeared to really love what he did and the feelings were definitely reciprocated by the residents of Liscia. We are so appreciative for time everyone involved spent in making this leg of our journey so memorable. I can see why our family resided here all those years ago—there is a charming mysticism to Liscia and it captivates visitors and reminds them of a time not too long ago when things were authentic and respect was tangible.

This Thanksgiving while you are sharing your "thanks" with your family, take the time to ask what they remember about their Italian parents or grandparents. Remember, we are here to help you connect the dots and discover your family history!