My Italian Light Connection began in 1992, or was it 1958 when I stayed with a Milanese Sondrinese family in Milano or, may be much earlier? Milano was the birthplace of my paternal grandfather. Nonno, my grandfather passed on when I was six years old, yet I hold dear memories of him. I feel the great passion of this connection started in 1957, when I went on a packaged train tour from the UK to Italy……or did it?
The journey by train through Italy, via Milano and Genova, took me to the elegant beach resort of Viareggio; I felt it was my country! From Viareggio I went on organised tours. Firenze was magnificent and memorable; little did I realise that which I did not encounter that day, would be seen on future visits. Pisa, Puccini's birthplace, and the Island of Elba were many of the well known and historically prominent sights. There was some beautiful scenery, including the olive groves that produced the lovely olive oil that was used every day in our family. It was a short holiday, my first visit to Italy that was very special; at long last I had found my "home"!
Chapter 1 (b) Preparing to return to Italy
I began learning Italian with the Linguaphone method. I had much support from my grandmother Alice, who said how happy grandfather would have been, knowing that I was learning his mother tongue. The last time I saw “nonno” as I prefer to call him, was when he was sick at their country home. He shuffled along the garden path, and I stood back in wonderment. I felt close to him, this being of light.
It took a year of learning Italian with the determination to take on an "au pair" position in Italy. Eventually after scanning the newspapers and magazines I found a suitable family in Milano. I went for an interview in the UK and was soon packing my bags for a new adventure.
Chapter 1 (c) "Au Pair" in Italy
Precisely one year after my holiday in Viareggio I took on an "au pair" position in Milano. This change in life style opened up new ways of thinking.
The summer holiday with this family started in Positano, a charming seaside resort south of Napoli. We travelled by car from Milano stopping en route at an interesting trattoria!. Whilst in Positano I was able to visit Amalfi and Ravello. Then we returned to Milano and on to Stresa on Lago Maggiore. We stayed at the grandparents’ lakeside Villa, opposite the Borromeo Islands. Here I explored much of the lake.
Back in Milano I began to acquaint myself with many of the sights, the fashionable streets, the Duomo, Accademia Brera (Pinacoteca-Art Gallery), Castello Sforzesco and much more, not forgetting Via Taramelli and the momentous night at La Scalla. Then we were off to Sondrio situated north east of Milano, with all its history in the Valtellina valley. Outings to the Swiss border and the ski resort of Bormio were enjoyed. The local cuisine certainly excited my taste buds.
It was 1959 and time to move on from this family, as a baby was on the way. Before taking on another "au pair" post, my friend from England joined me for a holiday. We met at Milano railway station, not the best place for young ladies to meet late at night! We were bound for Roma and then Venezia.
In Roma, after our visit to the Vatican, we got lost and met some handsome policemen! We also saw the monument of Vittorio Emanuele II, and the church of Santa Maria Maggiore with its story of inception, the Virgin Mary's apparition. We stopped by in Piazza Navona, Villa Borghese, the Fontana di Trevi to throw in our coins, and saw many more attractions in this historical city. Our next adventure took us by train to Venezia, here we visited the Basilica of San Marco and enjoyed the cafe scene in Piazza San Marco. We viewed Canals and bridges; the Ponte Rialto reminded us of school days and The Merchant of Venice. The Palazzo Ducale, formerly the seat of government, with its fine interlace patterning, numerous columns and delicate filigree on the loggia, was much admired. Venezia was lovely, but we felt claustrophobic in the “calli” - alleys. Roma called us to return, and so we did.
Back in the eternal city we went to see the Colosseum, and then the Foro Romano which reminded us of St.Albans, the Roman City Verulamium, close to where we lived in the UK. The Roman Empire spread its wings across the World, just like an Eagle, their emblem, that was well chosen. In Piazza di Spagna at the Spanish Steps, we rested to eat a "panino", whilst we graced the spectacle. We travelled by Metro, the underground train to Cinecitta` and Ostia Lido. There was always more to explore, such as the Catacombe and Via Appia, but it was time for us to return to Milano. My friend took her flight to London, and I joined a new family with a three year old boy.
This new family took me to Venezia with them, to the family Villa at the Lido; it was sun bathing amid the elegant beach life. I was able to see more of Venezia, including the Venetian Lion, La Fenice the opera house, the Islands of, Murano for its glassworks, where I made a purchase then on to Burano for its lace. Then it was back to Milano, followed by the night train to Napoli. We stayed at the village of San Giorgio a Cremano under the scrutiny of Mount Vesuvius, at the family Villa. The poverty seen in the village and, in part of Napoli in 1959 opened my eyes and, upset me. Charles Dickens, a great writer came to my memory. I used to suffer a deep fear when I read the stories about the children in poverty that he portrayed so well. Being in the vicinity I visited Torre del Greco and, Pompeii that drew me to it like a magnet, just as the Colosseum in Roma. Pompeii, it is said, was taken over by the Samnite (Sanniti), Oscan speaking people around 424 BC. I had time to look around Napoli; the Duomo and San Gennaro's story was interesting. The Island of Capri was where I saw a statue of Archangel Michael. I went to the Island of Ischia and saw Il Fungo, the protruding rock.
The Neapolitan cuisine, and particularly that of the pastry shop, with its delicacies, are remembered. The sojourn terminated, but I knew I would return, even if there was no fountain to make my wish, as in Roma! I returned to Milano with the family, but was uneasy about my future. I knew I needed to branch out into tourism, but where did I start?
Chapter 1 (d) UK to Napoli
Prospects of a job in UK tourism lead me to return to London, but unfortunately the job did not come to fruition. However, after a restless period a position became available with a small English travel agency, looking after their clients at one hotel in Rimini, Italy. Rimini's development goes back before Christ. This was the territory of S.P. Malatesta in the mid 1400's, and the story of the church he wanted to convert. The position meant that I also would accompany the group on all the organised tours. The tour to Venezia entailed, calling in to see the mosaics at Ravenna. Other trips were to the Republic of San Marino and the old castle of Gradara with the story of Francesca da Rimini. Pesaro was a town recognised as the birthplace of the composer, Rossini. Urbino was known for the painter Raffaello. There was the history of the Montefeltro family with their art treasures, and Angels to be seen! all at the Palazzo Ducale.
At the end of the summer season, I took the train south to the Puglia region, to the town of Foggia. Although Federico II made this town an imperial residency, it has few historical remains left, due to wars and an earthquake. I made contact with an acquaintance I had met in Rimini and was taken to San Giovanni Rotondo, renowned for Padre Pio, and also for being one of the earliest of Christian shrines in Europe. At the Santuario di San Michele, the Archangel Michael appeared four times near the end of the 5th century. The village of San Marco in Lamis also came into the picture.
After a short stay in Foggia, I was on the train for Napoli to uncover a new learning experience! In Napoli I was once more in the Santa Lucia area, with the panorama of the Bay. Enquires for another "au pair" job became successful, but to keep my sanity I left this family after a couple of months. A new contact in Napoli saw me having afternoon tea with an officer on a British Aircraft Carrier; reaching the ship proved to be a nerve racking episode! I took Italian lessons and had the opportunity to learn more about the Neapolitan cuisine.
It was back to London again, and casual jobs to keep the bank balance intact! Was there another job in tourism in Italy on the horizon?
At long last I was to be employed by a company that specialised in Italian travel, as their representative on the Riviera di Ponente. I acted as train courier from London to Italy, with some startling events. My work consisted of meeting and transferring UK passengers to and from Nice and Genova, along the coastal resorts. This scenic route of olive groves, carnations, beaches and the profusion of bougainvillea was an amazing sight to behold. I visited clients arranged tours and liaised with agents and hotels. Genova was an interesting maritime port city, and was home of several prominent personages including Cristoforo Colombo. It lead to a new experience in my life, meeting the ladies of the night! Its historical sights were impressive and the Genovese cuisine was much loved. Diano Marina was my base, and was where many of the clients resided. The numbers were fewer at the famous Bordighera, conspicuous for its Palm trees and, San Remo was the playground for the wealthy, especially at the Casino.
Three summer seasons were spent on the Riviera, with the winter and spring months working in various positions at the London office. It was time to move on, and for the next three years I worked in tourism in the UK. I wondered whether I would ever get back to Italy, Bella Italia, where I felt so much at "home"?
Chapter 2 Western Australia to Italy
My life continued in tourism, I married in 1966, I immigrated to Western Australia in 1967. Happy I was to come to Perth, to be away from the rat race, and be amidst Italian migrants. Our sons were born in 1969, and 1972. In 1976 I returned with my sons to the UK for a holiday. In 1977 my marriage broke up amicably. In 1988 my youngest son and I returned to the UK, via Bangkok for a brief stopover, where he was able to practice some Mandarin, even in Thailand! Italy was on my list this time, and I had studied Italian in the months prior to our departure. My trip was all about renewing old acquaintances after twenty seven years, with the family I first stayed "au pair". I remained in Milano with them for a few days, and visited many of the old familiar streets and sights, and the departmental store where I discovered a spectacular view!
In 1992 I was to return again to the UK, and then on to Italy having been given the opportunity to travel with a Milanese family. We stayed at the quaint resort of Camogli, south of Genova, which had a fascinating maritime history. Further south we visited Cavi, a sandy beach resort with its local fish festival. North of Cavi, was Chiavara, a delightful seaside town, where I came across some surprising finds at the Archeological museum, and also a trattoria! I visited places within the vicinity of these resorts, the famous wealthy Portofino, San Frutuoso, and the zone of Cinque Terre, the five lands, noted for its wine.
Then it was back to Milano, where I needed to do some genealogical research; there were many questions buzzing in my head, but I also wanted to go off travelling on my own. What was I to do next?
Chapter 3 A travelling holiday
Before I became deeply involved in my genealogical research, I wanted a week's break to travel. So I took the train to Napoli again, checked into a Pensione near the railway station and surveyed the city for a couple of days. What was happening to this crumbling city? Was that an old friend who came into the Bar-Cafe ? Then it was on to Roma, seeing and feeling the memories there, as I traversed the streets and renewed acquaintances with many places, such as the Colosseum that was full of history and tragedy. Before passing time in Firenze, I ventured into Chianti Country to stay at a vineyard with new friends, leaving with bottles of that blessed wine, as a remembrance of my stay. Then once again, I saw the Uffizi gallery, the streets and, there was a special visit to a bank! I recall the gnocchi served with porcini, the very large field mushrooms, so tasty! A heraldic artist gave me enthusiasm to do my research, but not with a genealogical society that I visited, I had to do it on my own, but where did I start?
Chapter 4 (a) Genealogical research in Milano
My family in England was very supportive and encouraged me to stay on in Italy and complete the family research, but where did I start? The naturalization certificate showed nonno had been born in the parish of Sant' Alessandro in Milano. I found the history of the church and the chapel of Sant' Alessandro Sauli, bearing the works of Bergamascs which were very compelling. One of the Barnabiti brothers who was of a slight build was able to give me details of nonno and his parents. But only after a nerve racking time, as I watched him balance on a chair to reach the registers. I further procured a copy of the marriage certificate of my great grand parents. This was found at the archives of the church of San Tomaso, held at the Diocese, which also gave me great grandfather, Giovanni Battista's birthplace, as Bergamo. There were many clues, signals and so called coincidences here - Bergamo - ! In a book I found information about the "street" where nonno had been born. At the office of Toponymy - the study of place names - they found in the archives, a sketch of the building, where he was born. Research was carried out in several areas, including finding all nonno's brothers and sisters. One brother, Guiseppe, had been born in the parish of Santa Maria del Carmine. What a surprise for me to find that, the priest at this church had worked in London. I discovered where great grandfather had his hairdressing shop. The main cemetery investigation was conducted on a cold foggy day and, was another understanding. But I had to find out in Bergamo, if our family was related to the famous geologist, and details of the family in Bergamo!
Chapter 4 (b) Genealogical research in Bergamo
My next investigation had to start in Bergamo, but where was this place? I had never heard of it until seeing great grandfather's marriage certificate. It is about forty five minutes drive along the autostrada from Milano, or a slow train ride, which could take one and a half hours. Bergamo is situated north east of Milano; take a line south of San Moritz, in Switzerland on a map and, you easily discover this city. The foundation of Bergamo goes back to 1200 BC with a group of Ligari settlers. It has a very colourful history, so many rulers, including the Romans and the Venetians, until finally when, in 1859, heralded Garibaldi and the liberation from foreign rule. Crossing the Lombardia plain one immediately recognises placed in the hills, the upper city, Bergamo Citta` Alta. This is a wonderful spectacle, a city of mystique where the Venetian Lion is widely portrayed. Apart from the Duomo, and at its side, the ornate church of Santa Maria Maggiore, there was the prestigious Accademia Carrara, the academy and art gallery. The museum of Gaetano Donizetti, the opera composer, could also be viewed; his most well known operas are, “L'elisir d'amore” and “Lucia di Lammermoor”. There were so many more historical places to visit. Bergamo is noted for the spinning of wool, cotton, silk, its mining and agriculture, not forgetting its folkloric traditions and choir.
I made visits to the publisher's of Torquato Taramellis papers, and the church of Sant' Agata nel Carmine. At the Bergamo Diocese, I was introduced to a famous Bergamasc proverb. It was not until later in my travels that I really understood its significance. An appointment was made for me to see an archivist who discovered in the Registers, the parents of great grandfather, that of Giovanni Antonio and Margherita Mazzoleni, and also his brothers and sisters. Finally I was to be with another church archivist who found more family, and great, great, great grandfather, Guiseppe Taramelli. But where did this grandfather originally come from, what part of Bergamo? I bade farewell to the archivist, and only later was I to realise, how much I had learnt from him about genealogical research. More research was needed, I obviously had to look elsewhere in other parishes, but where was I to start?
Chapter 4 (c) Further research
Having no leads to the birthplace of my great, great, great grandfather Guiseppe, I realised it was a matter of checking all the parishes close to, or within Citta` Alta, the upper city. This lead me to the church of Sant' Alessandro della Croce, situated in the ancient cobbled street of Via Pignolo, in Citta` Bassa. I saw the archivist, initially at his home in this street, an historic property, where I viewed his unusually depicted family tree. Then I went to Sant' Alessandro in Colonna, situated in the quaint street of Sant'Alessandro, where at the archival office I encountered some exciting facts and displeasures. I also inspected the registers of the churches of Sant' Andrea and San Michele al Pozzo Bianco, situated in Via Porta Dipinta which was said to have been one of the most elegant of streets in medieval times. It had frescoes on the walls of the buildings, now few remaining, but still noticeable on the arched gateway into San Michele al Pozzo Bianco. Unfortunately I found no trace of my family branch at these offices, but did find other Taramellis. I felt disheartened, but at least I had eliminated some of the possibilities. I knew my endeavours must take another direction. There were things regarding the family tree I needed to uncover in the Civic library, was there a family crest?
Chapter 4 (d) Finding the Family Crest
Before going to the Library I decided I just had to visit the seemingly mountainous area of San Vigilio, since great, great grandfather, Giovanni Antonio was born under the parish there. To reach the top of this hill, I took the funicular railway and saw the breathtaking vista; a place that was a photograph's and also a meditator's delight. They say there is an underground passage that leads from the castle here to Citta` Alta. In Citta` Alta, at the Biblioteca Angelo Mai, the civic library, which is an engaging 15th century palace, with a depository of 1600 incunabula, was where I went through many procedures for my research. I found the family crest, actually two! I could only get a black and white photocopy, so had to use other means for realising the colours! Leaning up against this library was a very old small church, said to have been built over the ruins of a Roman temple, dedicated to Neptune. The archivist of Borgo Canale parish of Santa Grata took me to the "closed" monastero to find an artist to paint the family crest. No luck here, but the experience however, will always be remembered! Nevertheless, through the Accademia Carrara, the famous art academy, I met one of their Master artists at his studio. He passed on much knowledge and comment about the two "Taramelli" Crests, which gave insights into studying the meanings of its colours and much more. One of the crests, was "Viani Taramelli", which is no coincidence, as I had lodged with the Vianis when working on the Riviera di Ponente. His student painted two crests, nearest to the original form. My encounter with the Master artist gave me a thrust of enthusiasm to research more about the Taramellis in general. Where was I to begin?
Chapter 4(e) About other Taramellis
Everybody told me they knew a Taramelli, even though it is definitely not a common name in Italy. I was told not to forget - Via Torquato Taramelli, the street named after Bergamo's famed geologist. In my research I had come across various Taramellis including Andrea, a photographer and, also met the most reputed photographer of today, who introduced me to Andrea's work. Arsenio, was a prominent a writer. Antonio, was an eminent archeologist from Udine; his most noted assignment was, "The Sagace" excavations in Sardegna. Torquato the geologist, spent much of his life at Pavia University, Pavia south of Milano. He not only had a mountain refuge named after him, but also a special mineral. I also visited the archival office of the local newspaper in Bergamo. A gracious Bergamasc lady in Sydney wrote some articles in search of Taramellis in Australia. I was told there were few Bergamascs in Western Australia, but my next project would be to find them. How did I start?
Chapter 5 Searching for Bergamascs in Western Australia
It was hard returning to England on my way to Australia with only, what I felt was an exercise part accomplished. The family crest was framed and hung in my father's study, and prompted questions from visitors. I was resolute in my desire to finding Bergamascs, but also needed to write a family book containing all the maps, pictures, and some photocopy certificates that I had found on my research into nonno Rodolfo's family. This I accomplished, with the help of my sons computer, and sent copies to senior family members. I also wrote to the Bergamo local newspaper about my research there. They published my letter and wrote a large article, with the hope I would find my relatives. A copy of a newspaper cutting was sent to me; in this I was amazed to see the picture of a Taramelli, who so resembled my cousin. This man had recently passed on, in one of the small towns of the Province; was he of our family branch?
The local newspaper of Western Australia was my first point of advertising for those of Bergamasc origin. I had response from all over Western Australia, with advice and comment from a University Professor, who also looked at the meaning of Taramelli. I sent out letters and questionnaires, wrote to many other newspapers, clubs and had my first radio interview. Finally, a Bergamasc Reunion was organised for one afternoon in November 1995. It was well attended, with much preparation before the day, from decorating the venue, to the making of coloured ribbons, the Bergamasc colours for everybody to wear. There was the Celebratory Torta, with the Crest of Bergamo, the singing of, Noter de Berghem and so much more went on that afternoon. People came from various parts of Western Australia, even leaving their farms to participate. I sent notification of the Reunion with photographs to the Bergamo newspaper and the periodical.
My enthusiasm and curiosity had been heightened at the Reunion, I wanted to know more about these people with the same roots as myself, and how they migrated here. So my research had to continue.
Chapter 6 Bergamasc stories in Australia and the sights of the Province of Bergamo
This chapter relates directly to the people of Bergamasc origin, or those with some Bergamasc roots who live in Western Australia; whoever they are, they all leave a sparkle in my life. I explain where we find Bergamo on that great Boot of Italy. Those that immigrated here went under enormous hardships. As a newcomer in 1967 I stand in awe of their perseverance. The chapter also delves into the places where the Bergamasc migrants originate, among those beautiful valleys, mountains, and rivers. It is about the first Bergamasc lady I met in Perth, and their individual stories of migration, including their jobs in the mines and in the countryside; together with an explanation of their motherland villages, one valley taken at a time. The Lakes area and those Castles in "Bergamo sotto" are mentioned too, as well as Caravaggio, the painter.
It all leaves a special love in my heart, a questioning and a reflection of our path in life, with much more to tell.
Chapter 7 About my Connection
In a concluding chapter there is always more to relate, but firstly I want to talk about the Bergamasc and other Italian migrants. But there is one Bergamasc in Perth I discovered, quite by chance, a Camillian Priest, who became the spiritual director of the Bergamasc group. Now I understand why there had been this apparent hold up on putting the finishing touches to my book. I knew that the stories of Saint Camillus De Lellis and this priest had to be told too. I am so glad I met my Bergamasc brothers and sisters, who have so enriched my path in life.
What is this Italian connection I feel so deeply that overrides my English roots? My first stay in Milano was a great turning point in my life, although at the time I was not so aware of the significance. I look back on the path of my life, the karma drama we all play, the connections, or some would say coincidences that happen. “All part of your destiny”, I hear my Mother saying! It was interesting to look at a birth date, a patron Saint, a convent order; and a book that was given to me about an Indian Master, written by a Bergamasc, all these links in my search. How reading and meeting the author, Lorna Todd, of " A Healer's Journey into Light" revealed further understandings, even into past lives. Meeting the Bergamasc Priest too, who had unfolded the Camillian spirituality and, introduced a new path in my life that was very profound.
Whether you are researching your family tree, visiting a faraway land or exploring your own homeland, there is much to learn. Remember there is wisdom in its land and its people . It is profound; stop and listen and you will find the connections. The answers will be given to you. Have the courage to dig deep and pursue that which you are seeking. Skimming the top will only bring half-truths, not the real story.
In discovering the sacred essence I found that there were amazing experiences to relate about my following visits to Italy in 2001 and 2004, the canossiane nuns, the St. Martha link and more. There were the ancestors, the Taramellis of today, friends, and…Pompeii. Our journey never ends, as we will uncover transversing the spiritual and physical plains.
The rejuvenation of spirit is here with this new millennium. Many are becoming more aware of their spiritual essence. We are all artists painting our journey, some may be like Caravaggio who used "chiaroscuro". All good wishes for your connection, on your road of discovery.