Last Updated on February 26, 2021 by Jim Ferri
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
By Jim Ferri
I was a bit nervous with anticipation, and excited also, as my wife and I waited in the little village square in Maratea, Italy. Maratea is not on the list of the top places to visit in Italy, and the local people want to keep it that way. Be there an hour and you’ll not want it to make the list either, it’s that charming.
We were waiting for our cousin who none of us in America had ever met.
This saga had started some 30+ years ago when my sister Patricia began searching for our family roots in Ireland and Italy. But she encountered a roadblock with the Italian search due to a lack of records when my father’s side of the family emigrated to the U.S. in the late 1800s. After she passed away 1½ years ago I continued her search and, using some online tools that weren’t available to her, I was able to make the connection.
Now it was August and we were to meet our cousin Nicola in Maratea, a small Italian coastal village where his family had a home. We had just exited the Autostrada on our drive down from Naples and had called Nicola to set a meeting point. He suggested a spot but like so many other things in Italy, nothing went quite as planned.
With so many forks in the road and a lack of signs, we were having problems. Every few minutes we would call and tell him what we were seeing and he would try to figure out where we were. Finally, we mentioned one place that he knew – the village square – and he told us to stay there and he would come and meet us.
Now it was obvious that the shopkeeper sitting on the chair in front of us was wondering what we were up to. After we had pulled up in front of his little store we just stood by the car looking around. After about 10 minutes though, when Nicola arrived, it must have become clear to him what was happening.
After all the hugs and kisses we followed Nicola to the town’s little port that had been our intended destination. There we met Graziella, Nicola’s wife, and Giovanni, their teenage son. Unfortunately their daughter was away on a trip.
Nicola had made reservations for us at an old hotel back up in the village where we first met. It was a great little place, one of those old hotels with the high ceilings and shutters on the windows, which you can throw open to watch village life on the street below. The next two mornings we watched the place come alive, as we had breakfast on a small terrace overlooking the rooftops of the village.
Nicola loves boats and on our second day he rented one for the day. Armed with 2 pounds of smoked mozzarella and a bag of little grape tomatoes we headed up the coast. It was a fantastic day spent viewing the rugged coastline with all its hidden coves and caves and the ever-changing hues of the aquamarine water.
The best parts of our short two-day stay were our dinners in the evening. The first night we ate on the second-floor terrace of La Rotonda, a restaurant overlooking the tiny harbor, and we talked about our families and our lives as we watched the evening unfold in the little piazza below us.
The next night we went to Taverna Rovita, a great little restaurant with wood beamed ceilings, hidden away up an alleyway in the old village. It was a great place to have dinner, with local Lucanian / Basilicatan specialties created from ancient recipes. Like most of the other places where we ate or wandered, we were the only non-Italians in the place.
We really enjoyed those two days with our “new” cousins. And it was a fantastic feeling to find a bit of myself in a little village so far from home.
There’s a lot more to the story. After we left Nicola and Graziella we continued on to my old ancestral village up in the mountains, a three-hour drive, to search for records of our ancestors.
But that will have to wait until next week, when I’ll also explain how I did the detective work, which may be of use to others in search of their family.
If you go:
Hotel Capo Casale
Via Capo Casale, 10
Tel. 0973 871308
Via grotte, 26 – porto
85046 – Maratea
Via Rovita 13
Tel. 0973 876588
(closed November – March)