Sunday, May 29, 2011

La Nostra Famiglia in Ancona

Ben’s parents were both born in Mississippi, but both sets of grandparents and one aunt immigrated from the Marche region of Italy in and around the Adriatic seaport of Ancona. Located about an hour and a half south of Venice, the city is perhaps best known for its proximity the resort city of Rimini and to the Republic of San Marino, that country-within-a-country sometimes offered as an excursion from the few cruise ships calling on Ancona.  Also nearby is the village of Pinocchio di Ancona, where you'll find a statue in honor of Geppeto’s wooden son, although the story itself took place in the medieval hillside village of Collodi in Tuscany, also the hometown of Pinocchio’s creator.

Not until this trip did we learn that the Fincantieri shipyard in Ancona, which gave birth to Disney's ships and others, recently succumbed to hard economic times, putting 2,000 people out of work. Other shipyards belonging to this Trieste-based company, including Lloyd Werft in Germany, do continue to operate and build ships for numerous cruise lines and the US military, but it made us sad to see this once bustling construction site sitting idle.

We first met the Italian cousins in 1972 when, armed with a six-week conversational Italian course and backed by Ben‘s mother‘s years of correspondence in Italian about their American cousins, we bravely decided to take the plunge. What we lacked in language skills was more than compensated by their warmth and patience as we toiled through those first days of getting acquainted.

We have remained in contact over the years and have visited again when our travels took us near Ancona. Sadly, some of the elderly cousins have since passed on, but the new generation shows the same welcoming spirit--and one now even speaks and writes English (grazie, Alessia!). The longer we are away from required daily Italian conversation, the more diminished our skills become.

Orietta, daughter of Ben‘s second cousin, prepared delicious meals fit for royalty--from prosciutto & melon and pasta carbonara, to muscles & clams with gelato for dessert. Back to the gym, Zumba, and Weight Watchers next week!

We enjoyed meeting Alessandro’s fiance Samantha (a September 4 wedding date and completion of their new home are on schedule), and Alessia‘s boyfriend Mario, who also speaks some English. It was another wonderful reunion.

Our final stop in Europe this trip was Tuscany, both as a vacation for Ben and me and a business trip to finalize plans for our October Aviano Reunion Association event. We boarded the train for Chiusi, southeast of Siena, ready for a relaxing return to this always enchanting region of Italy.

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