52 Ancestors, Week 5: Oops, Wrong Village

The wrong village: Serravalle, in Marche, Italy.

It’s Week 5 of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks project, created by genealogist Amy Johnson Crow. The theme this week: Oops.

My “Oops” moment is about the process of uncovering the past. My grandmother had always told us her family was from Serravalle, a village in Marche, Italy. By the time I first visited Italy, my grandmother had passed away, but my father confirmed the name of the village. It was not easy to find; it is well off the beaten path, I don’t read Italian, and the roads in Italy are notoriously badly marked. But I cruised the lovely mountainous vistas of Marche, taking a lot of wrong turns along the way, and I finally found it.

Unfortunately, I arrived during the riposo, the afternoon break time still practiced in many rural parts of Italy, when everyone retreats inside with their families to eat a leisurely meal, nap, and engage in quiet pursuits. So all the businesses were closed, and nobody was outside, though I did notice a few women pulling aside the drapes to peer out a window at me, no doubt wondering who I was and why I was standing in the street, taking photos of their sleepy and not-at-all touristy village. I did not have hours to spend in Serravalle. It had taken me much longer than expected to find the village. Also, it was my last day in Italy, and I had to head back to Florence to catch a plane home first thing in the morning. So I contented myself with taking photos, figuring I’d plan a longer visit to Serravalle the next time I was in Italy.

A few years later, my father and stepmother visited Italy. They also located Serravalle. In fact, they drove farther than I had, and found another part of the village that I had not seen. They talked with residents, but could not find anyone who remembered my grandmother’s family, the Piccioli family.

It was not until recently that I discovered why: The Piccioli family was not actually from Serravalle! I have a professional genealogist helping me find the records I need for my Italian citizenship application, and she discovered my Piccioli great-grandparents’ birth certificates and marriage records. They were from Mondolfo, a different town in Marche, a town that was home to my Piccioli ancestors for 500 years! My great-grandparents did move from Mondolfo to Serravalle until after they were married, and they left Italy only a few years later. So the family’s roots did not lie in Serravalle at all.

I visited the wrong town! Oops.

Mondolfo is now on my list of places to visit on my next trip to Italy, which may happen this year.

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