One of the most stimulating aspects in this research activity among our countrymen abroad is the opportunity to learn about surprising characters. This time we refer to Marco Capoccia from Alvito. A young man of just over forty years who some twenty years ago decided to look for better life opportunities in the United States.

 

Sixty-eight years lasted the long exile of Giuseppe (Joe) Di Rezze. He left with his family in 1950, he was 9 years old.

Paul Forte is a singular character: the son of a Forte from Monforte (Mortale) of Casalattico and of a lady from Tuscany.  In his fifties, he now splits his time between Brighton, Pisa,from where his mother's family originate and where he now resides and works, and Monforte of Casalattico, loyal to his paternal roots. He speaks perfect Italian, blended with a sophisticated Anglo-Saxon accent. Reserved and shrewd with tones of aristocratic English, mixed in with those typical Italian characteristics of a welcoming warmth and bonhomie.

He carries out his passion with rigorous detail: genealogical research. He started some years ago looking into his own family’s roots, then he expanded to more distant relatives, and this led to a chain reaction of investigating relatives of relatives. Since then he has been seized by research fever, because the results of his investigations have become a historical registry of Casalattico and of the areas to where former inhabitants have settled.

On the Tower of Pisa

His website is www.fortefamilyhistory.com/   Take a look at it, because you will find a mine of information.  A historical record that is more efficient than the Municipal Registry Office, because it is constantly cross-referenced with records from the digitised data of the parish Archives, which, as we know, date back to the early 1600s, and thus cover an even greater timespan. Paul has all of the digitised parish census records from the church archives. He is about to digitise some of the other records too. As of now, his family tree contains about 10,000 names, and Paul makes it available to anyone who wants to trace their origins.

 

Paul consults with someone whose family emigrated from the area a very long time ago

Sometimes it happens that, through Paul’s research, people have discovered awkward or difficult moments in their historical origins.

A touching case is that of a gentleman with Casalattico roots who, knowing that he was adopted, had only a vague idea of his biological origin. Paul's family tree gave him precise names and details that led to his blood relatives being able to contact him. Unfortunately, the gentleman’s birth mother had passed away, but he has now been able to put flowers on her grave, embrace his biological relatives and receive from a surviving aunt a precious object once belonging to his mother. Later that gentleman learnt that, as he had been born out of wedlock, his mother had been sent away from home and forced to put her baby son up for adoption.

A story, more common than one might imagine, a result of dated cultural preconceptions, and we’re not talking about the Middle Ages but just a few decades ago.  It would be a good idea to remember it in this day and age of immigration and multiculturism, when other cultures would benefit from our help to overcome their problems without any of our semi-racist blame mentality...

Whilst continuously updating his research, Paul runs into a myriad of personal and social stories, ordinary and extraordinary, which all add to a precious historical log saved on his computer. He is a mathematics teacher, having graduated from Christ Church, among the most prestigious and exclusive colleges of Oxford University, frequented by the elite of former English aristocracy, and geniuses of culture and sciences. This is a reason to congratulate Paul: his short but long journey from ice cream parlour to Oxford lecture theatre!!!!

 

The front quadrangle of Christ Church, Oxford and the college’s coat of arms

However, he recently left his teaching desk to devote himself to educational research with a specialised company producing educational material for teaching mathematics.

His father, Aquilino, like almost all of the Casalattico community in England, was in catering, managing an ice cream business in Brighton, on the coast south of London. While Paul chose teaching, his brother Tony remained in the catering business, and his sister Rosina chose medicine. It was only a few years ago that he rediscovered Monforte and Casalattico, but his bond with the land of his forefathers has developed from strength to strength in a short time:  he calmly oversaw the restoration and improvement of his family’s house, even if it meant overcoming a plethora of bureaucratic difficulties.

 In a Neapolitan pizzeria

But above all he has discovered Italy’s South. His excursions never used to go beyond Rome. Further south… NO ... Then in Monforte, he came across a strong and passionate proponent of our southern regions, who invited him and provoked him to visit Naples, Bari, Matera, etc.

Feast of St. Anthony in Mortale

Paul has listened to her and has now corrected his geoanthropological discrimination ... .The “passionate one” who did such a "good job" is of course Alba Forte ...

 

Always remember that we all come from immigrants ", these words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt push to reflect on the fate of many of our fellow citizens. One of these fortunes begins in Vicalvi .

Last year, Alfonso Tamburrini, that “fiery” producer of words, images and ideas from Atina, told us how, while sitting on the sofa at home watching an episode of the reality show “Cake boss” on the Real Time channel on Sky, he heard the name Luigi Del Bianco. There are actually two intertwining stories here: one about Luigi del Bianco and the other about Buddy Valastro, the Cake Boss. We are going to start with the first story and then move on to the equally intriguing second one.

Alfonso continues: In his reality show, Buddy makes huge cakes to order, using complex and sophisticated techniques to create his monumental “sweet sculptures”. In the episode in question, Buddy was creating a cake ordered by a group of people in Port Chester (New York). The cake was supposed to be a recreation of a legendary, real-life sculpture: the faces of four US presidents in gigantic dimensions carved into the side of Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, in the USA. The group that ordered the cake was headed by a certain Lou Del Bianco.

In alto a destra Lou del Bianco con lo chef Bartolo Jr. “Buddy” Valastro (Cake Boss)

The gigantic granite sculpture on Mount Rushmore is now a part of a National Park visited every year by millions of tourists. The museum offices house documents and deeds faithfully describing all the procedures used to create the sculpture: assignments, commissions, construction times, technical procedures and the workers building it. However, up until the 1980s, one name was missing from the commemorative plates, official documents and history. It was the name of a person without whom the sculpture might never have existed or would certainly have been different. It was the head of the team of stonecutters who scaled to dizzying and wind-swept heights, breathing in dust, as they carved those giant faces. This “forgotten” person had an Italian name: LUIGI DEL BIANCO. Buddy's cake was therefore a tribute to LUIGI DEL BIANCO SENIOR and his work by a group of people headed by Lou Del Bianco junior, who we subsequently learned is the grandson of Luigi.

Lou del Bianco

It was Cesare Del Bianco and Lou del Bianco, respectively the son and grandson of Luigi senior, who took that forgotten name and restored it to its rightful place in history, in their determined efforts to find and trace hidden or forgotten documents, contracts and declarations.

Luigi Del Bianco Senior was originally from Meduno, a village just a few kilometres from Pordenone, making him a Friulian by birth.

So what does this Friulian have to do with the Ciociaria region of central Italy? A lot, really …. Not directly, but a lot. Let us return to Alfonso Tamburrini's story. Alfonso claims to have heard the word “Valcomino” (the Comino Valley) during the program . A rapid browse on the Internet shed no light on this, as we know. However, the maiden name of Luigi senior's wife was Cardarelli and the surname Cardarelli is present in the Comino Valley. A telephone call to an extremely courteous official at the Meduno Registry office led nowhere, as the marriage certificate had not been registered. Maybe Alfonso had misunderstood …. However, some time afterwards, a young woman confirmed that she had read somewhere about this link between Del Bianco and the Comino Valley. Our curiosity remained. So we searched for Lou Del Bianco on Facebook and sent him a “friend request”. Lou lives in Port Chester NY. He is an actor, singer and writer. In a recent book, which has yet to be translated into Italian, he told the amazing story of his grandfather. He accepted the “friend request” on Facebook a few days later.

In the immediate message we sent him, we repeatedly mentioned Ciociaria, Valcomino and Frosinone (assuming if we were right, he would pick up on it). In his fairly rapid reply, Lou confirmed that the parents of his mother, who was Cesare's wife, were from Frosinone, and specifically the village of Roccasecca. Their names were Giovanni Bruni and Crescenza Fraioli.

So the link really did exist!

At this point, we asked friends and the local authorities of Roccasecca to help find the documentation Lou was seeking. It goes without saying that these searches are tiresome for certain office employees ... but not for all of them obviously, and some are very helpful. In this case, it took a very long time, but it was discovered that the registers, which appeared to have been lost during the earthquake of 1984 (sic.), had been saved and were accessible. It was slightly embarrassing trying to explain to an American how slow Italian bureaucracy is. But with the personal assistance of local councillor Tommasino Marsella, we managed to obtain a copy of the birth certificates of Lou's ancestors. After a quick translation and sorting of the photographs, we sent the documents to Lou, with whom relations had become more intense and friendly in the meantime. He was very excited about these documents.

This is one of the missions of VSC. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Tommasino for his help and apologise for all the dust he breathed in to dust off the registers (all in a good cause, however). So if anyone mutters about the relationship between Valcomino and Roccasecca, we will remind them that there are NO BOUNDARIES, inside or out.

We will be meeting Lou soon, as he has told us he is also planning to visit Roccasecca.

Valcominosenzaconfini

Traduzione di Gloria Veta

 

Details of the story from Dario Celli's Blog

(http://dariocelli.blogspot.it/search?q=luigi+del+bianco)

Mount Rushmore is one of the most famous monuments of the United States, visited by almost 3 million people. It is one of the top five most visited places by the Americans, a place that every American "must" see at least once in a lifetime.Used as a set in many films, the most famous is without doubt "North by Northwest" by Alfred Hitchcock, where near the end Cary Grant remained hanging with Eva Marie Saint beside Lincoln's huge eye (but the scene was shot in a studio and the two actors were not "hanging" in the air at all…).

So, after leaving the Interstate, and running across the State route 244 east, suddenly here it is, the profile of one of the four faces carved in granite. To learn their story, we must go back to the 3rd of March 1925, when the American Congress approved the project for the realization of a "memorial" that would represent the founding fathers of the United States forever.

They would have been faces carved in granite from the mountain and after the first five, all the Presidents would be added gradually. The Danish sculptor Gutzon Borglum was in charge to perform the work on a South Dakota mountain, however considered sacred by the American natives. After an uncertain start, he began to shape the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln with a jackhammer. Borglum found himself in trouble after a trivial discussion with his chief sculptor who decided to leave: that was the day he decided to replace him with a young Italian stonemasson that he had met years before in his workshop in Connecticut, and who also worked in that building site.

Luigi Del Bianco, the young sculptor, ( actually "stonemasson", the lower qualification): was born in Le Havre, France, but was Italian, from Meduno, province of Pordenone, Friuli Venezia Giulia. His parents Vincenzo and Osvalda were just returning from a trip to the United States when, baby Luigi, obviously, was in a hurry to be born. 

Certainly his life was not at all boring. In Meduno -and more precisely in the little village of "Del Bianco", from which his family obviously has taken the surname- he stayed until he was eleven, and after he found a job as a stonemasson in Austria. At the beginning of the twentieth century, in the north-east of Italy, those were the days when people worked and emigrated very young. And in fact Luigi Del Bianco emigrated even further five years later: to The United States. At the age of 16 he left for Port Chester, in the State of New York, but his job was in Barre, in Vermont, considered the "Massa Carrara" of America, where our young Italian, continued doing the only job he could do: the stonemason. Our Luigi was restless, in fact at the age of 23, when Italy entered the Great War, he took the ship to return home, because he wanted to enlist as a volunteer. Certainly other times. Obviously America remained in his heart; so after the First World War ended, he crossed once again the Atlantic, this time to remain there forever. Also because he fell in love with Nicoletta Cardarelli, who gave him five children: Teresa, Silvio, Vincenzo, Cesare and Gloria.

It was Cesare first, with his son Lou after, who let the unknown story of Luigi Del Bianco come out of oblivion, an Italian who made a piece of the United States of America with his own hands. Cesare's father Luigi, always told him that at the beginning of the twenties he started to cooperate with a strange sculptor of Danish origins named Gutzon Borglum. And a few years later, in 1924, he received the task to study the project of the faces of the American fathers of the fatherland. Luigi's fortune came thank's to that fight between the boss and his "first sculptor" Hugo Villa: it was at that point that Borglum promoted Luigi Del Bianco to that charge. "He has the equivalent value of 3 men that I can find in America for this type of work", this is what Borglum wrote in his diary. He may have had the value of 3 men, but the salary increase promised-from 90 cent to one dollar and a half- never came. So our sculptor from Friuli didn't think twice of turning his back. He left at the beginning of 1935 interupting for 6 months the precious work of finishing touch of Washington and Jefferson's faces.

In this photo, Del Bianco, who we see working, recuperated quickly the six months of absence, perhaps due to the salary increase that finally came. But above all due to the new charge that Gutzon Borglum gave him. Again he wrote that "all the drillers, the roughers, the finishers and the sculptors of the features" had to work from that moment "under the supervision of the chief-sculptor Del Bianco".

Only from this old photo, one can realize how colossal the work is: the faces are 18 metres high, the eyes are 3 metres wide each while the Presidents' noses measure 6 metres.

In 1936 Thomas Jefferson's face was completed (the one that in the declaration of Independence wrote about "right to the search for freedom"...) the following year Lincoln's and in 1939 President Roosevelt's.

"Mount Rushmore National Memorial" was inaugurated on the 31st of October 1941, 37 days before Pearl Harbor's attack. 

At this stage the Americans had other problems, the Nazis in Europe and the Japanese in Asia. The completion of the project was suspended and from then on the faces of the Fathers of the Fathermen remained four.

Nobody in the United States had ever known the story - and the existance- of chief-sculptor Del Bianco". One of his sons, Cesare, from the 80's started to search through the documents of  the project and the birth of "Mount Rushmore National Memorial" finding the information he needed in the National Archive and in the official documents preserved at the Central Library of the United States' Congress, theAmerican Parliament. He absolutely had to find confirmation to let everybody know the incredible story that his father had proudly told him so many times. Besides, he also discovered that it was his father that realized how he could make the pupils of President Washington more visible and bright: inserting in the eyes granite stones in the shape of a wedge, so that the light could reflect. If it hadn't been for Cesare's stubbornness, that now lives in a Home, nobody would have known the story of the "stonemasson" ( sorry, of the " chief-sculptor") Del Bianco, that came from the Friuli mountains and died in the New World in 1969. After Cesare collected and published all the information, 22 years after his father's death, chief-sculptor Luigi Del Bianco had posthumous official recognition: a special stamp stamp issued by the American Post, with his name and photograph.

The last picture of Luigi Del Bianco shows the man from Meduno, together with his grandson Lou, who inherited (part of) his name.

How would chief-sculptor Luigi Del Bianco feel if he only knew that today he has a place of honor inside the Italian American Museum which is at 155 Mulberry St., in the middle of Little Italy, Manhattan… An emotional visit. Like when you go to Ellis Island, the first part of America reached by millions of Italians that have found hope in the New World. Just like the boy that arrived from Friuli in shorts and with a stonecutter in his hands.

from Dario Celli's Blog

Traduzione di Denise Lieghio