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          A VISIT TO THE HOMELAND
         
Our Trip to Massa to meet my Family
"I had been anticipating meeting Pacifico and Anna for over a year. Pacifico and I started corresponding after he found my Grandfather’s name on Ancestry.com"

                               by Arlene (Cofrancesco) Willis
 
     


     
       
When Anna Di Leone was a young girl she used to listen to her paternal Grandmother, Anna Mazzarella, tell the story of "Zi' Clemente" (Uncle Clemente), who immigrated to the USA at the beginning of the last century. He returned to Massa in 1949, where he lived with the Di Leone family for about six years before dying there in 1957. Anna's Grandmother did not know much about Clemente's family in the USA. She kept wondering if he had any children or other descendants. Anna had a dream: to find Uncle Clemente children and grandchildren. But how could she find them? One day I found a little family tree on Ancestry.com, prepared by Arlene Willis, which contained some information about Clemente Cofrancesco, the same Uncle Clemente Anna was looking for! Anna was very excited about my discovery. We soon were able to contact Arlene Willis, whose maiden name was Cofrancesco. She was Clemente's granddaughter! Finally the dream has come true. Thanks to Arlene's help a full branch of the Cofrancesco family tree could be completed. Arlene proved to be very passionate about the Cofrancesco family history. After less than one year, on September 2009 Arlene and her husband Michael Willis came to Massa to visit us. It was another very exciting experience for them as well as for us! Learn more about this very interesting addition to our history by reading Arlene's report. 

(Pacifico Cofrancesco)

   

Clemente Cofrancesco

Clemente Cofrancesco
Arlene's Grandfather




       
Thursday, September 24 - The Arrival
     
   
My husband Michael and I arrived in Benevento by train on Thursday, September 24, 2009 and were met at the train station by my cousin, Pacifico Cofrancesco and his new and beautiful wife, Anna Di Leone. I had been anticipating meeting Pacifico and Anna for over a year. Pacifico and I started corresponding after he found my Grandfather’s name on Ancestry.com. As soon as I saw Pacifico and Anna, I felt a very compelling sense of warmth as though they had been in my life forever.  

Anna and Pacifico drove us to Grand Hotel Telese and later picked us up and took us to their new home for dinner where we were joined by Anna’s parents, Antonietta and Michele and Anna’s twin sister Ada. Unfortunately, Anna’s parents were just arriving back from the funeral of Antonietta’s sister. Antonietta was of course, very sad, but made of point of coming to dinner to meet us. We were very humbled by her being there. Anna and Pacifico made us the most wonderful dinner and we had the best pasta I had ever tasted!

At Anna's Home

At Anna and Pacifico's home in Massa di Faicchio (Italy)
From left to right: Michael Willis, Antonietta Tacinelli,
Michele Di Leone, and Arlene Willis

I was very excited about seeing the town where my ancestors came from, particularly, my Grandfather, Clemente and could hardly sleep the night before in anticipation.

     
Arlene Cofrancesco

Arlene Willis
maiden name Cofrancesco
Friday, September 25 - Massa and the Cofrancesco Places
     

On Friday morning, Pacifico and Anna picked us up at Grand Hotel and drove us to Massa. Finally, Massa! It is hard to explain the feeling that I got when we entered the Titerno River Valley and saw the mountains, particularly Cofrancesco’s mountain, Mount Acero.  I felt as though I had come back “home”.  

The Titerno River Valley

The Titerno River Valley with its vineyards

It was so peaceful and serene and to my amazement, covered with grape vines ready for harvest. I was in my glory! The olive trees, the quietness of the area and the beautiful sky and surroundings are something I will not quite forget. 

Michael Willis at Massa

Michael Willis at Massa
Mount Erbano in the bachground

     

Massa di Faicchio

Massa di Faicchio

is a small village of about 600 people situated in the Titerno River Valley (province of Benevento) about 50 miles northeast of Naples. Prior to 1834 Massa fell under the municipality of San Lorenzello. It then fell under the municipality of Faicchio, hence its present name, Massa di Faicchio.

Together with Anna’s father, Michele, and Pacifico we first visited the newly built and very modern winery, called “La Vinicola del Titerno”, owned by Talio and Alfredo Di Leone, two of Anna’s cousins, where they make several typical wines of the Titerno Valley, such as Solopaca, Aglianico, and Falanghina. Since my email address is: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it , and Michael and I have such a passion for wine, we were quite impressed that so many people living in my homeland would be in the wine business. We also visited Michele’s family business, “A. Di Leone & Co.”, and met Michele’s son, Antonio in Cerreto Sannita.

St. Nicholas ChurchAfter lunch at Pacifico and Anna’s home, Pacifico and Anna’s father drove us into the little town of Massa, where we visited “la Chiesa di San Nicola” (St. Nicholas Church,  in the photo on the left side) where my Grandfather, Clemente was baptised and my Great-Grandfather and Great-Mother are buried underground.

We then went to the home where my Grandfather, Clemente was born and lived before he immigrated to the United States, we also saw the outside of the room where, after he re-married, he lived with the Di Leone family. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I’d have this opportunity.
   
Vinicola del Titerno

Michele Di Leone and Arlene
visiting la Vinicola del Titerno

Arlene and Pacifico outside Clemente's Home

Arlene and Pacifico outside Clemente's Home
   
Door to Clemente's Home

Door to Clemente's Home


On the little road to the ancient Di Leone family house we met Angelina Tacinelli, widow of Gaetano Cofrancesco and Anna's Aunt. She remember very well “Zi’ Clemente” (Uncle Clemente), as everybody called him in Massa, and she said that I look like him a lot! We visited with her and her daughter-in-law Rita one of the typical wine cellar of Massa carved in the tuff some meters down the ground – every old house in Massa has one – and were drinking a delicious Moscato from Baselice, a little town near Benevento.

Michael and Arlene in the wine cellar

Michael and Arlene tasting a delicious Moscato
in the wine cellar of Biagio, aka "Ciccio", Cofrancesco of Massa

A little later we went to the little Cemetery of Massa where my Grandfather, Clemente is buried. Again, another emotional experience as I was only four years old when my Grandfather returned to Italy, after my Grandmother, Orlanda Sabatino died (age 46). I never saw him again after that and when he returned to Italy, he lived with his half-sister Michelina and her family for awhile.

I also learned that he married his childhood sweetheart, Nicolina Ciarlo and for the last six years of his life, he lived with the very kind Di Leone Family. Clemente Cofrancesco and Nicolina Ciarlo are buried together at the Cemetery in the Di Leone plot. I was amazed at the number of Cofrancescos that are buried in the same Cemetery. I think the Cofrancesco Families are among the most ancient families of Massa and I am very proud to have that name. 

Clemente and Nicolina's Grave

Clemente and Nicolina's grave in the Cemetery of Massa
together with Anna Di Leone Great-grandparents
     
Zia Angelina & Arlene

Angelina and Arlene
Angelina Tacinelli lived nextdoor
to Clemente when he went
back to Massa

Arlene & Gaetano

Arlene and the little Gaetano Cofrancesco at the ancient
source of Massa

Clemente and Nicolina

Nicolina and Clemente
Than we visited San Lorenzello, the little town from where the Cofrancescos moved to Massa in the 18th century. Pacifico showed us some ancient roads of the town where the Cofrancescos had their houses and businesses from the 16th century.

At the Foro del Barone Restaurant

At the "Foro del Barone" Restaurant of Puglianello
From left to right: Antonietta, Pacifico, Anna, Michele, Arlene, Ada, and Michael

We all had dinner on Friday night at “Il Foro del Barone” in Puglianello. The food was outstanding and the wine superb because Michele Di Leone brought his own very special 4 year old vintage for us to try. It was so good to be with people who you can connect with so easily even though you have never met before.

   

Michael and Arlene in San Lorenzello

Michael and Arlene
in San Lorenzello

Saturday, September 26 - The Titerno River Valley 
     

Before we left for Benevento, on Saturday morning Pacifico and Anna took us sight seeing again.  We saw many small towns and villages, including Castelvenere, Guardia Sanframondi and Cerreto Sannita. Professor Scetta, who was our unplanned “guide” during the visit of Castelvenere, told us that this town has the highest density of vineyards in Italy. The hills of the countryside were all covered of vineyards and the roads full of little farm tractors carrying the grapes to the vineries. It was harvest time. In Guardia Sanframondi, it seems there is the largest vinery in the Southern Italy. For most of the people in this valley really “wine is life” – as Pacifico said.

Soon it was time to eat again! So, we went to Michele and Antonietta Di Leone’s home for a “risotto e funghi” (rice and mushrooms).  Wow, was that every great!  We were then served my favourite dish – swordfish – which Michele went to market that morning to buy. Anna, Ada, Antonio, Pacifico, Michele, Antonietta and Michael and I all dined in their lovely dining room and were served some very special wines once again. A lunch which will be remembered for many years.

With Pacifico and the Di Leone Family

With Pacifico and the Di Leone Family
From left to right: Pacifico, Anna, Ada, Michele, Michael,
Arlene, Antonietta, and Antonio

After tears and so-long but not good-byes, Pacifico and Anna drove us to Benevento – the so-called “City of Witches” according to medieval legends – where we stayed overnight in order to get our train to Rome in the morning.  

I am still on cloud nine thinking of what a truly wonderful experience that I was afforded this past week and I sincerely thank Pacifico, Anna and the Di Leone Family for making all this possible.  These memories will be forever imprinted in my mind.

When I see all the work that went into obtaining all of the information for the website, I am truly grateful to Pacifico and to John Cofrancesco for the many years of research it took to complete.   I can’t wait to share the photos and my experiences with my father’s family. 


October 4, 2009
Arlene (Cofrancesco) Willis


   
Castelvenere

Arlene, Anna, and Prof. Scetta
in Castelvenere


       

Last Updated ( Thursday, 12 November 2009 )
 
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