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Travel Guide to visit the Home of our Ancestors Print E-mail
Written by John Cofrancesco   
Wednesday, 17 September 2008
A Travel Guide to visit the Home of our Ancestors
by John A. Cofrancesco

If you are an Italian American who has never been to Italy you are in for a treat. Many people consider Italy to be among the most beautiful and historically significant countries in the world. And even if you have been to Italy before, there is nothing like a return trip to visit the birthplace of the Cofrancescos, San Lorenzello, and the nearby towns in the Province of Benevento, particularly if you have been fortunate enough to have established contact with a relative in the area. Take a look at A visit to the Home of our Ancestors by John A. Cofrancesco, on this web site to get an idea of what a trip can be like. Then look for information on our web site about San Lorenzello and the nearby towns under Our Towns .

The Basilica of St. Peters in Rome at midnight
The Basilica of St. Peters in Rome at midnight

Three basic ways to visit Italy

An all-inclusive Tour

You can take an all-inclusive tour that provides round trip air, lodgings, and most meals, as well as in country transportation, admissions, and touring with an English-speaking guide. Among the many operators of tours to Italy are PerilloTours , Trafalgar , and Elderhostel . Such tours take most of the work out of travel, make efficient use of your time, and are often good values. However the trips generally only cover the well-known Italian cities and famous sites (Elderhostel Tours are more specialized) and do not visit the area where our ancestors originated. It may be possible to leave the tour before the group returns to the United States, and then travel on your own for a few days, but it could get complicated unless a delayed departure is a standard option offered by the tour operator.

A do-it-yourself tour

The other extreme is a do-it-yourself tour. This will enable you to explore San Lorenzello and the nearby towns of Massa, Cerreto Sannita, and Faicchio at your own pace. You can also see more of Italy on your own if you so choose. However unless you are fluent in Italian and have some experience with do-it-yourself travel, you may run into unexpected difficulties and delays, which could waste time and money, and reduce the enjoyment of the trip.

A compromise

There is, however, a compromise. Make your own airline and most lodging arrangements, visit the San Lorenzello area on your own or with a bilingual guide/driver, and then use an Italian based tour operator for several tours to other areas of interest. For example, you could fly into the Leonardo Da Vinci (Fiumicino) International Airport (8 hours from New York) and take the convenient Leonardo Express Train to Rome (35 minutes). Make Rome your base of operation. You will need a detailed map of Rome (see Michelin Roma). Stay at a hotel near the Piazza della Repubblica that is convenient to the Stazione Termini (RR Station), the Rome subway system, and at least two local tour operators. Then spend a day in Rome to adjust to the 6-hour time difference from New York.

You can rent a car in Rome and drive to the San Lorenzello area, but traffic in Rome and the major highways near the city is very heavy. You could hire a car with driver in Rome, but the rental cost, as well as paying for the driver’s expenses including a night or two in the San Lorenzello area, may be prohibitive. However to see if this travel option is for you, particularly if there are several people in your party, check out Chauffeur Services at Benvenuto.

Perhaps a more economical way to go is to take a train for a 3-hour trip to the City of Benevento. See Trenitalia . You could stay at the Bei Park Hotel in Benevento. They provide shuttle service to and from the railroad station and may be able to recommend an English speaking person to act as a guide (see Venere Benevento). You probably will need to rent a car to visit San Lorenzello and the nearby towns. Traffic in that area is much less congested than in Rome, and San Lorenzello is only about 20 miles from Benevento. Both Avis and Hertz have agencies in Benevento. (Autonoleggio Avis Via dei Mulini, 85 Tel. +39 0824 52249, Hertz Autonoleggio Via Torre della Catena, 132 Tel. +39 0824 21487.)

You will need a good map of the Province of Benevento to find your way around. The absolutely best map is “Benevento Carta Della Provincia” from Map Link. It shows even the smallest towns, along with primary, and secondary roads. Renting a car with a GPS can prove helpful. Rather than finding lodging in Benevento, you could choose to stay in the tiny town of Massa where there is an Azienda Agrituristica situated in the middle of a vineyard. It is the “Marchese” on via Sciardi, Tel. +39 0824.814102.

At the Marchese
At the Marchese, an Azienda Agrituristica situated in the middle of a vineyard

An alternative is a new bed and breakfast at the foot of Mount Acero, which will be located in an old home owned by Alessandro Cofrancesco. Watch for a notice of the opening date in a future Newsletter. In the meantime, be sure to visit his shop where he makes decorative and useful items with wrought iron. See his products on line at Lavori Artistici in Ferro Battuto, Tel. +39.0824.814378.

On your return to Rome you could see more of the eternal city and travel to other places of interest. Two tour operators that offer semi-exclusive walking tours of Rome are Great Tours and Presto Tours . The Appian Line , and Green Line Tours offer motor coach tours of Rome as well as other cities. These tours, which are as short as one half day to as long as 7 days, go as far south as Naples, Sorrento, Capri, and the Amalfi Coast, and as far north as Milan and Venice. The motor coaches are comfortable, have an English speaking guide, and the tours include lodgings and meals.

You may wish to reverse the order of your touring, i.e.: visit the San Lorenzello area towards the end of your stay in Italy. This will give you several days of escorted touring to become somewhat familiar with Italian customs, language, dining, lodgings, transportation, etc. before venturing out on your own.

Need some help?

And best of all, our relative living in Rome may be able to assist you with your travel arrangements in Rome as well as other places in Italy! Did you know that Ryan Cofrancesco, born and educated in the United States, has been a free-lance tour guide based in Rome for several years, and has helped other Cofrancescos visiting Italy? His email is This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Five tips that you may find useful

  Get a good travel guide such as Frommer’s Italy and learn as much as possible about Italy before you go. The chapter, “Planning your Trip to Italy” is must reading. The sections on Entry Requirements (passports), Money (ATMs and credit cards), and Getting Around Italy (trains and rental cars) are particularly important. Also note the information on tipping practices in the Fast Facts Section. See Frommer's Italy 2008 .
  If you do not speak Italian, become familiar with the language, even if you select an all-inclusive trip. As a minimum, get a copy of Rick Steves' Italian Phrase Book and Dictionary . It is concise and well organized, and will give you a very basic knowledge of the language. While you will find English-speaking people in large cities, this is not the case in the smaller towns.
  If you are not using an all-inclusive trip, use the Internet to get information on lodging, including reviews by recent travelers. See Venere Italy and Trip Advisor . Detailed information is also available on train schedules, car rental agencies, and of course Italian based tour operators.
  Before you leave this country, get a few hundred Euros in small denominations to use upon your arrival in Italy. Then get more Euros as needed from ATMs, which are readily available in all but the smallest towns. They are called Bancomats, and Cirrus and BankMate are the two most common banking systems. Check with your bank to be sure that your bankcard is compatible with the Italian ATMs (most are). Use your credit cards for other purchases, just as you would in this country. Master Card and Visa are preferred by most venders, however be prepared to pay in Euros at shops, restaurants, and lodgings in small towns.
  And last but not least, travel light: one wheeled bag that you can easily move by yourself, and a second small bag for use on the airplane and for day trips. It is a plus if this bag, when empty, folds and can be stored in your wheeled bag. Nothing can spoil a trip more quickly than lugging around large, heavy bags! Older Italian hotels often have small elevators, or none at all, and help with luggage may not be available. When trains are crowded, luggage space is at a premium. And remember, many airlines now charge to carry luggage, a service that used to be free.

Buon Viaggio!
John A. Cofrancesco
Last Updated ( Friday, 03 October 2008 )
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