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Our Sicilian Ancestry – A tour of Valledolmo Sicily

Many of the visitors to Vacanti Yacht Design LLC website may well wonder about our Vacanti name being at least Italian in origin. In fact it is actually Sicilian as both sides of my family emigrated from the small town of Valledolmo Sicily along with about 3000 other people from the same town to the US about 1895. Nearly all of these immigrants to the USA settled in the farming country of Western New York State between Rochester, NY and Erie PA.

LIMITS OF USE OF THIS BLOG

The blog is a personal one and is intended primarily for the use of our extended family so that they may see what we saw and possibly consider a trip to Valledolmo as well. This posting is covered by Copyright Vacanti Yacht Design LLC and is not intended for use by any commercial entity.

Valledolmo – South East of Palermo, Sicily

There have been a number of American families, who are descendants of the original 19th Century immigrants who have made the trek back to Valledolmo Sicily, Italy to see if they can find connections to their past or at least see where their families began. This Blog post will detail a recent trip we took to Valledolmo in Early June 2022.

We were privileged to visit this lovely farming town in June of 2022. We re-discovered the warmth and charm we have always known among our US family members among the people we met in Valledolmo. We also discovered that the town is well known for a special type of tomato, wine (White, sparkling and red), excellent Pasta, Lentils and other produce.

Approach to Valledolmo!

The view below is what a visitor first sees when approaching Valledolmo from Palermo. The newly paved road made it a very easy drive and was especially wonderful to see the town from the road just outside of town. This very lovely hillside town is surrounded by pastoral scenes and state of the art Wind Farm and Solar arrays on the surrounding hills. It was a great thrill to see this place that my grandfather had described to me well over 50 years ago.

On the way to Valledolmo
Windmills On the Hills Around Valledolmo
On the way to Valledolmo!
Valledolmo Comes into View from the Road

Upon arrival in town at the Municipal Building (Town Hall) you are greeted with the scene below.

Town Hall

And the main square of the town

Main Square in Valledolmo

Our visit began as our local Sicilian Guide Silvia was joined by town representatives (Mr Orazio Pizzolanti and Rosella Battaglia). We admired the town hall and its furnishings as we were encouraged to go upstairs to the Town Hall Conference room.

On the way upstairs we tried to absorb photos of town celebrations and functions that had been captured in large photos and displayed on a square tower located in the stairwell so that it can be viewed as you ascend or descend on the stairs.

When we arrived in the council conference room we were surprised with a large spread of traditional Sicilian food that I easily recognized as being identical to what I grew up with when visiting my Grandmothers’ home. We had a chance to talk to many towns people, some of who had relatives that matched my paternal and maternal family names. It was sometimes startling to see someone who closely resembled Aunts and Uncles of my own family. Because so many people emigrated to the same area of Western NY (Dunkirk, Fredonia, Buffalo, Rochester and others) I found that the family surnames of those we met were the same as children I went to school with in Fredonia NY.

An Amazing Collection of Traditional Sicilian Family Foods were assembled as a huge surprising Welcome for us!

We had a delightful time meeting town folk and members of the town council , especially the Mayor (sitting with Italian flag colored banner) and the Council President (far left). Shirley and I are center in the photo below. I am looking closely at the plaque that was made for our visit and placed in a special velvet case.

Greeted by the Town Council with a Ceramic Plaque in memory of our visit and a very lovely flower bouquet for Shirley
Our memorial plaque,samples of Chick Peas, Lentils and Pasta from Valledolmo and the fabulous bouquet given to Shirley

We were asked to be photographed with the Mayor(center), council members. Mr Pizzolanti and Silvia (our tour guide) are shown back left. They combined with Rossella Battaglia (third from back left) to provide a very memorable experience in Valledolmo. This little town was filled with friendly, warm and welcoming people that were a great pleasure to meet.

As we sampled the great food prepared by town families, we had a chance to visit with towns people who had relatives who moved to the US in the 19th century and who had relatives with names that matched my maternal and paternal family names. It was a great thrill to wonder if I was meeting relatives of my family. As of this writing the towns records department was looking into the names and birth dates of my family grandparents and a couple great grand parents. I hope we someday have great news about finding family connections.

Possible Relatives? We are working to find out! We could see what seemed to be “familiar faces” in the people we met

Be aware that most town folks only speak Italian / Sicilian and that we were blessed to have Rosella, our guide Silvia (Sicilian born) and our local professional driver Ludovica who all spoke Italian and Sicilian to help us a great deal. I encourage US families to try to learn a little conversational Italian to help with your visit.

After our traditional foods and chats with town members we headed out to the records keeping area and saw the very old registers of recorded births in the city. The records seem to date from about 1820.

I’m looking at possible Vacanti Relatives with one of the towns record keepers
Chiesa Nuova (New Church)

The Catholic church shown above after restoration from being bombed by the Allies near the end of World War II. We were told that the new church was rebuilt with some donations made by US descendants of Valledolmo Families who had emigrated to the US about 50-60 years earlier.

Beautifully Decorated Steps to Chiesa Nuova. The tiles were made by a local Artisan and show the produce grown around Valledolmo. You can see Tomatoes, Grapes, Wheat Olives and more

On this typical inclined street in Valledolmo, we were surprised to learn that this home on the corner had been abandoned since the late 1890’s when the family emigrated to the US. It is available for purchase and restoration by Americans who would be willing to participate in an Italian Renovation program that allows the homes to be purchased for a few thousand Euro so long as the building was then renovated and brought up to modern standards. We understand that renovation expenses would then be rebated to some extent by the Italian government.

The views down the streets in Valledolmo are just beautiful. At its highest point Valledolmo sits at an altitude of about 3000 ft (~1 Km) and is the equivalent of a Western Washington (USA) person living at the same altitude as Snoqualmie Pass in the Cascade Mountains near our present home in Anacortes, WA and about 1000ft higher than the Allegheny State Park Mountains East of Fredonia and Dunkirk NY.

My grandfather told me stories about being a boy in Valledolmo whose chore was to walk a donkey up the local mountain sides to pick fruit and place it in saddle bags or baskets carried by the donkey. I can only imagine which of the hills surrounding town were the scene of my Grandfathers chores!

A different view of the surrounding hill sides greets you as you look down any street. The hills nearby grow grapes, fruit, chick peas, lentils, wheat and much more. There are at least two wineries associated with Valledolmo. We were happy to sample a delicious sparkling white wine from the Castellucci Miano Winery. An excellent description of the heritage of the Catarratto and Perricone grapes from Valledolmo can be found on a page in the Castelluci Miano Winery Website: https://www.castelluccimiano.it/noi-e-il-territorio/

After our short walking tour of the city area near the town center we drove a short distance to a wonderful family restaurant where we had a fantastic dinner meal of local produce and meats.

Our prepared table above was soon covered with several fabulous dishes made with local materials and prepared just before our getting to the restaurant.

A sampling of the first courses is seen below and was followed by delicious lamb chops and local sausage.

A wonderful Pasta Dish that used Fava Beans (similar to large Lima Beans) to form the green sauce seen above. It was fantastic!
Lamb/sausage with local orange

Our trip to Valledolmo was made very special by the great warmth and welcoming that was expressed to us by the towns people. We strongly encourage any Valledolmo Descendant American Family to visit the town if you have the means to make the trip. We would advise hiring a professional driver to assure the easiest and the shortest possible trip from Palermo or Cefalu. Expect at least an hour drive through mountains and valleys from either of the two larger cities.

The people of Valledolmo encourage American descendants to visit and to contact the town to make arrangements for a visit with plenty of advance notice to the town before you arrive. Our travel agent contacted the town well before we visited and worked with the town council to arrange for the surprise meeting with the council and the towns people. We were very much surprised and very touched by the generosity of the town in greeting us.

Valledolmo does not have a hotel but they do have a few local Bed and Breakfast houses that might be able to allow you to stay a bit longer than the long afternoon we were able to experience. Be sure to provide as much detailed information about family members – such as full original names (not anglicized in the US) dates of birth or marriage if you wish to learn more about your relatives. The records are organized by date of birth so that information is of the greatest value. If you have the year of birth of your family member that can be sufficient if there are not too many similar names of family members born in the same year.

Travel Arrangements to Valledolmo / Sicily

Our travel arrangements were handled for us by Rem Malloy at Italy4Real (https://italy4real.com), Rem has team members who are natives of Sicily and who made a special effort to travel to Valledolmo to meet the town Mayor and other town members before they arranged our visit. They now have the detailed knowledge of who to contact and the best means of making your visit as rewarding as possible. The newly re-elected Mayor Dott. Angelo Conti and his staff are very welcoming and encourage your visit and your on going support of Valledolmo. They know Rem’s team (Mattia and others) so the visit will be made much easier. We have known Rem and Italy4Real for over 18 years now and have had two exceptional trips with his travel service.

Contacting the Town of Valledolmo

As of this writing in June of 2022 you are encouraged to contact either Mr Orazio Pizzolanti (Segreteria Commune di Valledolmo) at segreteria@comune.valledolmo.pa.it or Ms Rossella Battaglia at rossellabattaglia075@gmail.com. Rossella speaks excellent English and Mr Pizzolanti is very good as well. The town website (in Italian / Sicilian) is here: https://www.comune.valledolmo.pa.it/

Even if you are not able to physically visit Valledolmo, I would encourage you to write to either Mr Pizzolanti or Ms Battaglia to let them know you are interested in the town.

Web Resources About Valledolmo

An excellent website with Genealogy information about the town of Valledolmo can be found here: https://valledolmo-genealogy.org/the-people-of-valledolmo.html