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I went to an Opera Queensland production in Brisbane just a few days ago to see the latest production of the  great tragedy of LA TRAVIATA by Giuseppe Verdi and guess who was playing the lead role of Alfredo alongside the main tragic character of Violetta played by the terrific Emma Pearson?
None other than Aldo Di Toro, a friend whom I have met through other musicians in Abruzzo over the years.  Aldo is a second generation Australian, like me – child of Abruzzese migrants who settled in Australia.
He hails from Western Australia where he graduated from the Western Australian Conservatorium of Music and has won several awards  from Opera Foundation Australia: the 2000 Italian Opera Award which enabled him to study at Teatro Comunale di Bologna and the 2002 AIMS Award for further study in Graz, Austria. 
Now he lives in Abruzzo in the delightful village of Sant’Eusanio, Italy which is actually only a few kilometres from where I live in Abruzzo! What a great base for him to rest up in between his hectic schedule..
I remember fondly when several years ago I assisted in arranging a concert for him in Brisbane in conjunction with 4MBS radio at Coorparoo, Brisbane where he sang alongside pianist and accompanist Roberto Rupo.
Read more about his operatic highlights and roles here in the Opera Australia site

Wishing you all the best ALDO!


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Abruzzo in central Italy has a population of around 1.3 million people today. However in the late 1890’s and early 1900’s there was a huge migration of its people to North America especially to USA. It reached its peak from 1900- 1915 with a huge exodus. Sadly the migration was driven by dire poverty and uneasy political situation where the poor peasants had very few rights under the old feudal system, not enough land to live off and to feed the large families. Going to America was a dream and the thought of travelling to New York to make their fortune was enough to send at least 500,000 Abruzzese to North America.
Other regions of Italy also saw huge numbers of migrants heading to USA and Canada in those years. The regions were from Fruili Venezia Giulia in the north of Italy to Sicily and Calabria in Italy’s south. This migration has been referred to as the Italian Diaspora.
Migration then had another peak in the post second world war period especially in the 1950’s. Here many of the Abruzzese travelled to Canada, Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil and of course Australia.
My father Sabatino  and my mother Rosa were one of these migrants with a sponsored passage to Australia. This was in 1952 for my father and in 1956 for my mother.

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Luciana researching for a client in the archives of a town hall in Abruzzo
Since I started my work in Abruzzo in 2004, I have had many many requests to research for clients the ancestral heritage and genealogy of family members. After detailed research and networking and piecing together information from documents and oral history I am able to reconnect  children of Abruzzese migrants to their ancestral village.
This is particularly satisfying when my guests share this real emotional connection to their past and to their long lost family and creates memories to last a lifetime.
Here are some of the many villages I have had requests to research and reconnect: 
Where is your family from?
Alfedena
Caramanico
Casoli
Chieti

Civitella del Tronto
Civitella Messer Raimondo
Fara San Martino
Furci
Guardiagrele
Introdacqua
Morro D’Oro
Ortucchio
Nereto
Palombaro
Pescara
Pescosansonesco
Picciano
Ripa Teatina
Roseto degli Abruzzi

Sant’Eufemia a Maiella
Sulmona
Tufillo
Villamagna..
With virtually  all my guests over the years,  I find that this search and rediscovery in Abruzzo becomes the highlight of their Italian journey always wishing they had spent more time in beautiful Abruzzo. Come and discover YOUR ABRUZZO HERITAGE yourself.

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In the coming weeks I will be featuring some inspiring Italo – Australians of Abruzzese origin who are doing great things….

1)  ANGELA DI SCIASCIO –

Author of “Finding Valentino”.
I caught up with author Angela in Abruzzo a few months ago and enjoyed a lovely afternoon tea at my place. I made a sour cherry and olive oil cake and it was there that we made our definite and exciting  plans to do a joint tour in Abruzzo for 2014. We have called it  “Finding Valentino with Angela Di Sciascio”.
The 11 day journey is all set for October 5, 2014 and promises to showcase the best of Abruzzo along with places special to Angela and bring her novel to life!

“Angela Di Sciascio trained as an English language teacher and has spent over 15 years teaching in Australia and overseas. She has travelled widely, relishing the experience of being submerged in other cultures. Her passions are teaching, travelling, cooking and eating. She lives and works in regional Victoria, surrounded by family, friends and cookbooks. She loves to write about her observations and experiences.

Have a look at Angela’s blog and a her latest entry describing the wonderful local saint’s festival of SANTA REPARATA held every October and of course will be  a great highlight of her tour…

http://www.angeladisciascio.com.au/news-blog.html

 


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For your copy of this beautifully written book, published by Melbourne University Press, contact Angela directly on:
info@angeladisciascio.com.au

“Valentino Di Sciascio can no longer describe his past or his culture, and his family’s heritage may be lost to the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. Deciding not to let his story fade, his daughter Angela travels the length and breadth of the Italian boot, absorbing the culture of her father and experiencing the chaos, beauty, style and deliciousness that is Italy today.
Basing herself with relatives in Abruzzo, she spends a year travelling around the country, discovering the language, culture and cuisine of her heritage. Meal by meal at her father’s family table and step by step through the Italian countryside, she slowly comes to understand the young Valentino who left for the new world.

RRP $29.99
Victory Books
ISBN 9780522858419


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2) Masci & Co    http://www.mascico.com.au

I have a newly discovered cousin in Melbourne – Daniel Masci. Our great grandfathers were brothers and our strong family ties have linked us back to Abruzzo when Daniel visited Abruzzo on one of my tours! As soon as he rediscovered his ancestral ties to his family village of VILLAMAGNA, he
…”fell in love with the culture, people, magical sites and especially the sense of pride that the Abruzzese people have for their town, country, villages and especially family and food.

The Masci family in Australia to this day continues with traditions such as homemade pasta sauce, where the family comes together to spend a day boiling tomatoes, filling jars with fresh basil and pressing the tomatoes to a beautiful Pomodori salsa (tomato sauce). Fresh pasta is always being made at Zia (Aunty) Maria’s the traditional and best way. Our products are from our family and friends in Abruzzo and we are very proud to offer what we consider some of the finest quality products from the region.
Daniel set out to create Masci & Co, an import company in Melbourne that is bringing the finest quality artisan products from the rugged region of Abruzzo, Italy to Australia. Wine from a family winery in Villamagna, Truffle products hand selected and hunted, handpicked vegetable pestos, fresh made pasta and many other products that have been selected with care from local suppliers dedicated to quality.
Daniel now imports some exclusive fabulous gourmet items from Abruzzo into Australia – items that will never be seen in any deli or shop.. Look out for:
* Abruzzo wines: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo red wine, Trebbiano and Pecorino white wine from VALLE MARTELLO winery (also another Masci family business, another cousin!)
* Pasta Maiella: great durum wheat pastas made from the finest flours and purest water from the Maiella mountains.
* Condiments: delicious wine jellies made with Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Chardonnay grapes (to accompany the finest pecorino sheep milk cheeses)
as well as Spreads – like artichoke pate spread and broad bean spread (fabulous on warm bruschetta bread!)

NEWS from MASCI & CO: “We are really excited to finally open the shop and having a grand opening in Fitro
Saturday 1st Feb 3.00 – 5.00. we will be making some amazing pasta, have samples of all our antipasto and just having a celebrating really, we would love to see you all down here.”

Contact Daniel Masci to find out more:  info@mascico.com.au

Earlier this month in Abruzzo, I reconnected with Angela Di Sciascio, teacher in Geelong and author of her gentle and touching book “Finding Valentino”.  We exchanged many tales of each other’s family migration from the tiny villages in Abruzzo to a new life in Australia. As we talked many coincidences emerged about poverty in the family, large families to feed in post war Abruzzo, the need for our father’s to search for more, strive for better in such a sad environment.
So many migrants left on foot to the nearest railway station or if they were lucky there may have been a wealthy villager or landowner with a car to take them to Chieti for example.The most amazing and thrilling coincidence was that Angela’s father Valentino Di Sciascio and my father Sabatino Masci were actually onboard the same boat from Naples! The S.S FLORENTIA arrived safely in Melbourne on April 24, 1952 after 6 long weeks at sea and 1500 tired and anxious young men aboard. This amazing synchronicity and circle of friendship has found its way to Angela and myself to complete the story of 2 Italian/Abruzzese migrants…  What I must find out though is if my father ever met Valentino, who he played the piano accordion on the ship.
Angela and I paid tribute to several migrant statues in bronze that have been created in Abruzzo to honour the sacrifice and hardships the migrants made to leave their homeland and in search of another destiny. We visited these 4 in the Chieti province:
VASTO – it is a modern piece with a family encircled in a globe of the world.
ALTINO – this statue is of a sole migrant saying farewell to Abruzzo and facing the Adriatic coastline salutes it and ponders when it will see it next…
FARA SAN MARTINO – this statue is emotional as a father farewells his child and salutes the Maiella – also wondering in sadness when he may return or see the mother mountain again…
CASOLI – this statue is a large piece and very modern, donated by a Perth migrant Mr Fini to the town of Casoli. It depicts the Abruzzese migrants going to all parts of the globe – to Australia, the Americas and to Northern Europe. Here we are picking up’ a suitcase in Casoli.
Here is an extract from my father’s memoirs “A DIFFICULT HARVEST” (by Sabatino Masci)  which describes this day and his experience on board the FLORENTIA…
page 152 …” After our documents had been checked, some sailors led us along corridors and down flights of stairs to our numbered beds. Mine was one of a triple deck. The beds were all lined up in a very large and high cargo hold. There were 3 cargo holds set up this way, each to accommodate 500 young single men (aged between 17 and 20 years)..
…The sailors started to remove the big mooring ropes that held the ship and I began to feel a deep pain as if something was breaking inside of me. …of leaving Italy and all I knew – hit me like a knife tearing me apart and tears started to roll down my face..

page 154…‘Making the situation worse for the more sensitive ones was the song, “Arrivederci Roma”, playing through the loud speakers all over the ship. …and tears rolled down our cheeks..”
Do you have any migrant statues in Abruzzo or in Italy you would like to share?
For interest in purchasing my father’s book “A DIFFICULT HARVEST” by SABATINO MASCI please contact Sabatino:
+61 7 3395 3929 or email carmen.sam@iinet.net.au
For interest in purchasing a copy of Angela Di Sciascio’s book ” FINDING VALAENTINO” please contact Angela
info@angeladisciascio.com.au