Robert Iulo's BlogMember of the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors
The Village of Terranova
We hired a car and driver to take us to the village where my grandmother Nicolina’s family had lived and where she was born. Simone, our driver, showed up at our hotel in a new black Mercedes and my sister Nicki (Nicolina’s namesake), my wife Bridget and I started the trip inland. We were going to Terranova in the province of Salerno and the Comune (municipality) of Scignano degli Alburni.
As we drove up into the Alburni mountains the lemon groves that were along the coast gave way to chestnut trees and it got colder and mistier as we went higher. After about an hour and a half, we reached Terranova.
We arrived to find what I had expected – a small village, population 60, and a church – Chiesa San Giovanni Battista. Simone said he’d try to find someone to unlock the church for us. A woman came and opened the side door as Simone returned with the priest who told us some of the church’s history. The poor people were interred in the crypt below the church, so we were standing over the bones of our ancestors. The church was built in 1300 and the stone baptismal fountain was at least that old although a modern cover had been made for it. Nicolina DiAntonio was born in the village in 1878 and her father Lorenzo, grandfather Luigi, great grandfather Antonio, and her great great grandfather Onofrio who was born in 1740 were all baptized there. (That’s as far back as I was able to research.)
After our visit to Terranova, we went to Sicignano degli Alburni to find someplace for lunch. A local guy recommended a trattoria in nearby Scorzo called Si Ma Quant Sit? The menu was on a board on the table listing antipasti, pasta, and prima piatto. We started with the antipasto – some local cheese, prosciutto, capicola, and soprasade. We thought that would be it, but the owner, Raffale, the owner, kept coming to our table adding things to our dishes – frittata, eggplant parmigiana, eggplant in vinegar, and on and on. He asked if I wanted some pepper for my pasta. He put a little jar of olive oil infused with dried chili on the table. It wasn’t just spicy; it had a distinct pepper taste. I asked how it was made. He gave me some to take home and got Lucia from the kitchen and she explained how she makes it. Every meal we had in Italy was excellent but that two-hour lunch at Si Ma Quant Sit? was the best. And we found it by lucky accident.