"A family tree can wither if nobody tends its roots."


Aerial View of Pescasseroli & Opi

by  Phyllis Zeck

Pescasseroli Italy Del Principe

Pescasseroli, Italy

This winter I was looking for some images to purchase for the walls of our new home. I bought these panoramic photos of the towns of Pescasseroli and Opi. After having 11×14 prints made I bought new frames and hung the photos in my bedroom. They look wonderful. The photo on the left is the birth town of my great grandparents Cesidia Elvira Tranquilla Ciolli (1867-1939) and Pietro Giovanni Del Prinicipe (1853-1922). The photo below is the town of Opi where my great great grandmother Filomena Ursitti was born in 1837.  Filomena married Don Pietrantonio Amabile Ciolli and they raised their family in Pescasseroli. 

Opi Italy

Opi, Italy

While I was looking for photos I came across the website Life in Abruzzo. If you plan to visit Italy this site has some info about the community of Pescasseroli and things to do in the town. The writer mentions Salvatore, the owner of the B&B via Della Piazza, at the end of the article.




Pescasseroli’s Infiorata

by  Phyllis Zeck

A few weeks ago my cousin, Joe Del Principe, emailed me a link to a you tube video that we’d like to share.  Joe wrote “I thought you might like to have a copy of this Youtube video. It is from Pescasseroli this year during the Infiorata.” Infiorata means decorated with flowers. The whole community takes part in the tradition. The elderly collect flowers and the children and young people implement the designs. Flower petals are used to create amazing works of art in the streets for Pescasseroli’s annual flower art festival.  

Pescasseroli Italy


Joe explained “At about the 2 minute mark in the video the local priest is talking, and in the background, on the building behind him, there is a sign “B&B”. That is Salvatore Toscano’s B&B della via piazza where we stayed while we were visiting there.” Salvatore’s great, great grandmother Ester and my great grandmother Elvira were sisters.  I inquired about the church in the background and Joe explained, “it is the Chiesa Del SS Apostoli Pietro e Paolo, which is where many of our family had been baptized and married.”  

I love listening to the church bells chime. One day I hope to dig through those church records! Thanks for sharing Joe. Click here to watch the video.




Ciolli Ancestral Lines in Pescasseroli and Opi Italy

by  Phyllis Zeck

Below is continued research from Kathy at GenTracer.  She has dug deeper into our family roots to uncover more about our Ciolli ancestors.  This may be the last research project that Kathy is able to give to us from the United States.  When I met with Kathy in Salt Lake City last month she said that continued research could be done at the family church, the Parish of St Pietro & St Paolo in Pescasseroli.  However researching the church records could be tricky.  The church index is by first name, then by last name (in Latin form).  

I was able to add many new names to my Ancestry.com tree such as Baldassare Ursitti and Alessandro Cucuzza (my 5th great grandfathers) and Maxine Serone (my 5th great grandmother).  Click here to read some Family Group Records and Source Citations.  Thank you Kathy, for your research.

Click here for some updated reports:   
GEDCOM Del Principe, Mattio Mar 25, 2014
GEDCOM Ciolli, Medici Carmine Mar 25, 2014
GEDCOM Ursitti, Baldassare Mar 25, 2014

Click here to see more family Pedigree views:

Del Principe Family Tree

The research goal was to extend ancestral lines in Pescasseroli and Opi, L’Aquila.  The project began with the birth, marriage and death records of Opi for 1828-1837 (FHL #1227908). They included:

#2, (source #1) the marriage of Angelico Ursitti to Nunziata Maria Celesta d’Arcangelo, filed on 2 October 1831. The groom was 33 years old, born in Opi and a landowner living in Opi. He was a son of the late Domenico Ursitti and of Nicodema Serafina Cocuzza, a landowner living in Opi. The bride was 20 years old, born in Opi and living in Opi. She was a daughter of Filippo d’Arcangelo, a landowner living in Opi and of the late Mariantonia Bevilacqua. The list of allegati (supplementary documents filed in connection with this marriage) included the birth extracts of the bride and goom, the death of the late Domenico Ursitti (the father of the groom), the death of the late Baldassare Ursitti (the paternal grandfather of the groom), the death of the late Mariantonia Bevilacqua, mother of the bride. The margin note on the far right shows that this wedding occurred on 30 December in the parish of Opi. This is longer than usual between the intention and the marriage, but since both the bride and groom were landowners, that made them just below nobility in social stature and this might have been an enormous wedding celebration that took a long to time plan and organize. Of course, it’s also possible that a family member’s ill health delayed the wedding. Source #1

2, (source #2) the marriage processetti (supplementary documents) for the above marriage. This 8 page file started with an extract of the birth of the groom. This extract was produced by the parish of Santa Maria Assunta in Opi, click here for a 360 degree view of the church. On 17 November 1798 was the baptism of an infant born the same day at 1700 hours. The child was born to the married couple of Domenico Ursitti, son of Baldassare Ursitti of Opi and to Nicodema Serafina Cucuzza, daughter of Alessandro Cucuzza and Maxine Serone of this place and named Angelico [Ursitti]. 

Page 2 was an extract of the birth of Nunziata Maria Celesta d’Arcangelo, filed on 9 May 1811 in Opi. The birth was reported by Filippo d’Arcangelo, a citizen, 26 years old and living on strada la Piazza #77. the female child was born at 3 am on 8 May to his legitimate wife, Mariantonia Bevilacqua. She was a daughter of Agostino Bevilacqua and of Barbara Norci, residents of the town of Gallinaro (Frosinone province).

Pages 3-4 were an extract of the death of Domenico Ursitti in the town of Villetta (L’Aquila province), filed on 21 May 1829. The death was reported by Arcangelo Celiolonio, 42 years old and a laborer and by Benedetto Clemente, 22 years old and a quarry worker living in this town. The death occurred on 21 May. He was from Opi and at the hospital in Velletta. He was 60 years old, born in Opi and a landowner who lived in Opi. He was a son of the late Baldassare Ursitti, a landowner who lived in Opi.

Page 4 was an extract of the death of Baldassare Ursitti reported in the parish of Santa Maria Assunta in Opi. It was reported on 18 December 1790. He was from Opi, about 59 years old. He received the last rites. His son was Domenico Urisitti.

Page 6 was an extract of the death of Mariantonia Bevilacqua, filed in Opi on 7 August 1822. The death was reported by Carlo di Vito, 35 years old and a landowner living in Opi and by Gioacchino Rossi, 51 years old and a landowner living in Opi. She died on 6 August, was 30 years old and the wife of Filippo de Arcangelis. She was born in Gallinaro and a landowner living in Opi. She was a daughter of Don Agostino Bevilacqua, a landowner living in Gallinaro and of Barbara Norci, a landowner living in Gallinaro. Pages 7-8 were another copy of the Solemn Promise to Marry located above (Source #1). Source #2

The birth, marriage and death records of Pescasseroli for 1812-1817 (FHL #1360874) included:

#2, (source #3) the marriage of Leonardo Antonio Visci to Donata Cesidia Gentile, filed on 21 June 1813. The groom was 19 years old and a shepherd living in Pescasseroli. He was a minor (under 21 years) son of Nicolangelo Visci, 60 years old and a shepherd living in this town and of the late Maria Domenica Ciolli. The bride was 23 years old and a homemaker living in this town. She had reached her majority (over 21 years) and was a daughter of the late Antonio Gentile and of Lucia Santercole, 50 years old and a homemaker living in the home of her late husband and giving her consent. The intended wedding was announced on 6 June and 13 June. Source #3

#8, (source #4) the marriage of Ascenzo Notarantonio to Maria Luisa Ciolli, filed on 28 September 1815. The groom 22 years old and a landowner living in this town. He was a minor child (under 21 years) of Nicola Notarantonio, 56 years old and a landowner living in this town and of Scolastica Mascia, 46 years old and a landowner living with her husband and giving consent. The bride was 20 years old and a landowner living in this town. She was a daughter of Fortunato Ciolli, 60 years old and a landowner living in this town and of Gemma d’Arcangelo, a landowner, 60 years old and living with her husband and giving consent. This intended marriage was announced on 17 September and 24 September. Source #4




The Festival di San Giovanni Baptiste by Susan

by  Phyllis Zeck

One of the first blogs that I wrote (see post from Oct 30, 2010) about was the town that my great, great grandmother Filomena Ursitti was born in on May 8, 1837; the town of Opi, Italy.  Susan stumbled upon my website in her search for information about the Festival di San Giovanni Baptiste (the patron saint of Opi).  Susan was planning a trip to Italy in 2012 to participate in the festival.  She would be traveling with her daughter, sister, cousin, sister-in-law, and friend.  

Susan wrote “My grandparents originated from Opi.  For years, we heard about Opi and enjoyed the family, food, customs and life my grandparents lived as Italian Americans.  Our grandparents,  parents, and extended Italian relatives were part of a group called San Giovanni Battista Society.   The group was in existence for 100 years and then ended about 8 years ago.   It started in Detroit, Michigan in 1908 from Italians who immigrated from Opi, Aguila, Abruzzo, Italy. The families found strength and support from each other through the San Giovanni Battista Society. One of the eldest members died recently, Lucy Boccia.  This was our connection to family with Opi names:  Boccia, Gentile, Tatti, DiPero, DeSantis, DeVito, DeLoro.”

Susan and I are connected through our Boccia and Gentile ancestors.  Below is a blog Susan has written and graciously allowed me to post.  Thank you Susan, I hope you are able to enjoy many more summers to come in our home land!

The view from Via Salita La Croce is beautiful, unique and narrow.  We stayed at Antica Rua B&B.  From our doorway look right and the via ends at a little hotel at the downside of the village.  Look left up the via toward the little castle at the village  square.

But there is more, higher, farther and narrower.  Nicolangelo Leone walked down the via to the B&B to welcome us and invite us to his home.

Side note:  Every step you take in Opi is either up or down, since the village is built on the top of a mountain.  Just imagine how healthy one must be to live in Opi.  Nicolangelo is 89 and he’s turning 90 on 15 January 2013.  In Italian, he told us he went to see a cardiologist for his heart.  Oh no, we were instantly worried and concerned until he quickly presented to us his prescribed medicine –  the package read for “indigestion.”  Ooohh, thank goodness.

We walked up, past the bar, past the castle through a narrow walkway, up the stairs, past the Santa Maria Assunta church, turned left onto a smaller via, and arrived at Nicolangelo’s beautiful green door.  

Welcome!  Benvenuti a cinque donne americane.  Please come in….Saluti Nicolangelo.

You are a very charming man and you stole our hearts from day one!


We were invited to meet the Officers of Opi at cappella San Giovanna Battista on Sunday, June 24, 2012, at 4:00 pm to look at documents.  We met so many people in Opi who introduced themselves and asked in Italian:  How are you related to us?  Who are your closest relatives that live in Opi?   In my best Italian, I explained our Opi heritage and how our families in the US stayed connected through San Giovanni Battista Society (SGBS).  Also, explained SGBS morto in 2008.  Yes they understood, but…   the connection.  How are you connected to us?

Cappella San Giovanna Battista

When introductions are made, Opianni’s say the last name first.  Because of the culture, it was difficult for Opi people to grasp how le cinque donne americane were connected.  In Opi, the women keep their maiden names.

Left to Right: Christine Murphy (Boccia), Padre Rossi, Susan DuBois-Reetz (Boccia), Georgio Cimini, Maruzio, Marilynn DuBois-Wieczorek (Boccia)

In the red bag, Maruzio brought the booklet:  Societa’ San Giovanni Battista 75th Anniversary Banquet and Dinner Dance, June 26th, 1983 at Roma Hall on Gratiot Avenue in East Detroit, Michigan, a letter from Orazio Paglia, and a list of Members and Sponsors of SGBS.  It’s amazing, those documents were 29 years old.   Here was the validation!  Maruzio pointed to names:  Benjamin Boccia, Gene and Susan Reetz.  Oh my Godda!  Yes, that’s us.  We pointed to relatives on the list:  Marilynn Wieczorek, Christine’s parents, our parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  All the same names:  Boccia, Gentile, Tatti, Paglia, Cimini, Ursiti, Sabatini, Ricci, DiVito, and more.  So exciting!  Everyone was talking at once.  We were happy and filled with so many more emotions.

This is Orsola Gentile hugging my daughter, Corinn. Look at how cute they are and there is a resemblance. My grandmother’s name was Grazia Gentile. Corinn and Orsola look like sisters. We were celebrating the SGB feste, listening and dancing to a live band in Opi on June 24. Very fun!

Nicolangelo and I are speaking Italian. I learned enough with Beginner I & II language classes at the Italian American Cultural Society to be able to carry on conversations. I kept telling Nicolangelo that I was married “marito” , but he took off his wedding ring and pretended to throw it away. He was very charming.











By Susan DuBois-Reetz (Boccia)   Pictures by Corinn VanWyck




Lisa & Mark visit Pescasseroli, Italy

by  Phyllis Zeck

Last month Lisa & Mark visited Europe and one of their stops was Pescasseroli.  Lisa’s great grandparents were Pietro Del Principe and Elvira Ciolli.  Pietro and Elvira’s youngest son was Frank.  Frank’s son is Frank Jr. (Luke) and Lisa is Luke’s daughter. Whew, kind of confusing isn’t it?!  Lisa and Mark live in Arizona  and they have been looking forward to this trip to Europe since last fall.  Lisa’s email to me said “The trip was great, we had a blast.  Pescasseroli was one of the highlights of the trip.  The drive from Rome to Pescasseroli was very picturesque.  The town is quite a bit bigger than I thought it would be.”

Lisa and Mark stayed at Salvatore Toscano’s Bed and Breakfast – Via Della Piazza. Salvatore’s great, great grandmother Ester and my great grandmother Elvira were sisters.  They also met Salvatore’s mother, Ester Saltarelli.    Then they visited with Giovanni Del Principe.  I am very jealous!  They have graciously agreed to let me post some of their photos in my blog, thank you Lisa & Mark.

Pescasseroli is a town in the province of L’Aquila in southern Abruzzo.   A summer and winter resort, it is the headquarters of the Abruzzo National Park.   The monument below (I believe it is a WWII monument) was funded mostly by money sent from America. Click on any of the photos below to enlarge them, click on the back button to return to the blog.

Homes in Pescasseroli







The Fontana di san Rocco

Piazza Sant’ Antonio






Next are photos from our family church in Pescasseroli.  Chiesa Dei Ss. Apostoli Pietro E Paolo was founded in 1100.  Below is a link to a very interesting article about a Church in Buffalo, New York and a statue of the Madonna that was brought to Buffalo by Gaetano Del Principe.  I don’t believe I am directly related to this Gaetano Del Prinicipe, his family appears to have settled in New York in the early 1900’s.

“The statue of the Madonna is a copy of the one in Pescasseroli, Italy and was brought here from Italy by the efforts of Mr. Gaetano Del Principe. It was beautifully adorned with a hand embroidered white dress and blue mantle that was made by several members of the Society.” xx http://www.stlawrencebuffalo.org/devotion.shtml












Below are photos of Salvatore taking Lisa and Mark to the Ciolli home, the arch leading to the home, and snapshots of the area around the home.  Although the home no longer is owned by Salvatore’s family, they still own the storage area below the home which is just inside the Arco Ciolli.

Ciolli Arch


Back of the Ciolli Home

Homes in the area

Salvatore’s storage area

Ciolli Home











Below are photos of Salvatore Toscano’s Via Della Piazza Bed & Breakfast.  This is a link to his website http://www.viadellapiazza.it/


Salvatore, Salvatore’s Mother, and Lisa










While in Pescasseroli Lisa and Mark checked into “The Book” that was mentioned in my previous post (March 12, 2011).  The book appears to have been published by the community and it is about the people and landmarks in Pescasseroli.  Salvatore checked with his mother as to the name of the woman at the wake and she believes the woman is Filomena Ursitti (my great great grandmother).  The last photo is the remains of a castle which was destroyed by an earthquake.









Below are photos of Chiesa Del Carmelo