The day we went looking for the caves, we had an appointment with the local publisher of the Pacentro magazine, a small, monthly publication. Giovanno, the man who had the photo of our family, set it up. He thought the publisher, Augusto, would be interested in doing a follow-up story on the photo since the owner was identified. A success story, even though his magazine had nothing to do with it.
We met Augusto at the scheduled time, but he didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak enough Italian. He called his cousin (I think), and a lovely lady named Rosemarie quickly arrived with a fluffy white dog. It took quite a while to explain why Giovanno set the meeting up and to establish that even though the name on the photo said Giovanno, the name of the father in the photo was Giovanni. I had to show him the birth certificate. Once we got past all the confusion, we had a good conversation.
My dad shared his story about running in the race and how he wanted Pacentro to remember the Pulcini name. I explained how I’d been researching our family for years, and still even with proof of two or three generations of Pulcinis in Pacentro, we’re still told, “No Pulcinis in Pacentro”.
Augusto listened, took notes and used a digital recorder for pieces of the interview. Then he shocked us and said, there were many Pulcinis in Pacentro for a long time, and then they started to slowly disappear. Once again, we were left speechless. After everything we heard, here was this man who verified our roots.
Augusto can access records others cannot. When Giovanno gave him the photo, he used his privilege to research our family. He is the historian of the town. To be honest, it was hard for me to remain composed. I have worked so long to uncover our history, and here we have yet another form of proof of our Pacentrian roots. After the shock wore off, dad asked, “Do you know where they lived?” Augusto did! He explained to dad where and that the houses were now dilapidated. If it hadn’t been night, we would have marched straight to the site. Augusto also explained that the records he could access were organized by address and streets. The streets and addresses have not remained the same over the years. Augusto is one of the only people who can align the historical records to the addresses of the time and how they correspond to Pacentro today.
The next day, our last day in Pacentro, we had our last appointment with the lady at the state office to see if she could locate any further information. Before our 11am meeting, he wanted to climb the course of the race up the mountain. I was excited for the challenge and joined him.
I quickly regretted my decision. I am a Florida girl. I have not climbed a mountain or a foothill or whatever this thing is classified as. All of my hiking have been on paths. Punctuated with gravel and sharp rocks, the steep trek up required concerted effort and every muscle in my body. At times, I was basically crawling. When I stopped to catch my breath, I had to sit with a tree between my legs to keep from sliding down. It took us 45 minutes to get to the top, and by the time I reached it, all of my muscles were shaking. When dad climbed it for the race, it took the participants 15 minutes or so.
The view from the top and my father’s happiness made the effort worth it. I stopped at the flags, but he continued the next 15 meters or so to the painted rock.
The descent took less than 10 minutes. I quickly learned I couldn’t go down standing upright. I engineered a technique where I sat back on one foot under me, extended the other leg and skied down on my shoe. Basically, I was control falling. Just like when dad ran down, I too grabbed branches and trees to slow my speed. Dad has a ton of videos of my attempting to climb and sliding down. Once we reached the bottom, we doused ourselves in the creek and prepared to climb into town to make our appointment.
For the last time, we met Signora Garafalo at the state office. She looked frustrated. Motioning for us to follow her, we climbed the steps to the top, and she let us in the records room. Old bookcases lined the walls filled with giant, worn books. She had a death date for Maria Carolina Mancini but couldn’t locate the official record. Every book was there in order except for the year she needed. We watched her march around the rooms looking for the missing book. She never located it, but she pulled out another that contained Maria’s birth and baptism records. She told us she wouldn’t give up and gave me her email address to follow up.
After our appointment, we swung by the bed and breakfast to grab Janice and Peter. We grabbed lunch at the “best restaurant in Pacentro,” and headed straight for the area where Augusto said the Pulcinis historically lived before leaving.
Under the main town square, we looked down and found the collapsed remnants of the residences. The home(s) must have been three stories but were now reduced to mostly rubble. We found our way down to the ground floor. It was blocked off by fencing and boards. That wasn’t going to stop dad and me.
There wasn’t anything left but trash in the main area. We climbed into a room off to the right. Stone and debris filled the room, but in the back corner there were papers. Dad and I rifled through them hoping to find something with the Pulcini name. We didn’t find anything from our family, but I found death
records from the family who must have occupied it afterwards. Even though we didn’t find anything specifically related to our family, being in the space they occupied gave us insight into how they might have lived. They were farmers and probably landowners. The land immediate under the residence down into the valley may have belonged to them. If we could have safely climbed into the floor above, we would have, but we had to be satisfied with only seeing the area they lived in.
I’m working on completing the translation of the documents we’ve received.