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Bearcats on the Road

Reconnecting with family in Turi

Posted by Emily Samara on Thu, Apr 14, 2016 @ 03:49 PM


Well, these past two days have been some of the greatest in my life and were also some of the most challenging. My parents and I departed Rome at 10 a.m. on Monday in our Volkswagon Passat station wagon and headed toward Bari. For this part of our trip we were going to meet our relatives that live in Turi, which is right outside of Bari. My great-grandfather Angelo Spinelli on my mom’s side was born in Turi in 1902 and came to America in 1921 to live and raise a family. He left behind his parents and two of his sisters to go to America to join his oldest sister. Once in America, WellAngelo had two children, my grandfather and great aunt. Although my grandpa Perry never met his aunts or cousins, they were in touch by writing letters and sending photos.

image1-4.jpgLast summer, my uncle and aunt came to Italy to try to find Angelo’s family and they were successful! Angelo Spinelli’s family is still in Turi, Italy. When I decided to study abroad in Rome, my parents and I got in contact with our family and planned a trip to go visit them. My grandfather Perry has two cousins in Turi, one of which had a son named Francesco. Francesco has two children named Angelica and Giuseppe. So we went to visit my grandfather’s cousins and their family.

We arrived Monday afternoon and were greeted by Francesco and his daughter Angelica, who took us to their home. When we walked in the door, my grandfather’s cousins were there waiting for us. Dominica (Kella) is 82 and Angelina (Lena) is 87. Keep in mind this is a very Italian family that doesn’t speak English, so we were going off of the little Italian I have learned and the translation that Angelica could provide for us (her English is really good). We all sat around the table while everyone was asking questions and sharing memories of my great grandfather. Thank goodness for Angelica; without her help, we would have had no way to communicate! After a tour of Turi we went back to Francesco’s house for an amazing dinner that Mina, his wife, prepared for us. 

image1-2-4.jpgThe next day we met Angelica and her brother Giuseppe and they took us to Polignana to show us the beach and take us to lunch. The water was so beautiful and blue, the rocks were amazing and the food was delicious. We spent all day with our personal tour guides who showed us everything we needed to see! When we got back to their house, Lena had a shopping bag with her, and Angelica told us that she and her sister Kella had owned a boutique in Turi and still had some of the outfits and dresses put away. Lena had brought me a dress that she once had in her store! She helped me put it on and made sure it fit and she gave it to me as a gift. Later on she brought out more dresses and gave a few to my mom as well; it was just the sweetest thing! Lena had also brought a few photos with her to show us of my grandfather when he was young that he had sent with his letters and she had photos of my great grandfather and of his sisters. After dinner we said goodbye to everyone and told them we would be seeing them again soon!  

I had such an amazing time meeting my family and learning more about my great grandfather’s home. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity and I cannot wait to share my experience with my grandfather. Hopefully one day my family can come visit us in America, but I do know for sure that I will be back in Turi and next time I will be able to speak Italian (hopefully).


Topics: study abroad, Italy, Emily Samara, family, Polignana, Turi

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In Bearcats on the Road, students chronicle their lives while studying abroad or completing internships away from campus.

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