There are two lasting things we can hope to bequeath to our children: “roots and wings”.
So says an ancient Chinese proverb and for this reason I’m always in search of a piece of the history of my ancestors, I discover new names, I dust off memories, I listen to stories of past life. I am Nicola Salerno and I am proudly the son and grandson of emigrants.
The story I want to tell you begins in a small town in Basilicata and precisely in Accettura, , in the province of Matera. There, my grandfather Paolo, a stubborn young man with many dreams in the drawer, decided, at the age of twenty, to pack his suitcase and seek his fortune in Buones Aires, Argentina.
In Accettura, however, he had left his heart, so he returned to the village to marry his beautiful fiancé, my grandmother Antonia, who had been waiting for him all those years in a village called Castelmezzano, where she was born and raised. Their dreams and desire to have a better future led them to fly to New York. They moved to Brooklyn, the family began to grow: my mother Teresa and her sister were born. The nostalgia for their homeland, however, remained strong and the desire to return to Italy helped them to make many sacrifices to constantly send money to Basilicata with which they would build a cozy house for the family.
Finally, back in Accettura, my grandparents opened a bar in the village, managed to get their daughters to graduate and finally enjoy their beloved land. Time passed and Teresa, who in the meantime had become a teacher, met a colleague originally from Stigliano, my father Filippo. Work made my parents move to Sorrento where, among the scent of the sea and lemons, my brother and my sisters and I were born.
Suitcases, places, departures, arrivals, they are in my DNA and I have made them my job. For more than thirty years I have been the owner of Egmont Viaggi, which today is based in Taormina, (where I met my German wife Beate), Sorrento and in Riva del Garda: I love living in what are now MY CITIES and spending as much time as possible discovering the Lucanian roots.
To this day, I still enjoy walking through the streets of my grandparents’ hometown, where I lived until I was five years old. I remember with great nostalgia when my grandfather, whom I called “cocco Paolo”, took me around the woods with a backpack full of delicacies, made of fabric by my grandmother with her Singer: a magical tool for her, which I have restored and keep at home in her memory. “Cocco Paolo” and I left the house in the early morning even before the sun rose in the company of Guerino: our black dog, thin and bald, phenomenal in sniffing and chasing hares and foxes but also capable of scaring away a wild boar.
Every year, I spend a few days in Accettura for the “Festa del Maggio”: the traditional celebration in honour of San Giuliano, patron saint of the town. It is a peasant festival, which lasts three days, where the “marriage” is “celebrated” between the top of a tree located in the woods and the trunk of another tree that is found, instead, in the forest that surrounds the village. Every year the top is carried on the shoulders of devotees, while the trunk is pulled by 16 pairs of oxen. The celebration is accompanied by music, songs, dances, food and, of course, muir’, wine.
The village festival brings me back to memory when the bar of “cocco Paolo” was full of people who came to participate in the celebrations, but he always found time to let me get on both the ox cart and the trunk that was dragged. I have always gladly listened to his advice and life lessons, and I am sure he would have appreciated this new project of mine on roots tourism: rediscover the places of childhood like me, evoke memories of the past, taste the flavours of the past or experience emotions discovering the places of your ancestors.
If you too are the son or grandson of emigrants, you have wondered at least once in your life how your ancestors lived, why they left their land, what they ate, what their native home was like. Passione Italia Travel was created to answer many of these questions. Thanks to our thirty years of experience in the tourism sector, we accompany you on the “journey of a lifetime”. Our team, made up of experienced tour operators and professional genealogists, will guide you in your search and will take care of organizing a 360° trip, stay, nature experiences, food & wine tours with the aim of making the discovery of your origins an unforgettable adventure.
DISCOVERING THE ORIGINS: EXPERIENCE AN INCREDIBLE JOURNEY IN SEARCH OF THE ROOTS.
2024 has been declared by the Italian government as the year of return tourism. Passione Italia Travel helps you rediscover your origins and accompanies you on a journey to discover unforgettable places and fantastic experiences.