Do you know who Mike Pompeo is? Did you know that on his first official government visit to Italy he took 4 hours for out of his schedule for himself and went with his wife to Abruzzo to see the village of Caramanico in the province of Pescara?
Then he also went to visit Sulmona where he bought some presents, and perhaps some confetti for which Sulmona is famous around the world.
Mike Pompeo is the right arm of Donald Trump, the president of the United States of America, as well as being former head of the CIA. We can certainly call him one of the most important men in the world whose time is precious and must be distributed on thousands of issues around the planet.
Yet, here, this particular Mike Pompeo took an afternoon of vacation to visit this small town in Abruzzo from where many years ago his grandmother’s parents left to seek their fortune in America.
Not only that: he went to meet a metalworker pensioner who now lives in the house where his ancestors once lived and visited his house.
In technical terms, Mike Pompeo was also a “tourist to discover his roots”, that is a traveller looking for places told about by his grandparents. In search of the sensations and emotions that he could have experienced while walking on the same streets, looking at the same horizons and observing the same landscape.
Some 80 million Italians are estimated to be spread around the world, but I think there are many more because the ties continue to be maintained for many generations. And after all, even the American Secretary of State is the fourth generation of emigrants.
For me living in the lower Lazio it is almost normal to run into American or Canadian families looking for their ancestors. I see them lost as they often fail to relate with Italian residents because they need something more than someone who can simply speak English.
A third or fourth generation emigrant is someone who has lived totally immersed in another country and has a bond with Italy that resides in his emotional and sometimes dreamlike side.
We have helped third-generation (and other) people to rediscover their country of origin by creating a cultural bridge. The words of Bobbi Martellacci, a 22-year-old young Canadian woman who came with us to discover her village of Scifelli, a hamlet of the larger town of Veroli south of the provincial capital Frosinone.
First, together with the Pro Loco (tourist association) of Veroli, we received her in the splendid Veroli boardroom in a beautiful Renaissance building built right on the main square. Then we organized a visit to the museum which is located in the basement of the same building that was once located on the acropolis of the city.
Going down the stairs was like taking a journey through time: from the Renaissance to the Middle Ages, then down into the Roman period and finally into the time of the Volsci, that people with the large pre-Roman polygonal walls that today is the foundation of the building itself.
A journey through time that made Bobbi say: “it is a better experience than that of the Colosseum which was full of people.”
Now there is no doubt that there are no comparisons between the Colosseum and the small municipal museum of Veroli, but there are no doubts also about the warmth with which she was received and about the fact that we built a cultural bridge between Scifelli-Veroli and Bobbi-Toronto.
A bridge that will lead Bobbi to return to regain that unique feeling of welcome that she received from us during the months in which we have been in contact, from the local tourist board, from her family of origin, from the parish of Scifelli that we opened and all of us together have represented the Italian spirit.
Certainly, Mike Pompeo’s journey had been organized in every detail and but now he has experienced the emotions of the rediscovery of Italian roots and perhaps will order the Sulmona confetti for Christmas from now on, but for us Bobbi Martellacci and her mother was like Mike Pompeo.
We loved them as new-found sisters and we passed this love on to all the people of Veroli who they met and who gave them a unique experience.
They will return to Veroli, but it is still up to us to continue to build the bridge on which the younger generations will be able to come and go, feeling at home in both countries.
We are here and now we are already at work for another unforgettable story.
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