This post is also available in: Italian

A journey of love unites Marche and Michigan in an ideal embrace thanks to Albert Santoni. A bond rediscovered after a journey to find the roots of his family that led him to fall in love again with the town from which his grandfather and grandmother left Italy.

But let’s go in order and let us be guided by the history of the Santoni family since its arrival in America.

It all began in 1905 when Albert’s grandfather went to America and settled in Iron Mountain in Michigan, a mining centre on the border with Wisconsin in great development thanks to American economic growth.

Its name of ‘Iron Mountain’ refers to a nearby mountain where there were rich veins of iron ore useful for the development of the American railway system.

During his stay, for health reasons he travels to Wisconsin, precisely in Green Bay on the shores of Lake Michigan, for an operation for appendicitis. A journey that broadens the horizons of the American dream.

In 1910 he returned to Italy to marry Lucia, a young woman from Sassoferrato who belonged to the ‘noble class’ of the beautiful Italian village. To get married, Lucia had to leave the family who did not support her choice.

But the two lovers overcome any prejudice and returned to America together.

Coincidentally, Sassoferrato was an important mining centre in Italy and today both towns, American and Italian, have created a museum and a geological park around the ancient mines.

Even the etymology of their names practically coincides: Iron Mountain and Sassoferrato.

Sassoferrato is located on the Marche Apennines, the mountain range that runs along the Italian peninsula, right next to the Gorges of the Rossa created by the Genga river and the amazing Frasassi Caves.

The artistic beauty of the Marche villages, the food and wine culture and the abundance of nature make this part of Italy truly magical with a ‘naturally historical beauty’.

But let’s go back to the early 1900s. Many Italian emigrants already at that time had reached Iron Mountain and had created their own Italian ‘district’ where they could find Italian shops, a church and some products of the lifestyle of their country of origin.

And so often even the second generation of Italians had found a spouse within the Italian community and even Albert’s wife Paula family was originally from Italy. Precisely from Capestrano in Abruzzo.

The second generation was already born in America, their mother tongue was English and they grew up totally immersed in American culture. Even though they were proud of their Italian roots, they didn’t often return to Italy.

And in fact, Albert’s parents did not return to Italy. But the traditions of Sunday dinner with the grandmother’s family and cooking based on pasta, ravioli and polenta always reminded them of their roots.

Albert’s father served in the military and had fought in World War II, in Belgium and France, where he had distinguished himself by winning several medals for valor.

After the war he returned to America doing various jobs until in 1960 he bought a building supply center and in 1970 he started a business that still today his descendants continue: Dickinson Homes (www.dickinsonhomes.com).

In the meantime, the Sassoferrato mines had closed.

A heart attack changed the future and Albert and the brothers had to take over the management of the company. A death gave rise to the desire to know more and more of one’s roots.

Perhaps by going to Italy to experience the stories he had heard from his grandfather and grandmother from an early age.

The discovery began with the reconstruction of the family tree and in 2004 the first trip to Italy: 4 days in Rome and then a car to reach Sassoferrato and the hamlet of Monterosso. The one in whose square the family lived, in a house right next to the church.

They managed to find a cousin of their grandfather and meet other distant relatives: all Santoni like them. In the local trattorias they tasted passatelli and cappelletti and for them it was like going back in time to the flavours of their childhood.

That first trip was followed by another 9 in which their sons Anthony and Mario also made trips with them. And an ever-growing desire to pass on the experience of Italianness to their grandchildren and in particular something of the life of the village of Sassoferrato.

Today a sister city agreement between Sassoferrato and Iron Mountain has been born and many activities have been planned that involve the new generations.

For this activity and for their love, Albert Santoni received the Town Ambassador Award from Discoverplaces and from the mayor of Sassoferrato, Maurizio Greci.


Claudia Bettiol

IT Ingegnere, futurista e fondatrice di Discoverplaces. Consulente per lo Sviluppo Turistico dei Territori, specializzato nella sostenibilità e nella promozione culturale dei piccoli territori e delle piccole imprese. Ama i cavalli ENG Engineeer, futurist, joint founder of Energitismo and founder of Discoverplaces. Consultant for the development and promotion of the Touristic Development of Territories specialising in sustainability and in cultural promotion of small places and small enterprises. She loves horses

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