Town Ambassador Award to Nancy Campbell for her love for Piglio and Ciociaria and everything she created after discovering her Italian roots.
There have been various migratory waves from Italy to the Americas and in the area just south of Rome there has not been a real flow but many individuals who in the early twentieth century went to seek their fortune across the ocean.
We are in the areas that before the Unification of Italy were part of the Papal State and that never had a royal family in which to place their destiny.
Here they said (and still say) ‘one pope dead so another is made’. A mixture of resignation and an incitement to take care of one’s destiny alone.
And this is what must have happened to Nancy’s grandfather who left La Forma (Serrone) in the early twentieth century heading towards hope of the United States while her grandmother came from Piglio.
Piglio is a small town about 50 km south-east of Rome which today is particularly famous for the excellent Cesanese del Piglio DOCG wine.
But before wine, its identity was similar to that of many other splendid villages that dot this area called Ciociaria.
It was 1907 and he was 17 when he left his town and his fiancée to embark for New York. But his life was somewhat shrouded in mystery because it is not known who his parents were, but thought his father was Marconi and his mother Orsini.
Nobles and high prelates felt they could do everything and it was not usual for ordinary people to get pregnant who then found themselves forced to keep their offspring, perhaps among the inquisitive gazes of the locals.
Giovanni must have been an original type, perhaps with a truly noble bearing, because his first job was as a servant in the White House, the very one where the president of the United States resides.
A nice step from an unknown son in Italy to work not far from the American presidents!
But we are sure that his life was not easy, and only after 10 years he had put aside the money to get his girlfriend from Italy and marry her in America at Ellis Island the day she arrived, then lived in Philadephia to where in the meantime he had moved.
Together they settled in Brooklyn and both worked to raise their 9 children, 2 of whom soon left this land. Unfortunately, Giovanni died suddenly and his wife Annunziata had never learned English, so the transmission of history and the tales of Italy was interrupted.
Annunziata sold the house in Brooklyn eventually and lived with her daughters. She told her daughters bits and pieces about Giovanni.
Now we get to Nancy Campbell, a painter lives in Saugerties, about 2 hours north of NYC. She was Executive Director of the Woodstock School of Art for 5 years and now serves as its co-president.
We have already told the family story of her father, but also her mother has mysterious Italian origins from Naples. But this is another story.
Around the beginning of 2000 the desire to know better her origins was born and she turned to the internet to Italian researchers who did research that led her to the country between Piglio and Ferentino, both splendid towns of Ciociaria.
Then, in 2006, taking advantage of her husband’s business trip to Rome, Nancy arrived in Italy and began the classic journey of all ‘Tourists of their Roots’.
Visits to the town halls by looking at the registry offices and then in the registers of the various churches.
And everything indicated mystery but a connection with Vicolo Ponte Gattoni 9 in the hamlet of Piglio, the home of her grandmother’s family, Grili.
And here Nancy discovered ‘Italianness’! She found out what ties to your country mean.
People were first surprised by this American in their little alley, but then they start to help her find connections: distant cousins, aunts and descendants. They knocked on doors, they called from the street alleys, they found old photo albums, …
And among the many cousins, Nancy found Giulio, PhD with the ability to speak English, and the two become friends.
In 2007 another business trip by her husband brought her back to Italy and this time she began to discover more of the territories of Ciociaria and the idea was born with Giulio to open a small business that could bring tourists to this area.
In America, Nancy’s friends got to know Italy through Tuscany and already pronouncing the word Ciociaria made them a little uncomfortable.
In 2012 the first group arrived and 6 towns were involved: Piglio, Paliano, Fiuggi, Acuto, Serrone and Trevi in Lazio. The artists painted the villages and landscapes of Ciociaria and exhibited their works.
Such a success that artists have often returned on other trips because what they paint is not just Italy, but the broader sense of Italian family and social life.
Two California painters have returned to Ciociaria several times, and another from New York State has returned every year
They followed Giulio through his marriage and the birth of his three children with their respective baptisms. They learned to cook thanks to Francesca from Agriturismo Polledrara, that has become their home when they are in Italy.
For this her love of Ciociaria and for all the promotion of Ciociaria that continues with books and exhibitions in America, Nancy earned the Town Ambassador award conferred on her by Discoverplaces and by the mayor Mario Felli representing Piglio.