The good news was that we were in Ascoli Satriano and getting to know the place that the Auriemma ancestors once lived. There might have even been a few cousins in our midst!
We explored the tiny streets, visited the town’s cathedral and spent some time sitting in the main piazza, just like the locals.
I think everyone was curious and wondering what these Americani were doing in their town. (I’m sure the police chief would tell them later.) Actually, we saw him walking home after work and said ciao to him.
It had been a long day, so we decided to head to our B&B, a converted monastery in a nearby hill town called Sant’Agata di Puglia. Jonas always finds these gems. The town was absolutely beautiful and we were the only guests in the monastery so we had the whole place to ourselves! The next morning we woke up to blue skies and a gorgeous view of the valley below from the breakfast room. We enjoyed coffee, hot chocolate, fresh fruit, yogurt and a variety of homemade Italian pastries before our journey.
We returned to Ascoli Satriano, paid for parking like the day before, and made our way towards City Hall. The locals in the piazza were playing it cool but we could tell they were surprised to see us again. We arrived at the small Anagrafe office and there was someone already standing in front of the desk inside so we waited in the hallway for our turn.
The short, slim clerk with salt and pepper hair eventually asked us what he could help us with and we used Google translate to explain that Jonas was recently recognized as an Italian citizen through his great-grandfather’s line and he was here to register his marriage and children, and request a paper identity card.
The man asked for his name and when he said, “Jonas Fischer,” the clerk replied in English, “Ah, I know you.” This might be because there are very few recognitions in Ascoli Satriano or it could also be because my friend Carole from the Facebook group had kindly called a couple weeks before to let him know we were coming! He asked if we spoke or understood Italian and I said, “A little.” I actually feel like I understand a lot because French and Spanish are quite close, but I didn’t want to get cocky. From then on he spoke Italian and threw in some words in English when it seemed like we weren’t totally following.
First he asked for Antonio Auriemma’s information and brought out a book from 1886 with his birth record in it! It was so cool to see Antonio’s name, his parents’ names and other details in gorgeous curlicue handwriting.
He also looked up estate information and apparently everything was left to Antonio’s brother, Potito, who undoubtedly stayed in Ascoli Satriano. (Antonio emigrated to the U.S. in 1909.) He then asked for Jonas’ passport and made a copy of it.
We gave him our marriage certificate as well as Rhone and Rocky’s certified and Apostilled birth certificates and translations so that everything – and everyone – could be properly registered. After looking at all the documents, he asked how long we were in Ascoli Satriano. We said we would be in the area until tomorrow and he told us he needed some time to transcribe everything and prepare the ID card. (Yesssss. It was happening!) Just when we were about to tell him we could rearrange our travel if needed, he told us he would have everything done at 6 pm, closing time that day. We couldn’t believe it. We thanked him and exited the office as a line of people had now formed in the hallway.
We had about 7 hours to kill and Jonas needed to get some work done, so we drove back to Sant’Agata di Puglia, grabbed something to eat and then I took R&R on a hike to the town’s hilltop castle. The castle itself was closed, but we found plenty of other interesting things to look at like, oh, the AMAZING views of the valley and an entire colony of ladybugs clinging to plants as the wind whipped through the area. Rhône and Rocky gathered stray ladybugs and placed them with the others so that they would be safe. It was very sweet.
Time went by quickly and we found ourselves driving back to Ascoli Satriano not so quickly in our gunmetal gray Fiat 500. We’ve nicknamed her Lady Lenta, meaning “slow,” because she cannot top 110 km/hour! We saw all of the usuals in the town’s main piazza and hoped we’d have ID cards to show them when we got back. We arrived at the Anagrafe office just before 6 and the clerk invited us in. He started by informing us that our marriage certificate needed a translation. We didn’t have that done originally because it wasn’t on the list for the Italian Consulate in Miami or necessary for recognition. He said once we had the translation, we could just send it to Miami and they would forward it to him. Jonas, Rhône and Rocky’s births had all been registered in a big book just like Antonio’s but typed out instead of handwritten. It was really moving to see. The clerk took us into a back office to verify Jonas’ information for AIRE, the registry of Italians residing abroad, and then we went back out front to work on the ID card.
He asked for photos of Jonas and said he was going to need some signatures. He retrieved the card, printed the relevant information on it, added Jonas’ photo, put a special stamp on top of the photo and punched a hole in one corner, and finally added a circular metal bracket. Jonas had been wondering how they’d prevent someone from possibly stealing a paper ID and replacing the photo, and there was his answer.
I wanted to ask a couple questions related to the rest of the family, but didn’t want to overwhelm the clerk as it was past 6:15 now and he had been running from room to room printing and gathering things for us.
I used Google translate to apologize for keeping him late and then asked if spouses and children were eligible for ID cards too. He smiled and replied, “You, no. I bambini, sì.” He asked if we wanted ID cards for the boys. They were only 5 euros each and we figured it could end up being helpful to have them, so we said, “Sì.” He then went back and forth at top speed to get the cards printed and ready, recording things like height and eye color for the kids, and having us sign authorization documents in between. When he was all done with the ID cards, he exhaled and said in Italian, “All good?” Well…I was embarrassed to ask anything else of him, but we had come all this way and I didn’t want to forget anything. I noticed he had printed out Italian birth records for the boys but not Jonas. I asked if Jonas needed one too and he nodded and ran straight to his computer to print it out.
We had listened to a lesson on 30 ways to say thank you in Italian in the car ride over and good thing we did, because we wanted this man to know how much we appreciated everything he’d done for us! In France we are so used to hearing, “Non, ce n’est pas possible” or just being given attitude when asking for something. This experience was such a refreshing change. I inquired, “Come si chiama?” and he replied, “Gennaro.” I said, “Grazie di cuore, Gennaro” with my hand on my heart. Jonas and the boys thanked him too. Jonas used Google translate to reiterate that we realized he stayed late to finish everything for us and we were very grateful. Gennaro made it seem like it wasn’t a big deal, but it was to us.
We left the municipal building and once outside, I snapped a picture of the boys with their cards. What a joyful moment! Rhône noticed that Rocky’s card did not have a circular metal bracket in it and I said to Jonas, “Do you think we should go back?” We agreed Gennaro had done enough for one day and walked back to the piazza. There the street lamps were glowing and the Italian flag was waving in the wind.
I decided it was the perfect moment to take another picture of my Italian-American loves.
When Jonas and I lived in New York City, we would often attend the Feast of San Gennaro which takes place every September in Little Italy. (Jonas loved the cannolis!) The event is in honor of Saint Gennaro, the patron saint of Naples whose blood was preserved in ampoules and supposedly liquifies three times a year. The festival takes place right near the Church of the Most Precious Blood where Jonas’ great-grandparents, Antonio and Angiolina, were married and his grandmother, Consiglia (Celia), was baptized. I was starting to see so many connections. I went to the church in 2018 and picked up a very important document there that helped prove Jonas’ lineage and led up to this moment in Ascoli Satriano today.
As we drove back to the monastery, I got curious about the meaning of the name Gennaro. I looked it up and learned that it comes from Latin and it is derived from the word ianua, meaning door, entrance or gateway. Wow. Now that’s symbolic. We will always remember Gennaro as the kind clerk in Ascoli Satriano who welcomed us in the Anagrafe office, ushered us into the EU, and whose feats included handling our many inquiries and requests with the grace and patience of a saint.