On the 125th birthday of Pat and Ken’s grandfather (Demetrio Luigi Crociani), we visited his childhood home. Exploring from 22-year old memories, we drove through the town of Vivo D’Orcia looking for familiar sites. Where was the cemetery? Where was the church?
We found the cemetery first. In it, we found lots of Pierguidi cousins. Fewer Crociani, Martini, and Franchi cousins were there. But some key relatives were there. Luciano Pierguidi, a great-grandfather, was one of the oldest gravestones (born in 1850). Orlando Crociani and Ezio Pierguidi (great uncles) were also there.
We had passed a beautiful park-like bridge on the way to the cemetery where it seemed a good place to walk. Down the hill, we discovered an old church (Monestary de San Marcello) which turned out to be that of the local cardinal who became Pope (Marcello II) for 22 days in 1555. Acting on the familiarity of an old road near it, we walked along it until we came across the Hermitage, which became the huge castle-like home of the Cirvini family, and a nearby house with a caretaker cutting a lawn. Inquiring if he knew of a “Casa Nueva”, he replied that it was close. Ken and Pat then told him who they were related to, and he insisted they meet the woman who employed him. He summoned her from the house, made introductions, and a brief and joyful discussion of family connections ensued. The house they sought was, indeed, nearby, and the caretaker would lead us to the trailhead.
We hiked through the woods, across an old bridge, and along an overgrown road took us to the ancient family homestead. Pat and Ken’s great grandfather, Pietro Crociani, was the caretaker for the Cervini family, and lived at Casa Nueva. A two-story stone structure with a large stone barn nearby, it also had old stone ovens where the town remembers Margherita Pierguidi making the best bread in the area.. Ken broke an old wire lock, and we went inside and looked around for the first time.
Pietro Crociani, Margherita Martini, Luciano Pierguidi, and Angiolina Franchi were all children of sharecroppers in the Tuscan hillside village of Vivo D’Orcia during the American Civil War. Not that the War touched them in any way. But their lives probably felt akin to the children of 1860’s southern farmers. A strong central family, aligned with the church and living in a large fortified structure, controlled all the land. All of them tended sheep and gathered chesnuts in the forest. Only one of them made it to the fourth grade in school. Their children turned teenagers at the turn of the century, and half of them headed for the industrial freedom of New York, and the agricultural expanse of the West.
On the way back, I took some GPS coordinates on our Garmin. We decided that the idyllic and tranquil steam leading to the home was the perfect spot to place Erma’s ashes. We put her into the ground beneath some beautiful wildflowers, said our goodbyes, and sang a couple of her favorite songs. Pat also placed a bit into the stream nearby. On her father’s 125th birthday, Erma returned to the family home.
To see the photo video of the photos, click on: Vivo D'Orcia, and the photos themselves on Picasa (Vivo D'Orcia)