No one really needs an excuse for an Italian vacation, but if you do, consider discovering your family’s roots. Start by talking with the oldest relatives in your family, recording their stories. Ask for names of cities, towns, and villages. Next, be a detective and dig. Tie your clues together, and you’re likely to find your primary sources—records of births, baptisms, and marriages.
Now you’ll have an idea about the places in Italy where your family lived. This is important information. From the geography, you’ll know when there were good harvests or bad. When there was drought, war, feuds, or times of peace. You’ll have an idea about you’re ancestors’ lifestyle and their passions. (They were Italian—of course they had passions!)
With this in hand, it’s time to plan your travel. Records of births and marriages are just a small piece of your family’s story. Visit their ancestral towns, and you have the best chance of tracking down the details of their lives—those are most likely kept in local archives and churches. One ancestor may have been a noble in Tuscany, and another may have landed in jail for trying to overthrow the nobility. These are the juice of your search, the colorful personality of your family.
Many of Italy’s towns have retained the same lanes, alleys, and magnificent castles for hundreds of years. Walk the streets. Smell the exotic flowers and the ancient olive groves. Scents are imbedded in our ancient memory, and they transport us. Imagine drinking wine that came from your ancestor’s vineyards. The high point of your trip, meeting relatives who welcome you into their homes and hearts, will fill you with joy.
Were your ancestors wheat farmers on the outskirts of Rome, or were they teachers and poets in the city’s center? Did they eat ientaculum at dawn, or linger over a fabulous repast at sunset? If in the Northern Lakes of Italy, they may have been residents of Austria for a while. Your relatives may have been seafarers on the Amalfi Coast when the compass was invented. It’s all enough to boggle the mind, and it’s all a possibility during your Italy vacation, discovering your ancestry.