Friday, March 23, 2012

Exploring mysteries of casa Seghieri

Thursday, March 22
This shows most of the eight units, taken from the west end while
standing on via Mattonaia. The first apartment is the grandmother
house, followed by Moreno, Fabio (three stories), Vincenzo,
Dante, Celestino, Davide and Sergio. Across the street are some
farm buildings owned by Ivo, who lives elsewhere and is the brother
of Fabio and Celestino. The hedge on the right is part of Mario's
yard. We live on the other side of Mario's house.
I still have not solved to my satisfaction the question of where my grandmother and her family lived here in San Salvatore. I believe it was in or next to a long house that Lucy and I call the Seghieri house. It is just two houses away from where we are staying now on via Mattonaia. This house is actually eight separate living units, each one built at a different time and in a slightly different style. Ivo Seghieri tells me that between 54 Seghieri relatives, including himself, once lived there at the same time. In addition, some of the four rough buildings behind it were also used as residences.

So this place was once practically Seghieri City, but that’s not the only reason I suspect it was my grandmother’s home. Last year I learned that it is the former home of Mario Seghieri, who now lives in the house between us and Seghieri City. Mario’s grandfather Natale was the brother of Torello Seghieri, my great grandfather. It would stand to reason that during the difficult economic times of the late 1800s, when extended families all lived together, that this would have been where Torello and his wife Ines raised their children, alongside those of brother Natale. In fact, Torello was the oldest of six children (three boys, three girls), and according to custom at the time, he would have been in line to inherit the home of his parents.

My grandmother and her brothers Ruggero and Seghiero left Italy in 1909, leaving Torello, Ines and youngest sister Rosina behind. Ines died in 1910 and Torello in 1915, leaving only Rosina. Four years later, she joined her siblings in Gig Harbor. Mario, the oldest living Seghieri we know, was born in this house five years later, in 1924, so there is no one around who remembers any of my ancestors.

I have heard that one can hire an expert to trace property ownership, but for me, family history is a hobby, and I feel like paying someone to do it for me would take away some of the thrill. Perhaps one day I will be proficient enough in the language and record-keeping systems to trace the property ownership records myself.

The unoccupied houses, taken from the street side.
Meanwhile, today I decide that I want to find out more about who lives in the house now. I know that the two units on the west end are unoccupied. We call the end unit the grandmother house, because until a few years ago, the grandmother of Lucas Frediani lived there. She moved out around 2008 because it was too difficult for her to live on her own and go up and down the stairsDuring the two years she lived next door, the house was maintained in nearly the same condition as if she was still there. Lucas gave us a tour in 2010 because his mother and her sister, who were Seghieris, were thinking of renting it out to vacationers. We were very interested in this and asked Lucas to e-mail us with details on the arrangements, but then he wrote us that they had reconsidered and were no longer planning to rent.
Unoccupied houses from the courtyard side.

That same year, Lucas also showed us the empty unit next door that was and still is for sale. It is owned by Moreno Seghieri, whom we think is the uncle of Lucas. This apartment has been unoccupied for 40 or 50 years, except by pigeons who can squeeze in through some holes under the eaves. The roof leaks, the second story floor sags and it doesn’t have an indoor bathroom. It would have to be completely gutted and renovated to be livable.

Fabio owns the three-story house. The brickwork was
done by Vincenzo, who owns the next house. The
third and fourth are owned by Dante and Celestino.
We have also been in the two apartments at the other end. They have been thoroughly modernized inside and outside and have a beautiful yard. The one on the end is owned by Sergio Seghieri and his wife Silvana, whom I estimate to be in their late 60s or early 70s . Next door is their only child, Davide, and his wife Elena and daughter Flavia. Davide is an electrician and Sergio is a retired electrician. Elena, who speaks English well, is a tour guide working primarily out of Lucca.

It is the four apartments in between that have kept us wondering each time we have passed by. We have met Dante Seghieri, who is 86 and hard for us to understand. We know he lives there, but we were not sure which unit.

The middle four houses from the street side.
We are lucky today, because just as we walk over to see what we can find out, Ivo rides up on his bike to check on his animals and work in his garden. Ivo used to live in the big house, but now he just comes to tend his farm, which is directly across the street. He is more than happy to give us the details. Working from the east to west (left to right in the photo to the right), there is Sergio and Davide, as we already knew. Then comes Celestino, one of Ivo’s brothers whom we have not met, and Celestino’s wife Antonella, whom we have met. Next over is Dante, who is a first cousin once-removed to Sergio.

The next apartment is the only one not owned by a Seghieri. It used to belong to Mario, and then his son Fausto lived there, but they sold it to a Sicilian, who is a brick layer. Ivo only knows his first name, Vincenzo. Finally, there is Fabio, Ivo’s other brother, followed by the two unoccupied units.

The buildings in the back yard are in various stages of disrepair and are used only for equipment storage now. We still have many questions about the history of this place, such as which units were built first, who lived in each one before the current owners, who lived in the ones in the back, and so on. I think that Mario could give me some of these answers, and probably Dante as well, but I really should have a translator so I dont miss out on important details. I will see if I can arrange a meeting with Elena and at least Mario.
The two on the east end are the largest and are
thoroughly modernized.

We still entertain some fantasies of buying one of the two unoccupied apartments and gradually remodeling, but it is probably unrealistic. Our finances are already tied up in real estate in Gig Harbor, with no real prospects of coming up with the cash needed to buy something else. Still, we are admitted romantics—why else would we be here?—and we can’t shake the idea completely out of our heads. It would make an exciting conclusion to our six-month experiment of living in Italy.
This shows some of the buildings in the back, across the courtyard. There are more behind this, but these are the biggest. Some smaller garages are not in the picture, but they would be to the right.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments welcome.