Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Something about our recent stay was definitely different for us in Tuscany

We left Montecarlo last week for another summer of work in Gig Harbor. Our sixth season in Tuscany had a distinctly different flavor than the first five—as it should have, since now we are homeowners instead of guests at an agriturismo. Was it all we had hoped it would be? Absolutely so!

Being able to walk out the door and onto the main street of Montecarlo made an immediate difference. We chatted occasionally with shop owners, checked books out of the library, bought staples at the two small general stores or just strolled around town greeting people we passed. In previous years, we rarely saw anyone when we took our evening walks along the rural roads in the Marcucci neighborhood.

We love our new location in other ways, too. We’re on the top floor, so we have a great western view of the plain of Lucca and sunsets. When it’s clear, we can see the walls and towers of Lucca, and from our terrazzo, we can also see part of the Alpi Apuane mountains. The view side is very quiet and private. I could sunbathe on the terrazzo and nobody would see me. The view from the other side of the house is full of vitality: We can watch from above as tourists and residents stroll down the main street of town, and we can lean out and see all of via Roma, from the Fortezza to Porta Nuova.

A quilt Lucy made for Micah.
We also have about four times more space, which allows us to spread out and do our projects—Lucy made three quilts, and I worked on my genealogy and writing. At least equally important, the space allows us to host visitors, which we did on half a dozen occasions.

But it’s more than just a matter of space and location. It’s our house, and knowing that fact makes an important psychological difference. We are more than visitors now. We are committed, we are part of something, we are Montecarlesi. And we will be back.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

What started as Seghieri Day extends into a week of family activities

Seghieri Day soon extended into Seghieri Week as the festas continued. I met with Jean-Paul and Marcel on Monday to share some genealogy information, and on Tuesday we enjoyed a scrumptious feast at the Poggio restaurant with Seghieri families from Italy and France, and, of course, we two Americans.
Elena offers a brindisi to the Seghieri families of the world while we dine at the Poggio.

Marcel offered a brindisi (toast) to me Tuesday evening, noting that my research had brought together Seghieri families from three countries, showing everyone how they were connected. It was only then that I fully realized how well my humble six-year-old dream to reconnect with my grandmother’s Seghieri roots had come to such grand results. I had truly found a group of relatives that shared my feelings about the importance of family history, connections and pride.
Marcel, Jean-Paul, Sergio, Elena at the state archives.

Then on Wednesday, Jean-Paul, Marcel, Hervé and I met with Montecarlo historian Sergio Nelli at his work in the Archivio di Stato di Lucca. He gave us a thorough tour of the facilities, and we looked at room after room of weathered books and parchments. The documents are divided into sections: diplomatic, concerning the Republic of Lucca, Napoleonic and notarial. The archives are the results of a 1804 decree that all of the papers from the governments of the suppressed Republic of Lucca be brought together at a single institution.
It was awesome to see so many old books and scrolls in one
place, and to be able to open them and look inside.

The documentary material in the diplomatic section includes 19,855 parchments ranging from the 8th to the 19th centuries. They are arranged in chronological order and by provenance: from monasteries, from families of the nobility and from the secret archives of the city-state. The documentary material on the Republic of Lucca, conserved organically from the beginning of the 14th century, includes statutes, the proceedings of the elders before the liberation, the proceedings of the elders after the liberation, public amendments of the papers of the general curia and the papers of the Guinigi government.
We must have looked inside at least a dozen rooms like this, filled from floor to ceiling with old documents.

From the archives of the Napoleonic government of Elisa Baciocchi Bonaparte and of the Bourbonic duchy come the civil list and property list of the princes, the senate, the council of state and council of ministers; ministries; secretaries of the governments; prefecture of Lucca; registry office; public health and hygiene; education, arts, industry, commerce and food office; water, roads and buildings; militia; police; the mint and public treasury; state property; register, mortgages and public debt; tax collectors. The notarial archives include the records of the nobility and private individuals, as well as special collections including documentation on congregations in the city and the territory, brotherhoods and hospitals.

The archive is impressive in its volume and depth, which speaks to the respect that Italians have for their history. However, it is also a bit overwhelming, because the texts are in Latin or old Italian script, both of which the average person can’t read. It’s great that all these documents are being preserved, but it would take a lifetime just to read through the books contained in a single room. And given that most of the documents are technical accounts of legal and political acts, one might die an early death from boredom. However, I’m thankful that there are people like Doctor Nelli, who have a passion for reading and noting the details of our shared past.

For my part, I came with the primary hope of discovering more about the family tree of the Seghieri family, but most of our time was spent on the tour. However, Doctor Nelli agreed to drop by the agriturismo where the French Seghieri families are staying to share more Seghieri genealogy, and he was true to his word.

Just a few of the fine cheeses we enjoyed.
That evening was our last in Montecarlo for this season, as we started on the return to the United States the next morning. But we left in high spirits, as the French Seghieris treated us and the Italian families to a dinner featuring champagne, wine, bread, meats, gelato, biscotti and a large assortment of fine French cheeses from various regions of the country. As each cheese was served, Jean-Paul explained where it was from and a little about its production and flavor. We started with the sweeter cheeses and moved to ones which were strong in both aroma and flavor.

France boasts from 350 to 450 distinct types of cheese, grouped into eight categories. There can be many varieties within each type of cheese, leading some to claim closer to 1,000 different types of French cheese. In 1962, French President Charles de Gaulle was famously quoted as saying “Comment voulez-vous gouverner un pays qui a deux cent quarante-six variétés de fromage?” (“How can you govern a country which has two hundred and forty-six varieties of cheese?”) We didn’t have that many, but definitely enough to appreciate the variety and quality of the country’s choices.
A toast to Dr. Sergio Nelli, who was indispensable in bringing us together.

Doctor Nelli showed up with his Montecarlo genealogy books, and I took photographs of about 20 pages that provided partial or complete Seghieri family trees. This will give me days of work adding these names into the computer database that makes up our already huge family tree. Before I left, I offered a brindisi to Doctor Nelli for all the help he has provided this year and in previous meetings. I ended the toast by explaining that I wanted to find more members of the family, because the more Seghieris I find, the more festas we can have—an explanation that met with widespread expressions of approval.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Parties and music with lively Seghieri families from three countries

The family shield, taken outside the house
in Montecarlo with the shield over the door.
It’s always interesting to find old family records—names, photos, places of birth and occupations of deceased ancestors—but it’s 10 times more fun to meet living relatives, especially when they are as lively, gracious and cheerful as our distant Italian and French Seghieri cousins.

This weekend has been a celebration of the return of two Seghieri families who immigrated to France from Italy in the 1800s (see Long lost French Seghieri families . . .). Two of the families from the Marcucci neighborhood welcomed the seven French visitors with a pizza dinner at La Terrazza pizzeria in Montecarlo Saturday night. Linda, Cori and I also attended, while Lucy remained at home to prepare food for the next day.
Pizza dinner at La Terrazza.

Since Linda and Cori had to return home early Sunday morning, Elena presented Linda with a copy of the Seghieri family shield painted on concrete. Elena had the shields hand-made by a craftsman from Lucca especially for the French guests, but Linda and I each ordered one as well. The rest of us received ours later.
Our song leaders.

We met again in the yard of Davide, Elena and Flavia at 11 a.m. Sunday for a potluck lunch that included many of the other Marcucci families: Sergio and Silvana, Celestino and Antonella and their sons Matteo and Diego, Ivo, Sandra, Nicola and Laura, Rita and her mother Nicoletta (her son Dario and his fidanzata Federica came to the pizza dinner but not the potluck). There was even a brief appearance from Emanuele, Dante’s grandson, whom we met for the first time.
And the chorus . . .

We were also blessed with the presence of Andrea Mandroni, who was well qualified to join the party. Like me, he had a grandmother who was a Seghieri. He is the top genealogy researcher in the area, and he helped Marcel Seghieri trace his ancestry back a couple of generations further than Marcel was able to do on his own.

Our accompanist
The fact that we represented three different countries and languages didn’t slow us down too much, although the conversations made me think of the Tower of Babel. Only a couple of people spoke any English. I could understand the Italian most of the time and the French once in a while. However, some of the French cousins knew some Italian, so we conversed in Italian as best we could. However, they might start a sentence in Italian, but lacking the vocabulary to continue, they would finish it in French, leaving me with only half of the meaning. Or it’s possible that they said the whole sentence in Italian, but with a French accent so thick that I couldn’t tell if they were speaking Italian or French.

Two events left me quite emotional. The first was when Marcel directed the entire party in the singing first of Giuseppe Verdi’s “Va, Pensiero,” and then in the Italian national anthem, “Inno di Mameli.” I was touched to see how proud the French families were of their Italian heritage. Flavia accompanied on clarinet for the anthem, Elena and Marcel did a great job of getting everyone involved in the singing, and after some initial feelings of embarrassment, everyone smiled and laughed through the rehearsals and then the final production. A few people recorded the performance on their phones, so eventually I may get a copy to share.

Then the French group sang the French national anthem. At that point, I hoped that everyone would forget that Lucy and I were there, but no, we had to sing “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Our food expert, Ivo
The other memorable event came when Marcel pulled out some photos of his family. One of the photos (I think it was of one of Marcel’s uncles) greatly resembled some members of Sergio’s family, both his brother Pietro and his grandfather, also named Pietro. This provoked one of those special Italian moments where everyone is talking at the same time, saying things like: “They look almost the same, it could be they are the same person, it can’t be the same person, even if it’s not the same person the resemblance is surprising, etc.” All of this in Italian and French at the same time, and it went on for a good 20 minutes.

After the potluck, the party continued when we went up the hill to see the concert of the
Società Filarmonica Giacomo Puccini at the teatro of Montecarlo. Although the community is small, the band is incredible, and we enjoyed it immensely. We filled an entire row of seats and then some, applauding enthusiastically, especially for our favorite musician, clarinetist Flavia Seghieri. Lucy and I walked a few blocks home, contentissimi to be part of such a grand family and community.
The whole gang! Actually, more people came later and didn't make it into the group photo.