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The Continis visits their cousin, Sister Nunzia in her convent in Naples, Italy, during their recent trip. From the left are Alexander Contini, Suor Nunzia, Debbie Contini, Mary Contini, Italian cousin Salvatore Contini and Concetta Contini.

A Journey to Find Italian Roots

The Contini Family of Beekman, New York, recently traveled to Italy to tour the sights, meet their Italian cousins and research their roots. Deborah and Alexander Contini returned to Italy for a fifth time to escort their Colorado cousins Mary Contini and Concetta Contini Moore on their first trip to the birthplace of their grandparents.

Starting in Venice, the Continis visited all the “must see” sights for first time visitors. Gondola rides and a tour of the Doge’s Palace were followed by a quiet moment in the Basilica of San Marco. In Florence, the Church of Santa Croce with its famous tombs, Dante’s house and the Academia with Michelangelo’s “David” were among the high spots. Pisa and Lucca completed the Tuscan portion of the tour.

The Neapolitan Contini family welcomed their American cousins with hugs and food. Alex showed his Colorado cousins the Humberto I gallery which contained sculpture cast by their great-grandfather Augusto Contini. At the Borso on Corso Humberto I, they photographed the twin statues of Il Genio che Domina la Forza by Luigi De Luca. Family tradition notes that De Luca used mold maker Augusto Contini’s children Attilio and Gaetano as models. Attilio was the visitors’ grandfather.

While in Rome, the Continis stayed at Via di Santa Bonosa, 31 in the Trastavere District. Now a bed and breakfast, it is the house in which their grandfather Attilio lived from 1885 to 1893. They also found the house on Via dei Delfini which Roman Tribunal records indicate was Attilio’s birth place in 1884.

Alex later visited the Roman Diocese archives at the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano where he found the baptismal record revealing the church in which Attilio was baptized. That church, Santa Maria in Portico, is located near the Vittoriano. Family tradition notes that Attilio learned the mold making art while helping his father make the molds for the statue of Victor Emmanuel II in front of the Vittoriano, Italy’s memorial to the unknown Italian soldier.

Finding the birthplace of their grandfather and staying in the house where he played as a child 132 years ago, was a wonderful experience for the Continis. Alex also showed his cousins the former location of Via Bonella where their great-grandfather’s brother Ettore lived until his death in 1911. That street was destroyed in the 1920s when Mussolini ordered the Via dei Fori Imperiali to be constructed through the ancient residential area.

Rome is among the more difficult places to trace family history.  Hours of research in the Family History Center in Utah preceded the trip. The Continis thank the Italian Genealogy Group on Long Island for advice and document translations.