If you are heading for Italy and you just stay in the big cities (Rome, Naples, Florence, Milan, Venice) and the touristy places, you will miss a lot. Visit a small town if you can.
We visited the city of Solofra, because my grandfather's parents had met there, and his "Uncle Canon" Carmine Troisi was one of the town's "Illuminati."
We had a troublesome train trip there, missing connections and all, but were helped greatly by the conductors (who all wear green jackets.)
We rode the train through the most beautiful and fascinating mountain geography. When I get home I will have research it a bit. The mountains were unlike any I had ever seen, lush, but sharply folded. In the evening with the setting sun on them they were lovely. and they often had fortresses on the top. It was great.
Now is a good time to note that every person we asked about Solofra asked us to repeat it, or gave us a look like "What on earth do American Tourists want with Solofra?" They don't get many.
Solofra, Campania, Italy
Now the visit. This was an extraordinary experience for me so I will try to cover it in detail. First my goals. I had two goals here. The one landmark I knew about was the Church of Michael the Archangel, where my great grandparents were married. The second was to try to find a cemetery and find Troisi graves for Lisa. I will say that I failed utterly in the second aim; there was no cemetery in sight, and my Italian was not up to asking about it. But in the first goal we succeeded tremendously.
The train station in Solofra is run down, to the point of looking abandoned. The sign is torn off, and it looks like it has not been maintained for years. Don't ask me why, the town could not be more lovely. It's set in a broad valley between a number of smallish mountains of this eccentric folded variety. We exited the station to the left, since that way headed downhill, and it was clear we needed to be down on the other side of the tracks. I had glimpsed what looked like the church from the train window, based on a picture I had gotten from their home page on the Internet. The tracks follow a grading along the hilltops. We went down the hill and sure enough we went under the tracks. No sidewalk here so we went carefully. It's one car narrow, and we'd seen enough of Italian driving to make us very cautious. Upon coming out the other side (short tunnel) we followed the same road for a few blocks until we came to a crossroad that pointed us to Solofra Centro. We headed in that direction.
Just about at the point that I was getting worried that I might be going the wrong way (Mark was not worried, he knew where I thought I had seen the church and thought we were going in the right direction, there it was in glorious view. )San Michele is white, and has a shape in the front like those mission churches in the southwest, although somewhat more decorated on the outside. There is a square bell tower and on the other side a yellow monastery. I knew that our connection here, besides the marriage of my great-grandparents, was Carmine Troisi, so I was looking for information on him specifically.
We next visited the Church of San Michele in Solofra. I have reported on our two visits to the church of San Michele in a separate report. Look for San Michele, Solofra.
Upon leaving the church, we were met by a policeman who directed us to the large building across the street, which had been a palace of the Orsino family, a duke who ran the town. It is now some kind of government building. The policeman was very happy to see American Tourists, and told us a lot (in rapid fire Italian) about the duke. There is a little more on the duke on the Solofra web site.
After spending about 15 to 20 minutes appreciating the ducal palace, we continued on, deciding to return to the station for the 5:30 Train. We crossed the street where we were greeted by an Italian man. He was a very Italian looking man, with dark wavy hair, a bit taller than I. He started talking about the church (again in Italian) telling us about the frescos on the ceiling, which were done by a single artist, who he named (the name is on the videotape.). He led us back toward the church and we paused as he explained about the church (San Michele) and the monastery next door (Santa Chiara).
Again we visited the church, which is detailed in a separate entry. After this second visit we needed to say farewell, and head back to Naples at the end of a wonderful day.