After landing in Naples almost 24 hours after leaving San Francisco, I must say the world was a bit blurry. It is now nine days later and an entire lifetime has gone by. If there is a common theme to this journey, it is the absolute generosity and kindness of the people of Southern Italy. I have been embraced, loved, and guided from the moment my tennis shoe hit the tarmac.
The journey began when I was picked up at Naples airport by my host family. They live in Quadrelle, a small village about 35 minutes from Naples by car, traveling north/east. The region is Campania, made up of 6 provinces. I am in the province of Avellino which is the home to Irpinia, a magical area containing lush mountain villages producing some of the finest ingredients in Italy. Irpinia is home to the porcini mushroom, caciocavallo cheese and black truffles. The local grapes give rise to famous Italian wines such as Taurasi, Aglianico, Fiano and Greco di Tufo.
Here is a map to give you your bearings. Avellino is in the middle of the red section of the map, east of Naples.
My hosts in Quadrelle, Joe De Simone and family, are genealogy experts, helping folks like myself who are looking for birth records and information about their ancestors. Joe lives in the home built by his father, who eventually emigrated to New Jersey. Because of his affinity for this quaint, peaceful region of Italy, Joe decided to live in Quadrelle, turning his father’s home into a B&B.
After a few glorious days in Quadrelle and help from Joe and his son Giovanni, it was time to rent a car and head east to Torre le Nocelle to visit my great-grandmother’s home.
So far, as would be expected in Italy, I had seen Roman ruins, Medieval castles, dairy sheep, ancient churches, and consumed copious amounts of excellent food and wine. Each and every moment was extraordinary. However, the main purpose of this journey was to visit Torre le Nocelle, where my bisnonna, my great-grandmother was born.
Migration of Torresi:
In the mid to late 1800’s, during the migration out of southern Italy to Ellis Island and other ports of entry, many of the Torresi settled in The North End, Boston’s Italian section. My great-grandparents emigrated there and raised their family of 6, including my grandmother and her siblings.
Thanks to the blogosphere, I found Florindo Cirignano, a life-long resident of Torre le Nocelle who has become the collector and master of Torresi genealogy and lore. He has written two books on the subject and knows everyone and everything about the village going back many centuries. He truly is the salt of the earth. I had been emailing Florindo for several months prior to my journey, and he was enormously helpful. He helped me find the most beautiful accommodations just 5 minutes away from the town center of Torre le Nocelle.
Florindo and his wife, Lia, made me an authentic, Torresi home-cooked meal. Thanks, Florindo and Lia!
A New Friend
Florindo is the epitome of Italian generosity with an open-hearted soul. After I landed at the B&B in Torre le Nocelle, he showed up at my doorstep a short time later. For three days, he took me on the most grand tour imaginable. As we walked through the very street where my great-grandmother was born, he talked about how ten people would live in one small house. I imagine my great-grandmother and her family went looking for a better life in America. I find it remarkably brave that my great-great grandparents had the courage to leave everything to move to a strange new place in America.
Torre le Nocelle, just like most of Irpinia, sits atop natural springs. Women of the village, including my great-grandmother, would walk to the spring and carry containers of water on their heads up the hill to their homes.
During our walk through Torre le Nocelle, Florindo pointed out myriad herbs and flowers that were used for food and medicine. Wild dandelion, mini rose hips, Malva flowers, borage leaves, nettles, and wild turnips are in abundance, and, especially in my great grandmother’s day, provided nutrition and medicine for families living in poverty. They would forage and make use of native plants. Florindo’s favorite, pennyroyal, grows everywhere and is the principle ingredient in Laine e Pulieio, a pasta dish indigenous to Torre le Nocelle. The pasta here is made from just flour, water and salt. Unless a family had chickens, eggs were too hard to come by.
However, the most important food grown here, the basis of Nutella, is nocciolo, the hazelnut. The trees are everywhere. Nocciolo or in the local dialect, nocelle, is how the town got its name. Torre = tower, nocelle = hazelnuts. The Tower of Hazelnuts, the home of my family.
Now, here is a photo essay of Torre le Nocelle, I hope you enjoy this virtual walking tour of this ancient village, full of magic and beauty.
I will leave you for now, but stay tuned for more posts from beautiful Irpinia. Thanks for stopping by.
It looks lovely there!
It is so lovely and hard to describe in words. Thanks for stopping by my blog!
Ciao! I came across your blog because my family is also from Torre (Cefalo) and I am planning to visit this summer. I would love your recommendations on where to stay and things to see.
Wow, you are a Cefalo! What are the dates of your trip? I have some recommendations for you especially if you want to stay in Torre le Nocelle. Will you have a car? Let me know your travel dates and mode of transportation, and I will get back to you with some ideas. It is very exciting to meet another Cefalo. Maybe we are related! Have you gone to this website? http://www.torrelenocelle.com/1.htm
It is very helpful. Will you be doing family genealogy? I can also put you in touch with a wonderful genealogist if you are interested. Looking forward to hearing from you!
Hello, I was reading this page and read that you are related to the Cefalo family from TLN. My family is Russo also from TLN. A couple of years ago I communicated with a Joseph Chefalo (Yes he spelted it with an H), who belived we were related from TLN. He is from N.Y., and his siblings are Thomas and Tina (Sabatina). Are you any relation? Any genealogy information would be helpful. You can reach me at email@example.com or look us up on FB at Hiett Hound Hotel in Tn. USA. Thank you very much, Myke Hiett
I wanted to let you know about a wonderful accommodation in Torre le Nocelle. It is https://www.booking.com/hotel/it/casale-1921.html
Casale 1921 is the name and the address. It is a family run farmhouse turned into a bed an breakfast. Each morning a lovely breakfast is waiting downstairs. It is a working farm and vineyard and is so beautiful and peaceful. The rooms are large, sunny and very clean. Some of the rooms have a balcony/porch where you can sit, let in the fresh air and look out over the vineyard and countryside. I wrote about it in this post: https://wordpress.com/post/anitaliandish.com/5685
It is a 5 minute drive from the little town center of Torre le Nocelle, so if you have a car, it is a perfect location. Without a car, it might be tricky because it is much removed from public transportation.
Also, on August 8, 2020, is the San Ciriaco Feast where, I hear, there will be many Cefalos. San Ciriaco is the patron saint of Torre le Nocelle.
Ciao for now,
Thank you so much for your recommendation! Do you live in San Francisco? You wrote that you departed from San Francisco. I work in S.F. I think we will have a car in Campania. I’d love some recommendations. Thank you! Suzanne (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I sent you a personal e-mail about my upcoming family trip to Torre Le !ocella before I saw this on your blog. I will contact this B & B.
Hello, I was reading this page and read that you are related to the Cefalo family from TLN. My family is Russo also from TLN. A couple of years ago I communicated with a Joseph Chefalo (Yes he spelt it with an H), who belived we were related from TLN. He is from N.Y., and his siblings are Thomas and Tina (Sabatina). Are you any relation? Any genealogy information would be helpful. You can reach me at email@example.com or look us up on FB at Hiett Hound Hotel in Tn. USA. Thank you very much, Myke Hiett
Love this article. My sister and I have been to TLN, where our maternal grandmother, Maria Grazie Mottola, was from. We spent time there and also with her nephew and his family in Montefusco. I have been back 3 times since my first journey there 6 years ago, and I look forward to returning.
How wonderful to meet another Torresi. I too look forward to returning sometime. I would love to spend more time learning more about their culture, the festivals, and of course, the food. Thanks so much for your message!
My maternal great grandparents were from
Torre le Nocelle. I hope to visit in October 2023. Is there a contact person who can help find information on ancestors? The surname was Ardolino.
My email address is