Connecting with our family roots in Naples

Italy as a whole is a top destination for many reasons: the gastronomic delights, centuries of history, and diverse scenery, to name just a few. My main reason for wanting to visit Italy is a bit more personal. I guess you can say it’s in my blood for I am Italian-American. I can trace my roots on both sides of my family back to Italy: my father’s family is from Calabria; my mother’s from just outside of Naples. When I was planning my second trip to Italy, it was important to include Naples on our itinerary since my mom would be with us. I knew it would mean so much to her to see where her relatives came from, and it was important to me to share that experience with her. It was my mom’s very first trip to Italy and I wanted it to be special.

Bay of Naples | Mt. Vesuvius

Bay of Naples

Special it was. And chaotic and beautiful and dirty and lyrical. But most of all, it was meaningful. We didn’t make it to the exact town where my mother’s father was from (Acerra), but just being in Naples and being so close was enough for my mom. We spent five days in Naples and what made it so meaningful was discovering the roots of all the Neapolitan traditions that still live on in my family. But there was one exceptionally poignant connection that we made while there. My daughter was with us on the trip and her name is Lucia. She was named (partly) after the Italian folk song, Santa Lucia, which was written about the Bay of Naples. Also, there’s a neighborhood in Naples called Santa Lucia. Both spots are quite scenic so it made the experience even more moving. I became a bit emotional seeing these places in person with my daughter.

Luckily, Naples is one authentic Italian city that is quite affordable for a family. We stayed at Hotel Europeo, one of the many charming hotels in Naples. Hotel Europeo is ideally located in the historic center, within walking distance of amazing cafes, restaurants, transportation, and important sites. Moreover, Naples is an incredibly fun place for kids. First of all, castles. I mean, what young kid does not love castles? Lucia and her imagination were able to run freely at both Castel dell’Ovo and Castel Nuovo. Lucia also was able to expend energy and experience Italian language immersion at the Villa Comunale playground. It was packed with local families when we were there. I can’t even describe how my heart swelled as I listened to other children and their parents talk to Lucia – in Italian – asking her name and if she would like to play with them.

Castel dell'Ovo | Naples, Italy

Castel dell’Ovo

We took that trip to Naples four years ago but the memories we created and the emotions we felt are still vivid and very real. It’s difficult for me to listen, without becoming defensive, to people talk about how Naples should be avoided because of the crime and mafia presence. My family and I experienced nothing of the sort; in fact, our experiences were quite the opposite. We’ll never forget the connections we made in Naples and it will always be a special place for our family.

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11 Responses to Connecting with our family roots in Naples

  1. Paula Folinazzo March 11, 2015 at 12:06 pm #

    Thanks Working Mom, my mother’s family is from Acerra too! Small world!

  2. the lazy travelers March 16, 2015 at 2:04 pm #

    love this line: Special it was. And chaotic and beautiful and dirty and lyrical.

    so glad you got to experience this with little bonjour amigo! xoxo

  3. Traveling Ted March 16, 2015 at 8:58 pm #

    I am a 1/4 Irish, and also would like to learn more about my Italian family heritage. I also would like to take my mom there.since she has never been and is 50 percent Italian being a Pacetti.

  4. lola March 17, 2015 at 2:21 pm #

    Naples is definitely a city that should not be overlooked. I’d like to return for the pizza alone!!

  5. Erin Marie March 23, 2015 at 9:49 pm #

    Of the places my family is from, Italy is the only one where there are barely any connections. Most of our family is in Ireland and we even have some in Croatia, but my Italian grandma came over with her family at 12 years old, so there’s barely anyone left over there. My Dad took her back a few years ago, she’s from Avellino, and she was able to find some very distant cousins.

    I love that Lucia was able to experience a place that is so rooted within her family. I cannot imagine what that was like for you, and how you’ll get to talk all about it as she grows older. I liked reading this about Naples, as I haven’t heard too many great things about it. But, your stories and beautiful pictures have convinced me that it’s worth a trip. 🙂

  6. Mindi Hirsch April 8, 2016 at 10:22 am #

    Like you, I don’t understand how people disparage Naples as dirty and crime-ridden. Then again, it’s not so bad since keeps the city from becoming too touristy.

  7. Christina April 8, 2016 at 10:10 pm #

    We went to Naples before the kids. I can’t believe we didn’t see the Castel dell’Ovo. Another reason to go back to beautiful Italy. This time with the kids.

  8. John April 9, 2016 at 2:41 am #

    I’m not a kid anymore, but I still love castles! Naples is on my list, but I’m not sure when I’ll have an opportunity to go!

  9. Lara Dunning April 9, 2016 at 1:29 pm #

    What a wonderful way to experience a location–with your family and through your heritage. The older I get, the more I realize how important our roots are. Thanks for sharing.

  10. melody pittman April 9, 2016 at 2:12 pm #

    You just listed all the things that make it so great! 🙂 I’m all about the mafia and crime aspects, that makes it so authentic. I’ve been to Naples and found it truly magical and of course, beautiful.

  11. carrie @ frugal foodie mama April 10, 2016 at 7:09 pm #

    This is so my dream trip! My father’s family also came over to the U.S. from Italy, and I have always dreamed of visiting there and finding the little town that my great-great grandfather came over here from. And how amazing that you were able to share this experience with your daughter! <3

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