When you’re the descendant of Sicilians your ancestors usually came from a town that they didn’t leave for hundreds of years. On my Dad’s side this town is Ramacca. Nestled in the mountainous province of Catania, Ramacca is one of those small town gems that you wouldn’t really visit if you were travelling from overseas. In 2012 I was lucky enough to spend 2 weeks there visiting family.
According to the Comune of Ramacca’s website the town was built between 1710-1712. The festival of San Giuseppe is celebrated on March 19th. My Nonna and Nonno call me every year to wish me a happy San Giuseppe day because as my name is Josephine (Giuseppina) this saint is my name day and according to my Nonna is more important and celebrated than my birthday. Ramacca is well known for it’s artichokes for which they hold an annual artichoke festival called the Sagra del Carciofo. They’re also known for olives and many other foods. Ramacca is a fruitful Italian farmland, one that we were able to enjoy as you can see from the great selection of snacks below!
The town was devastated by bombs in the second world war. One of the victims was my great-grandfather Francesco Rapisarda. It was the 5th of July 1943. The sirens for an impending bombing had gone off. Francesco’s family, my Nonna and her mother and brother and sisters fled to a shelter. Francesco stayed behind. His neighbours, a mother and children, needed shelter. They were too late to escape. They all died together.
In the Comune di Ramacca there is a plaque on the wall that has the names of those who died on that day. But as evidence of how wrong historical monuments can be, there is a blatant mistake on the plaque. It has the name of my great-grandmother, Francesco’s wife, Giuseppa Oglialoro who did not die on that day. She died on the 18th of February, 1968. Check it out below:
I have hundreds of relatives, cousins and great aunts and uncles who live in Ramacca still, just as they have for at least 300 years. While I loved the experience of meeting my family, and seeing the place where my grandparents grew up, and where their parents lived and those before them, I felt glad that I was born and lived in Australia. I’m not a big fan of small towns and while Ramacca was beautiful, it was quite far from Catania, and isolated from other towns. That being said, the cousins I met who lived in Ramacca definitely made the most of their town. There were soccer fields built in between people’s houses, a street with a few bars filled with young people, and you couldn’t slow them down in their cars. They’d also frequently go to Catania, so distance wouldn’t stop them. I’ll leave this blog post with a few more pictures of my ancestral hometown.