My great-grandparents immigrated to America from Oriolo, Calabria in Italy at the turn of the 20th century. It was always my dream to go find my Italian roots. From the time I was young, I always wondered what Italy was like and how my grandparents could leave the land and family they loved in search of a better life for not only themselves, but for their future generations. I owe so much to these trailblazers that died before I was born.
In May 2009, my family and I went to Oriolo. It was a trip of a lifetime. On the plane I wondered if I would see myself in the Oriolian people. Would they have my eyes, my hair? Most people tell me that I look Italian before they even know that I am Italian. This was the case in Italy also. Most people spoke to me in Italian and my other family members in English.
Being in Oriolo was surreal. I recognized a majority of the surnames. Half of Oriolo must have immigrated to the area where I grew up. Even as I type this, almost a year later, I have goosebumps.
The church Chiesa di San Giorgio (below) holds great significance to me, as my grandfather and his brothers sent back money to support the church after they arrived in America. Walking the same cobblestone paths and entering the same buildings made me feel close to all of my distant relatives that I never got to meet.
Oriolo is rich in history and the commune now has a website: http://www6.asmenet.it/oriolo/index.php?action=index&p=257. Google translator will do the translation for you. There are several pictures of Oriolo on the Oriolo website.