(The second trip with my Dad and even more crazy coincidences!)
(Matt's other online albums)
At the request of some of my relatives, I have put up this synopsis of my trip
to Positano, Italy in May 2001. The whole trip and how it came about make for a heck of a story.
Let me know if you really want to see pics of the rest of the trip, or some of the
other places I've been. Thanks. -Matt
The trip started because I had already planned to spend a week in Nice, France with
my roommate and a couple of friends. I knew I'd have an extra week after they left,
and Italy is just a few miles from Nice. So I decided to ask my Dad if he knew where
our family was from in Italy. All he knew was that his grandfather was from "a small
fishing village near Naples called Posedon." I went to Borders and looked in a Lonely Planet.
There was no Posedon, but there was a Positano, which the book described as "The most
picturesque town on the Amalfi Coast." I already knew the Amalfi
Coast was supposed to be one of the most scenically beautiful placs in Italy, so that
was the first mindblower to me. I asked my Dad if it could possibly be 'Positano' instead of
'Posedon', he said that must be it. It turns out the Southern Italian accent drops the last syllable
most of the time.
So I thought maybe I would go to Positano and look in the phonebook for Savinos, or maybe
go to the town square where the old men play checkers and ask around. But then my uncle Gary typed
'Positano' and 'Savino' into Google, and came back with a hotel on Savino street in Positano and several
hotels owned by the Savino family. The Savino hotels were too expensive, so while I was
sitting in a meeting with my bosses, I emailed the hotel on Savino street and told them my story.
They got back to me within an hour. They explained that they were related to the Savino family,
that a Savino worked in their gift shop, and that they would introduce me while I was there. That was
mind-blowing event #2. So I booked the only room they had, a suite, for 3 nights.
After Nice, I made my way to Positano by train. I spent a night in Genoa, where I met some really
nice students who took me out on the town. Then I spent a night in Cinque Terre, the other most
scenic spot in Italy. My bus pulled into Positano right at dusk. The road is basically suspended halfway
up the side of a several-thousand-foot cliff. On approach, Positano looked a lot like the dusk picture below, only from the other
side, and obviously much more spectacular. I knew I was heading into something special.
That night I met Paulo, who runs an internet cafe/sandwich shop. I told him my story. He told me
his girlfriend, Eva worked for Rafaella (I forget her current last name), who used to be Rafaella
Savino before she married. Apparently the Savinos own half of Positano, and there's only 3000 people,
so meeting someone who knew them wasn't that surprising. Eva came by later, I told her my story
and she offered to introduce me to Rafaella the next day. The next morning as I walked down to the restaurant
where people who were probably my family were waiting for me I started getting really nervous. I walked into the empty
restaurant, there was a sweet 60-ish woman and a couple of men about the same age waiting for me.
The first thing I did was show them my Passport, which has MATTHEW CLEMENTE SAVINO printed on it.
(I had already heard there were several Clemente Savinos in town. Apparently 'Clemente' is not a
very common name. I am named after my Grandfather.) They immdiately smiled and started calling me Clemente,
and kept it up for the rest of the trip (say it with an Italian accent and some hand gesturing).
I showed them the pictures I had and told them what I knew--that my Great Grandfather,
Beniamino Savino was born in Positano and came over to Long Island some
time around the turn of the century. Rafaella then told me the whole
story about my Great-Great Grandfather, Clemente Savino and the American and Italian side.
She knew a lot more about my side of the family than I did.
The moment I will never forget as long as I live is when I finally
figured it out, and I looked at her and said "you mean your grandfather
is my great-great-grandfather?" "Yes."
Apparenly Clemente was a coral trader and who was going back and forth between
Positano and NYC around the turn of the century. Judging by the stories and the number
of people named after him, he sounds like one of those
larger-than-life figures, like how I picture my Uncle Bill back in the day.
Around the turn of the century, Clemente decided he wanted
his kids to grow up in the US, so he took all 6 of them and put them up
in the houses of friends around NYC, mostly on Long Island. (Positano
was a dirt-poor fishing village until WWII, when the British discovered
it and started turning it into a resort town.) One of those kids was my
Great-Grandfather, Beniamino. Then at age 71, Clemente's first wife died.
Edit: I have learned one important change to this story on my
2nd trip to Positano with my Dad in 2006.
Apparently Clemente's wife died FIRST, then he put his kids up in the U.S., which makes a lot more
moved back to Positano for good, married an 18-year old woman, and had 5 more
kids. (Go Savino genes!) The descendants of those 5 kids now own a lot of Positano.
Rafaella's hotel, the Covo dei Saraceni
was originally Clemente's house.
We talked for a while, then they invited me to eat dinner at their
restautant that night, and their hotel the next night. They were truly wonderful to
me. The rest of the story comes out in the pics below. Positano was really
incredible--the natural beauty and the wonderful people. It's blows my mind that
part of me is from this town. And that this is all something I had never thought
about until a few weeks before I left for Europe. I think a lot of Americans feel like
their family tree only goes back a few generations. It was really incredible to learn I had
roots like this. I also liked finding out there's some entrepenerual spirit and a wheeler-dealer
in my background. I think the best part is that I know when I have kids it should be pretty
easy for me to set it up so they could spend a summer in Positano. I
think that would be a heck of an opportunity for an adolescent-age kid.