Searching for Italians Relatives in Italy – Quinn Manfredini

“Over the Easter holiday, my family traveled from Chicago to come visit my sister, who studied in Florence for a year, and myself. Our plan was to drive from Florence to visit our cousins who live in Livorno, a small town near Pisa. Before the trip down, we decided to make an attempt to find the small town that my grandfather grew up in, named Sant’Anna Pelago. This small town in the Tuscan mountains held a special place in my father’s heart, and he was excited to visit it for the first time. On the Saturday before Easter, my family and I drove up a winding road on a mountain in a blizzard before finally reaching Sant’Anna Pelago. We arrived around 4pm, so most shops and restaurants were not open. We were able to find one place to sit down and have a meal. In the restaurant, there was a group of old Italian men sitting and chatting. One of them overheard us speaking English, turned, and in perfect English asked, “Are you guys from Highwood?”

We were stunned. Highwood, Illinois is a small suburb just north of Chicago that my father grew up in. Apparently, whenever an Italian from Sant’Anna Pelago migrates to America, they travel to Highwood, Illinois. The gentleman in the restaurant explained that he had lived in Highwood for 40 years before returning to Italy to take care of his sick brother. The owner of the restaurant also chimed in, saying his mother currently lives in Highwood. My father asked the gentleman if he knew his father, now deceased, named Massimo Manfredini. The gentleman recognized the name, and remembered my grandfather for fixing his truck multiple times while he lived in Highwood. This story brought my father to tears. The trip to Sant’Anna was more than he or the rest of my family could have ever imagined.

We left Sant’Anna and had a wonderful holiday with my family in Livorno the next day. None of my immediate family spoke Italian, aside from some broken sentences from my father, while none of my relatives in Livorno spoke English. I was able to act as a translator throughout the whole day. The holiday brought us all so much closer together, and I look forward to the day that I will see them all again.”

Quinn Manfredini
(BCSP Spring 2015, University of Michigan)