Hot Pepper!
The Lucchino Family
Hot Pepper!




"Let's be frank, the Italians' technological contribution to humankind stopped with the pizza oven."  [Bill Bryson]

Our ancestors came from the small town of Campomaggiore in the Province of Potenza in the state of Basilicata, located in the mountainous area of central southern Italy. Contrary to popular perceptions - like the one expressed in the above quote - the region is quite industrialized. When Frank, Mary and their daughter Mary-Ann visited there in 1984, they met the former town priest, Fr. Joseph Filardi, pastor of Our Lady of Campomaggiore Church. Although he was not from this town, he felt compelled to write its history, some of which he shared with them.

He found the earliest mention of the town in the Etruscan histories. Its name then was "Vespesianus". When Hannibal was trying to defeat the Romans, the town was called "Campus Maior" (Major Camp). It was a large militray camp used for training and defense as it sat high on a mountain. In 202 AD the town was referred to as "Cuma." [Editor’s note: Considering that southern Italian dialects tend to contract words and phrases, it’s not hard to imagine how "Campomaggiore" could evolve into something like "Cuma," the same way "compadre" turned into "gumba." As you travel south, c’s turn into g’s, o’s into u’s, and the endings wind up in the Mediterranean.] Sometime after that, it reverted to its old name, which evolved to its current name, "Campomaggiore."

In the 1860's King Umberto I’s armies, led by Garibaldi, fought for and won unity and independence for Italy. After unification, the town was named "Commune Campomaggiore." By 1984, Fr. Filardi had already completed the history of the town to 1353 AD; he was having trouble getting information past this date from the Cutinelli’s, a noble family of the area. During their 1984 visit, Frank, Mary and Mary-Ann found no living relatives, but they did not return empty-handed. Mary-Ann brought back some original documents including birth certificates, a marriage certificate, cavalry induction papers, and citizenship papers.

When Irene (Sr.), Shirley and John visited the town in the fall of 1997, they befriended a very helpful woman, Concetta, who told them that Fr. Filardi had finished the history before being transferred to another parish. Concetta agreed to send a copy of the book to John. [Editor's note: When the package arrived a few months later, I was excited to find a handsome text along with a cassette of folk songs. Then something on the cover caught my attention: "Campomaggiore - Volume III." ...Does anyone want to go back to get Volumes I and II? To be continued...]


This photo was taken from the vantage point of the reconstructed town, about 2 kilometers above the old town. The ruins of the old town appear in the lower right. It was late afternoon, so the shadows are creeping into the bottom of the frame.


Vista #1


Irene and John pose at the monument comemorating the centennial of the earthquake of 1885. Some of the ruins can be seen to the right. It was somewhere in this vicinity where Mariantonia fell off her donkey. At that same time, the Duke of the region was thrown from his horse and died. There is another monument nearby that marks that spot.


Earthquake monument


Even though we arrived unannounced and spent only one afternoon there, the people were very generous. One gentleman offered to give us a tour of the old town. In this photo, Shirley and the gentleman look up at the ruins.




Concetta, who offered to help us in our search for relatives, is the one wearing the red sweater. She took us to the home of an elderly couple named "Iosco" (the wife is standing in the doorway). After some discussion, we decided that we did not share a common ancestor, but she welcomed us into her home and we had coffee, cookies and a delicious liqueur.


Meeting townsfolk


This shot was taken from just above the church where we met Concetta. Considering it was the only church in town, it was probably where Rocco and Mariantonia were married, although it must have been renovated a few times since then.


Vista #2