Pietravairano, Caserta, Italy


This is it. One of the ancestral homelands of the 20 Prospect clan.

On a day in 1882, Francesco DeBottis, and his wife Maria, said goodbye to this town to begin a new life in America. They left behind this village clinging to the hillside, and emigrated to Port Byron in Upstate New York with their 4 year old son James, and baby daughter Philomena.

That is about all that I know about them. Francesco was 32 years old and Maria was 26. Francesco’s father had died the year before. Whether that played into his decision to leave, is anybody’s guess. Perhaps burying his father was the final break with the past.

All I have to go on are dates, and statistics about the state of Caserta at the time. History tells us that most of the people in Southern Italy suffered under poverty then. Malaria, and other epidemic diseases were common.

The infant mortality rate in Italy was 22%, and 50% of children did not live to see their 5th birthday. Living on narrow streets, without running water, and good sanitation, it should not surprise us. In such close quarters as this a virus could quickly spread to half the town.

Look again at the ages of their children, and it is not hard to imagine that 2 others were lost in the 3 year gap between James and Philomena. Consider that when they reached New York they would have 4 more children between 1890 and 1894, including my Grandfather Samuel. The parents must have lived in a state of fear, worrying that their children could be lost in a moment for something that started out as simple as a skinned knee.

Maria passed away in 1896, and Francesco remarried a 25 year old widow a few years later. Four more children followed from his marriage to Rosa. They were American’s now. With each passing year, the memories of this little village must have seemed like something from another age.

Rosa passed away in 1925, and Francesco followed in 1938.In all he spent 56 years living in Cayuga County, New York. By the time they died they were no longer Francesco and Rosa. They were Frank and Rosy to their friends and family. The last living link to the “old country”.

As for Pietravairano, perhaps some descendants remain. The population of rural Italy is in steep decline. The village still exists, but it has moved down from the mountain, and out into the farmlands in the valley.

The citadel still stands atop the mountainside, looking out over the pastoral landscape. It crumbles a little more each year, its stones beginning their long descent back to the bottom of the hill. In another 100 years there may be few people left to hold back the pull of gravity on the rest of the village.

Here in America, our journey continues.

(All photos of Pietravairano taken from Photofunia / Google Maps)

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25 thoughts on “Pietravairano, Caserta, Italy

  1. Oh wow. The pictures are hauntingly beautiful. I cannot imagine living in a time where you would be constantly worried about losing a child. Now I just worry about losing my mind while watching iCarly. I feel you and the Mrs. need to take a trip to Pietravairano, Caserta, Italy.

    • My grandfather also came from Pietravairano around late 1890’s. His name was Antonio Vessella. In 1972 my ex husband was stationed in Naples and we got to meet all my extended family. I have been back about 9 times since then and love it more each time. Very different now than in the 70’s but the warmth and caring of the people keep me wanting more. Wonderful memories.
      I also remember stories of families wanting to send children here to live with relatives but most of the family here were too poor to take on more children.
      A trip to Caserta would not be wasted.

  2. First of all, the name of the city is slightly easier to spell than supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (and yes, I totally ctrl+C ctrl+V it)

    And a trip to Italy where no tourists swarm would be LOVELY! Looking at these pictures I keep on thinking of the setting in the movie The American. (I didn’t care for the movie or George Clooney, but I found the mountainside Italian village rather intriguing) They also remind me of this Italian town positano. Someone I used to know owns a house there and he had a framed picture next to his desk. I always wondered how he could manage to sit in that dreadful office when he had such a beautiful place to be.

  3. Hi to everybody! I live in Pietravairano and I work like Officer of the registrar at the City Hall, if you are interested in some research I can do it for you. If you want you can contact me at ascpietravairano@gmail.com. I need right Name and Surname of your relatives coming from Pietravairano and approximately their date of birth. Bye bye

    • Please contact me at cj8475@gmail.com
      I was given up for adoption from the Sionni family in the late 70’s. The iadevaia’s adopted me and to make a long story short, i believe that both families came from the same pietravairano village. they didn’t know of each other. so i was wondering if the families ever crossed in marriage, which would mean that my adopted father and mother would be my cousins… Please Help!!!

      FYI there is a ton of Sionni’s and Iadevais’s here is the states!

  4. Francesco’s father was Raffaele DeBottis of Pietravairano. Raffele’s father was Paolo DeBottis. Paolo’s father was Nicola DeBottis of Pietravairano.

    The DeBottis family has a long history in Italy, especially in Northern Italy where Cingia de Botti is named after the de Bottis family from way back in the late 200’s AD

    • Whereabouts in Northern Italy?. I had always heard we were Northern Italian but Pietravaraino is near Naples which surprised me.

      • Tom,
        Most of the early (online) records I have found are from the Bergamo/Novara/Cremona areas. But, there are many more later around Fierenze (Florence) and then Naples. Many of the de Bottis family were notaio (notaries) which recorded all civil events and transactions.

        Many of our family were involved in banking, advisors to the nobility, and some were lower nobiles themselves. Several were closely associated with the Roman Catholic church throughout history, and we even have one Catholic Saint (Villana).

        Please let me know what info you have on your Francesco DeBottis family and I will be glad to share what I have found.

        Best for now, Joe DeBottis.

  5. Hi,
    I have been looking for a very long time for my husband ancestory. His fathers name was Vito DeBottis and he was born in Caserta, Italy. His fathers name was Cesare DeBottis born in Providence Rhode Island to Maria Silvestro (Salvatore) and Angelo DeBottis. Angelo’s parents were Maria and Cesare DeBottis. I have not been able to go any further than this but the names Francesco have came up but I can not trace them. Any help anyone can give would be truly grateful. I do have his great grandmothers marriage cert from Providence Rhode Island and her death cert which states she was never married never had children.

    Thanks again,
    Kathy DeBottis

    • Kathy,

      I’m not exactly certain as to how your husband’s DeBottis family is related, but I’m sure that they are cousins in our line. Many of the DeBottis’ who emigrated from Italy came from the Caserta area. And, there are family members still living in that area today.

      You can reach me at jdebottis at USTV.us

  6. Pietravairano, Italy is near and dear to my heart. My father was born there in 1894. He came to Providence, Rhode Island USA, with his parents my grandparents, first in 1900. He returned to Pietravairano with his parent in 1910 and then came back alone in 1912. He never returned. When he left PV in 1912 he left a brother and a sister who was only 3 1/2 years old. My father died in 1951 at the age of 56. I am the youngest child alive out of 12. There are 4 of us still alive. In 1995 our aunt, my father’s sister, contacted neighbors of ours, looking for children of her brother. In 1998 14 of us went to see her in PV. It was one of the most memorable events of our lives. Subsequently I have been to PV 9 other times and my 11th trip is planned for 2014 with 25 other family and friends. Mary Ann Jones, who also commented her is a second cousin. Her grandfather married my mothers sister. My mothers parents were also born and married in PV.

    Donald Bianco

    • Donald,

      What a wonderful story. Thank you so much for sharing. Enjoy your visit to PV. Hopefully I’ll get there someday.
      Tom

  7. Pingback: Saint Villana Pray for Us | 20 Prospect

    • Tom, have you been to Pietravairano? There is a wonderful little hotel there “La Caveja” run by a Rotondo family. Are you related to the Alteri glass company family? I lve in Johnston, RI

  8. My mother is from Pietravairano. She came to Ellis Island in 1953 with her family. I’ve been 3 times but her family have scattered throughout Caserta and Naples. What a beautiful town this is….sad to see its demise.

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