A genealogy trip is a tour designed for foreign people who want to discover the birthplaces of their ancestors. At the beginning of the 19th century, many people started to emigrate abroad, looking for a better life. Leaving especially from Southern Italy and Sicily, they used to reach the States after long and tiring journeys by ship.
Ancestry tours: a request from the Feminò family from the States
It was the end of January when John Femino – from Virginia – wrote us at Discover Messina Sicily an e-mail inquiring about a tour that could help him visit his ancestor’s birthplaces, his great grandfather Lorenzo Feminò, who left Messina in 1873 to reach the States. He told us he was planning to visit Sicily in April with his family and he would have desired to retrace his roots. So, we went immediately to the city hall of Messina to discover that the family name Feminò is very common in Salice, a tiny village located in the beautiful Peloritani hills, 9 miles from Messina, on the Tyrrhenian coast of Sicily.
After much research and with the most precious help of Stella Velardi, a local inhabitant of Salice, and Antonio Federico, a kind man passionate about genealogy research, we were able to consult the records of the acts of birth, baptism, wedding, and death.
Antonio built the family tree of John Femino’s family and found out that one of Lorenzo’s many brothers was Salvatore Feminò who remained in Sicily, and his grandsons are the relatives still living in Salice and they waited with us for their cousins from America.
The day of the genealogy trip: April 13th
The day has come. On April 13 2023 a great celebration took place for Feminò families living in Salice (Messina): we all welcomed John Feminò and to our great surprise, we learnt that even his father Lawrence Femino was part of the group travelling to Sicily from the United States visiting his grandparents’ birthplace. Lawrence came to Sicily with his sons John and James, his wife Susan, his daughters-in-law Abigail and Kay, and three sweet granddaughters.
The genealogy trip started with a visit to the nature reserve of Lakes of Faro & Ganzirri, Cape Peloro – the northernmost tip of Sicily and closest point to Italy – and a visit to the historical city center of Messina with the unmissable bell tower show in the Cathedral Square at noon. At lunchtime, we moved to the Village of Salice, where the Feminò family had the greatest welcome by the folkloristic band playing Sicilian music.
The highlight of the genealogy trip was, however, the thrilling meeting between Lawrence and his family with their cousins Mimma and Salvatore and their families, with whom we all shared lunchtime at the local Bar Spartà, tasting Sicilian local food pane cunzato, arancini, pidoni, focaccia and drinking Faro Doc wine.
This was the most beautiful moment of the day: Mimma and Salvatore brought some old pictures that they showed to Lawrence and his sons, and they also had the possibility to discuss together the family tree realized by Antonio Federico. In the meantime, the ongoing party atmosphere was still there, thanks to the folkloric band playing music and making children dance for the entire lunchtime.
After lunch we accompanied the Feminos to discover the village of Salice, visiting the Mother Church where Lorenzo (Lawrence’s grandfather was christened) with its works of art, and walking in the ancient streets.
Before greeting our overseas guests, we were hosted by Stella Velardi (her grandmother’s surname was also Feminò) and Nuccio Tomasello, who were very friendly and helpful in contacting the relatives and the local community and having joined us in the organization of this incredible day. On this occasion we honored the Feminos with a very special souvenir: a ceramic plate, customized for them, to recall the unforgettable experience in Salice spent with us, with their relatives and with the community that was pleased to welcome them.
The last destination of the genealogy trip was the Feminò Tower (Torre Feminò) in Marmora – a very scenic location from where we had admired the coastline to Milazzo: the owner, Gianni Feminò, native from Salice, lives in Florence but he often comes back to Marmora. He also gave his support for the success of this event and he wanted to show his hospitality towards the Feminos offering his book “Marmora del Salice: the charm of Myth and History”. In his book, not only he explained the history and the myths of this area of Sicily, but also the Greek origins of Feminò name, which was of the utmost interest to our guests. Gianni also let us visit the tower, which is one of the 200 coast towers in Sicily, described by Camillo Camilliani in the XVI century. Gianni Feminò wrote them a letter in which he wishes to meet soon Lawrence and his sons:
“I’m very happy because you have found your close relatives. All people named Feminò from Salice have the same DNA. The vicissitudes of life have spared us and we think that we are not family”.
We at Discover Messina Sicily couldn’t be happier to have realized Lawrence’s dream of a lifetime: going back to where his grandfather was born, discovering the place, and retracing his roots. Seeing the happiness and the emotion in his and his family’s eyes was anything but priceless. This was our very first genealogy trip and we were really happy and satisfied about it went.
We really wish to have more requests for ancestry tours in the future to make more people explore and rediscover their ancestors’ birthplaces. If you have Italian origins and want to learn more about this, you can contact us and fill out the form that you find on our website page dedicated to roots tourism.
This is the aim of a genealogy trip: traveling towards a destination that is not just a place but it is family and home.
Many thanks from the bottom of our hearts to everyone who has contributed to making this extraordinary experience possible:
- Don Peter
- Stella Velardi & Nuccio Tomasello
- Dott. Gianni Feminò – Feminò Tower (Marmora)
- Antonio Federico – Civil Movement of Tramontana Villages
- Salvatore, Mimma and Graziella Feminò and their families
- The Folkloristic band “Sona Sicilia”
- Filippo Spartà – Bar Spartà (Salice)
The team at Discover Messina Sicily