The People found by Pastena
The People found by Pastena

My roots by Pastena, the story of a return and a new future

My name is Rocio Cali Falasca and 86 years after my grandfather's departure, I decided to return to Italy to find the town where it all began: Pastena, in the province of Frosinone.

I'm sure I'm not the only one: mass emigration from Italy has fractured communities and left a wound on the history of many regions that time has failed to heal. At the same time, it has created an Italianness outside of Italy, it has created nostalgia and also imaginaries, dreams and desires, on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond.

I deal with Turismo delle Radici – Rooting Tourism, and I started from my story to reconstruct family trajectories: a journey towards one's personal and family heritage to place myself in a context and in a history that contains me.

This is why I arrived in Pastena 86 years after the departure of my grandfather Biaggio, who had left his land at the age of 12 with the dream of building a better life in Argentina.

I am the first Falasca to return to this village after almost a century.


Rosio's search in Pastena for his ancestors

My hair stands on end at the thought of the fear, the misery, the difficulties of undertaking such a journey. The parallel with my story is inevitable: I returned to Pastena, but in a different way. I left Argentina a year and a half ago to study in Europe in a “Master in Development of Tourism and Culture”, with an Erasmus Mundus scholarship.

While I was on the road, I interrupted my video call with my mother, in which I told her about my enthusiasm in embarking on the adventure of getting to know her father's land, because along a winding road full of beauty, I stopped at a viewpoint to contemplate the signs of the Ciociaria landscape.

The hot sun bathed the fields, green fields despite the cold. From a distance, there were no more traces of violence, fascism, wars, hunger, nor of my grandfather's departure. Along a narrow street, flanked by cobbled houses, I arrived at the registry office.

I tried to moderate my expectations, which was very difficult in that context, and told my story, showing my grandfather's birth certificate which said "address: Fonte dei Rossi," information that offered no accuracy. Thus began a long search until I found the house of Biaggio Falasca, some relative hoping to be lucky.

A little disappointed, due to the little information I had and the difficulty of my task, I started walking around the town looking for people to ask.

The village church caught my attention, and I wondered if my grandfather and his family would go there to celebrate village festivals. The church was now closed but images of a past that I had not experienced immediately came to mind. How could I explain it? Sometime later, while reading some articles for my thesis, I understood that what I was experiencing refers to prosthetic memories, imaginary memories of situations that I have not experienced and which are (re)created from anecdotes and family memories.

One of the many emotions that roots tourism revives.

The sun was beginning to warm the cobbled streets. A couple of tourists were visiting the house of Nino Manfredi. It didn't take me long to realize that Pastena is a very picturesque village full of history, with great touristic potential.

Next door, a lady was chopping wood in her yard. I approached her to talk to her, but she didn't know anyone with my last name. I repeated the procedure with everyone I met, until a lady suggested I go to the Sports Bar to ask.

After a coffee, they told me to go and talk to a certain Mr. Triani, who lived at the Fonte dei Rossi. My hopes of finding my grandfather's house were fading. What if Signor Triani, the only one who could know something, hadn't been at home? What if he doesn't remember?

They gave me the directions to get to his house, but during the journey I still asked for information at the Rinascente restaurant, where Maurizio invited us to eat even though the restaurant was closed.

He made us homemade salami and cheese sandwiches that were delicious. Then he accompanied us to Triani's house, with whom we chatted for a long time. He remembered that his father had told him about some people from Pastina who were in Argentina: could they be my grandfather and his family? I told him that my great-grandmother's surname was "Fratarelli", and he said... "Maria Antonia!" and I answered him: "Yes, my great-grandmother!"

He told me that he didn't know them personally, but that his father always spoke to him about them. I shuddered to hear my ancestors' words echoed in that conversation. It was like bringing them back to life.

Maurizio explained to me how to reach the house of some possible relatives and acted as my guide. Knocking on a door, I met Giuseppe and his wife who invited me to their home and called other relatives with whom we shared a beautiful afternoon together.

I can't help but be eternally grateful for their time and kindness, as well as that of all the people who have helped me in my research. Roots tourism - I realized - doesn't just involve knowing the house where my grandfather lived, the landscapes and the streets where he walked, but above all it means understanding the meaning of the place, its idiosyncrasy, talking to its people.


The info at the Sports Bar

Through my experience, I have experienced firsthand the difficulties of undertaking this research, the thrill and satisfaction of finding the physical place where a part of my story was born, but also the happiness of finding my family again.

This experience led me to deepen the theme of root tourism in my Master's thesis. I understood its huge potential contribution to the sustainable development of rural areas and to revitalize their cultural and migratory heritage.

Roots tourism, as a space for dialogue and meeting, connects leftovers and parties. Then I returned to Pastena to celebrate the patronal feast of Santa Croce with my Pastena family on May 3rd.

My time in Italy strengthened my belief that connecting with our roots is not just a personal journey, but a way to promote cultural understanding and heritage conservation.

I am filled with a renewed sense of passion and enthusiasm for combining my personal experience as a root’s tourist with my professional aspirations.

I look forward to working towards this goal and continuing my journey not only as a tourist, but also as a root’s tourism professional.


Pastena some glimpses
Pastena some glimpses
view from Pastena

Written by:

Rocio was born in Argentina of Italian origins and is involved in tourism. After her journey to discover her roots in Pastena (Fr) and a Masters in Development of Tourism and Culture she has become...

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