According to many oriental philosophies, our history is already written in our name, and this is what happened to Cesidio Di Ciacca, a Scot from Picinisco (lower Ciociaria or Alta Terra di Lavoro, they are the same land).
Cesidio was the son of a family that had been divided between Scotland and Picinisco for a couple of generations and was one of 8 children. All of the children had English names that emphasized their connection to the new homeland that had welcomed them but when the mother had to choose Cesidio's name she decided to break the rule she had given herself and call him by his grandfather's name.
For years he was the only "Cesidio" in Scotland and every day he had to explain more than a few times how to spell it. Ciacca, on the other hand, is the name of a very small village near the small town of Picinisco where his family of Italian origin came from.
Cesidio Di Ciacca is his destiny!
His relationship with Italy, or rather with Picinisco, a particular village at the end of the Comino Valley inserted in the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise, was refreshed by a trip every 8 years. In fact, the grandmother took one grandchild with her at a time and there were 8 grandchildren. His father could not accompany him because he sold ice cream and the summer was his busiest time.
Cesidio is a very refined Scottish business lawyer, with a very musical British accent and a curious mind that researches and rewires the past. If you ask questions about the emigration situation in this part of Italy, Cesidio goes to the heart of the problem, to its beginning with the arrival of Napoleon, King Murat of Naples and the change of a social order that had been perpetrated for years.
Picinisco was part of the Bourbon Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and with Napoleon the 'primogeniture' was abolished which allowed properties of a certain size to be maintained and the duties of the firstborn to support the preservation of the family unit. Then with the Unification of Italy and the compulsory military service, social disintegration reached the point of pushing thousands (millions) of people to leave their country.
Those who were lucky to remain in Europe like Cesidio's family (although some are in America and around the world) were able to maintain a more visceral connection to their places of origin.
'The ties between Scotland and Picinisco are very ancient, perhaps dating back to the Benedictines, and documented in a number of ways. Just think that Picinisco is included in one of the most famous nineteenth-century guidebooks in the Anglo-Saxon world: 'Handbook for Travellers in Southern Italy. Guide for the Continental Portion of the Kingdom of The Two Sicilies' written by John Murray of London''.
Like many Italian emigrants, his father urges him to study because 'education (training in the Anglo-Saxon sense) is the only thing I can give you', said his father, and Cesidio becomes a lawyer. In 2007 he concludes his career with a sale of a business in Australia and for a wedding he returns with his wife and two children to visit Picinisco.
His wife Selina also has Italian grandparents, from Parma, and her father was the first of his generation to graduate from University in Scotland before returning to work in Milan where Selina spent her first 12 years studying in schools in Italy.
From the ‘distributed hotel’ to the vineyard
Let's go back to Picinisco and 2007. At the time, the town appeared less well cared for than it does now, and as a joke they bought a house in the historic center, just past the entrance arch. They thought they had bought a small nucleus and instead found themselves with an entire 4-story building in less than perfect condition.
This was the first step. The rest we all can experience.
The building was transformed into a luxury hotel made up of suites with a concierge under the arch and now hosts visitors from all over the world. Since the first year of 2012 the ‘distributed hotel (Albergo Diffuso) under the stars has been 'Golden Award' by the Italian Touring Club - Rooms of Italy. By now, word of mouth has spread on the web and the positive reviews have led more and more travellers between Rome and Naples to spend a night in Picinisco in Val di Comino.
But the second step is even more intriguing and concerns the recovery of the village I Ciacca, where the family has resided since 1500, and the re-planting of a vineyard of about 30 hectares cultivated with only local grapes, Maturano. A wine that surprises for its aroma and the particular story about its recovery.
To create an agricoltural company, he had to buy 220 plots from 140 different owners. And one was 102 years old, otherwise the owners would have increased by a few dozen. That was the point of the parcelling of land due to the end of primogeniture law!
With his sophisticated researcher's spirit, in the nicest sense of the word, Cesidio and Selina retrieved the ancient Maturano vines from two nearby areas, two hills a short distance away, and had them reproduced. When they then transplanted the vineyard, they noticed that the bunches had two different shapes and thought they had it all wrong.
They had the bunch with small grains and the one with big grains analyzed by an Italian genetic laboratory which certified the DNA was the same. Not satisfied they went to a second French lab and this one certified once again that the DNA was the same but one plant was male and one was female.
Satisfied with their work they turned to one of the best enologists in the world, Alberto Antonini from Tuscany, to make their three types of wine in purity: Nostalgia, Sotto le Stelle (amber wine) and Matrimonio, a blend of the first two at 50%. They must be tried, no other suggestion
From vineyard to eno-gastronomical academy
If the tasting of wine satisfied you, wait for the opening of the academy with a master in eno-gastronomy born between the University of Cassino and of Southern Latium (Unicas)and a university in Scotland.
The premises are ready and a new path will start soon. And once again it will be a path that will tie Picinisco, the Upper Terra di Lavoro and Scotland more and more.
There is no conclusion to the story, but the family certainly has two hearts, one in Scotland and one in Italy, and the pragmatic Anglo-Saxon one is making the Italian one flourish again, and with it the whole village of Ciacca and Picinisco.
These are the stories of emigration that we wish we could always hear. The construction of bridges between cultures where ideas, goods and loves continue to pass. Where the roots of the past serve to build the plants that bear fruit today but also tomorrow and after tomorrow.
See you at the inauguration of the academy!