Michael Paparella Town Ambassador per Vallepietra
Michael Paparella Town Ambassador per Vallepietra

The beautiful Italian-American story of Michael Paparella's roots

It's a sunny spring day and Rome is at its best. I have an appointment in Via Veneto with Michael Paparella, an American from Akron, Ohio who is originally from Vallepietra.

Our meeting was born a few months ago thanks to the Town Ambassador project for the municipalities of the Aniene Valley strongly desired by the Metropolitan Area of Rome. I had met the mayor Flavio de Santis and the administrators looking for descendants of people who had left the town, and Cristina Dandini had told me how a certain John Paparella had contacted her a few years earlier in search of her roots.

Thanks to social networks, I track John and his son Michael with whom we set up a meeting for the month of April in Rome.

We meet at Harry's Bar and I meet a gentleman dressed in blue with a radiant gaze who welcomes me: "I try to come to Italy at least one month a year, I feel my Italian origins are very much alive and with my family we always take a house in rent for a month in Rome to live like a local”.


Paparella and his family
Paparella Family History
Paparella Family History

His story is that of a family that emigrated at the turn of the century. It may seem the same as many others but the poetry of Michael's words and some details make it decidedly unique.

His paternal grandparents were both Italian: his grandmother Elodia Tiraterra was born in Vallepietra in the Simbruini mountains while Francesco Paparella was born in Minturno, on the Lazio coast. Michael grew up with his grandmother's stories that passed on to him colors, scents and sounds that still echo in his mind and heart.

“My grandmother was the oldest of 5 children and at the age of 2 her parents left for America leaving her in the care of her grandmother and telling her they would come back for her”.

Elodia therefore grew up in Vallepietra with her grandmother until she was 14, during the period in which children find magic in every discovery, and thinking that Vallepietra was the land of dreams, a magical place. She lived full of love in symbiosis with nature, what more could she want?

In the meantime, her parents hadn't forgotten her and, as soon as they make a little luck, they come back to take her to the USA. At the age of 14, critical thinking has not yet developed and Vallepietra remains engraved in her heart like a fairytale place.

Paparella's family

In America Elodia gets married and tries to raise her three children by following the English language in order to be able to integrate them into the school and the society in which she lives. In reality, with her first, John, she had tried to keep her Italian roots alive, but given the difficulty of integrating into school life with her peers, Elodia had had to pretend to forget Vallepietra.

But when she became a grandmother everything came back to the surface, and Michael remembers the long days on the porch listening to Vallepietra's stories. This makes him develop the idea of cultivating his Italian roots and, perhaps also for this reason, he falls in love with and marries a girl of Italian origin, from Bari, and looks for a job that brings him into contact with Italy.

Michael specializes in the acquisition and merger of Italian companies that want to enter the American market and for this he has to spend long periods in Italy. With his family they got into the habit of renting a house to be able to live as Italians and not as tourists.

When I asked him what he thought about becoming the Town Ambassador of Vallepietra he replied: “Why not? Do you ask me to come and discover all the beauties my grandmother used to tell me and to promote them? It doesn't seem like a commitment to me, it seems like a pleasure. And I will also bring the young 25-year-old Maria Elodia who is better than me in communication and social media. It is I who thank Vallepietra and its mayor Flavio de Santis for this opportunity!”

Mayor, now we have to prepare many experiences for Michael and his friends who will come to Vallepietra to make us known from all over Ohio! And we must involve all the other Town Ambassadors of the Rome Metropolitan Area project on the Aniene Valley.

 The beautiful Italian-American story of Michael Paparella's roots

Written by:
Claudia Bettiol

Engineeer, futurist, joint founder of Energitismo and founder of Discoverplaces. Consultant for the development and promotion of the Touristic Development of Territories specialising in...

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