by Rocco Verrigni
After a trip that has taken me almost 5000 miles, and that had it’s conception almost 3 years ago, I sat in a gated parking lot looking at a large oval sign high above a warehouse, that read in red letters, I was waiting for the return of someone who would bring me into the warehouse and introduce me to Luigi Verrigni, his son Gaetano and who knows who else.
A very strange feeling came over me while everywhere I looked, I saw my family name; it was on the big sign as I mentioned, it was on boxes that were on pallets waiting to be loaded onto a truck, it was on t-shirts worn by workers as they went about many tasks in front of me, it was on the windows on the front of the warehouse. Could I be related to the family who has worked this business since 1898? That’s what I’m here to find out. I was told that I was expected and that Luigi would arrive soon. I continued to see my surname on a display of packaged pasta, and as a logo that took up a wall.
At once I was excited and nervous; excited for obvious reasons, nervous for not so obvious reasons; What I think made me nervous was that I knew that I would have to communicate almost entirely in Italian about some fairly intricate things.
And then the smiling face of a septuagenarian appeared from nowhere and introduced himself as Luigi Verrigni. I felt better. We were brought to an office where I was told that we would talk and that I should try to do my best to communicate in Italian. Talk we did, for about 1 hour. I understood quite a bit and verbalized as well as I could. He spoke of his grandfather who started the company and of his father who he took over for. I asked several questions and simply tried to focus on every word and nuance. Not easy. From what he knew, he thought his father and my grandfather were first cousins. I asked about corroborating this but this is where it gets hard. He reiterated in person what he had written me in our e-mail communications over the last number of months.
And so……what now? As they say in Italian “non lo so”, I don’t know.
I could go to Atri, a town 13km away and try the churches and town offices to try to find written records and I will be in this area for a few more days and may find out some more from Luigi.
For right now, I am off to have dinner with Luigi Verrigni and if we only share a name, that is enough. “A famiglia, forse” ….to family perhaps.