It’s been five months since I began chronicling our historic trip to Sant’Andrea, and while I’ve stopped writing about it — saving some stories for a larger project about my grandparents — I’m amazed at how this blog has grown beyond its original purpose as a way to share our experiences with family and friends.

With more than 2,000 visits since November, I’ve heard from dozens of Andreolesi across the globe. Some have sought to find out more about the traditions of their ancestors, while others use it as a way to recall cherished memories of their childhoods. To my great surprise, several thousand people have done both through our video travel log.

Perhaps most exciting, I’ve come in contact with a few relatives I only knew of through my grandparents’ stories. I hope to establish clear connections with others with whom I’ve been in contact.

I’m particularly proud of the status this blog holds as a resource link on the Sant’Andrea Web site. It seems we’ve touched upon something big — a strong desire to keep our traditions alive. I’m tremendously pleased that Uncle Bruno and I have helped make that happen even in the smallest of ways.

For those of you on Facebook, please come join us on the Sant’Andrea group. And please link this blog to other sites to help spread the word about our great little town.


I can’t tell you whether we got the cheese into the country. We may have simply shipped it over. We may have left it for Dino and the family. We may have even left it for Nino’s consumption.

I CAN share a could-have-happened, might-have-happened, would-have-been-nice fictional story that the U.S. Customs office would probably object to — if it were true, of course.

After another 10-hour trip to Rome — this time getting view of the majestic Amalfi Coast — we spent time with Dino and got a quick tour of Rome. Then we spent another 10 hours on a flight from Rome to JFK.

In Italy, the lights from buildings below were generally sparse. Ditto over Nova Scotia and New England. That made arriving over the skies of New York, whose lights beamed as the sun in comparison, all the more impressive. It was obvious that many people on the flight had never been to New York before. The cabin erupted into applause at the sight of Long Island, which looked as if it were covered with an intensely thick patch of white Christmas lights.

Wait until they got a view of the city, I thought.airport.jpg

Uncle Bruno and I spent about 45 minutes waiting for our luggage by the turnstile. It was amazing to think our adventure was over. We did it. We saw and experienced so much in so little time. We reunited with family, tasted every aspect of Sant’Andrea that we could and dug up some amazing family history. We dipped into the Ionian Sea, and had an amazing tour guide in Nino — and Frine, of course.

Now we only had one mission left to complete: Get the cheese into the country. We had come so far, it would just stink as bad as the cheese itself if it was taken from us.

As if to drag out the drama, the bag that MAY have held the cheese was the last item off the turnstile. We spent the 45 minutes thinking that the bag was somehow confiscated right off the plane. But it was safe.

Now we had to go through the imposing Customs officers. If we got caught, we really didn’t know what to expect. A fine? Confiscation? Jail? We expected the worst situation. We wound up sailing through.

The Customs guy didn’t even ask to look at the bag that MIGHT have had the cheese in it, and we walked through to the good ol’ USA without a problem.

Mission accomplished!

Photo courtesy of my bud, Dominick Miserandino, who waited hours for us to arrive.

It was the night before our departure for Rome and there were two things on our minds:

1. We’re going to sorely miss our Sant’Andrea family. The took such great care of us, and we shared many laughs. It was heartbreaking to know we wouldn’t be able to see them often. It seemed of50590442.jpgas if we had never been apart at all.

2. If in fact we do get the cheese, will U.S. Customs allow us into the country? Some had warned us that cheese was among the unwelcome items from abroad.

We prepared for the worst.

Remembering what Uncle Al said about his ruined luggage the last time a packaged the pecorino for Poppy, Uncle Bru set aside a whole bag for the cheese. He planned to pack each one twice before even allowing a chunk into his bag.

This process, we thought, would both save his bag and reduce the odor. Maybe, just maybe, the Customs gods would shine brightly on us.

The next morning we said our so-longs to Uncle Al, Aunt Nuzza and Daniela and head out to meet Nino. We were finally going to see the cheese guy.

The Soverato Market, open each Friday, has just about every fresh food available — from produce, to meat, to fish, to beans. And yes, cheese, too.

Take a look

But we were here for one reason and one reason only: THE cheese. And not 50 feet from the entrance, there he was — Mimo Pirritano and his truck-full of stuff.

I was overjoyed. I hadn’t planned on it, but I got a half-chunk. Angela had to get a taste. (Thank you, Uncle Bruno.) I was almost surprised that Mimo, whose family has been goat herders for hundreds of years, sold more than pecorino. He mozzarella, ricotta, privola, mixed cheese, you name it. I was also expecting an older guy who was weathered by time and the elements. Yet Mimo was a modern entrepreneur who happened to sell cheese.

At long last, we got it. Andmimo.jpg we got everyone their share.

Sadly, we also had to say good-bye to Nino. He was an adventure, and as much as I kid, I am deeply appreciative of his time and effort.

We said good-bye and he said good-bye.

Or at least I think that’s what he said.

Next: The cheese saga finale.

As I mentioned, Nino hinted that he had the cheese but wouldn’t give it to us unless we came for lunch. We would have gone anyway, but getting our hands on the cheese was an added incentive. If he didn’t have it, he would at least bring us to the guy at the Soverato market on Friday.

Now, Uncle Bru and I made a pact before we left for Italy that we would dip into the Ionian Sea together. The water is an integral ingredient to life in the region, and dumping into the water would be the ultimate Andreolesi baptism.

Nino promised to bring us to the perfect place for a dip before we had lunch at his place. The spot, he said, was near his house in a more private location than the center of the Marina, where we had planned to make the plunge.

They all thought we were crazy, but we didn’t care.

So we piled into Nino’s VW and headed out to the water.

Or so we thought.goat-herder-land.jpg

Ten minutes into trip we were still driving parallel to the water, though it should have only taken us a minute or two to get to the location. At first, we thought Nino was still looking for the right spot. But he soon informed us that he was taking us someplace different first.

After a brief chat with Nino, Uncle Bruno turned to me: “He’s bringing us to the cheese guy.”


“He’s bringing us to the cheese guy’s factory.”

Cool! We were going to get the deed done sooner than we thought. And we’d get to meet the cheese guy!

Now we’re talking, I thought.

Just then Nino turned to ask for the factory’s address, pointing to the white plastic bag beside me in the backseat. I opened the bag to find a pot of gold: the original block of cheese my grandfather wanted, wrapped air-tight in plastic with the branding “Fattoria Pirritano” in Guardavelle Marina.

Nino had it all along, but he knew we wanted to get more for Uncle Bruno, my father and Aunt Vera and he was prepared to make sure we did.

Nino wanted the address because he realized that we passed the spot where we should have turned toward the factory. He stopped to get directions and turned around. No more than a minute later we came to sign with an arrow directing us toward Fattoria Pirritano. It was up a road that was more dirt than gravel.

This is when I noticed something strange for a cheese seller in the middle of no where: a Web address. My mouth dropped. Could we have sigoat-herder-land2.jpgmply ordered the cheese online at fattoriapirritano.it?

Maybe, but as a I thought about it more, I realized didn’t care. We were on our way to the cheese herder, on our way to il pecorino degli pecorari (cheese of the goat herders). What better way to get the cheese?

So we drove down the road, passing old abandoned stone houses and a few farms. We also drove closer to the mountains, where the region’s rugged natural beauty shone through. It was a sight to behold.

Finally, Nino, who hadn’t been to this area before, informed us he was lost. We stopped at a stone house near the road that had a truck and some cars parked outside. Perhaps this was the place.


We checked around, trying to avoid the mud, though Nino, again in a suit, didn’t seem to mind.

We came to the rear of a barn attached to the small house and noticed the asses of four cows sticking out. Nothing else.

We called out, but no one came, and we decided to head back home without seeing the cheese guy.

We eventually did get that dip in the sea, and we had a nice lunch at Nino’s place, where we even got a taste of some of Nino’s own stash of the cheese, as well as some homemade soppresata. We also got the season’s first taste of Nino’s red wine.

Not seeing the cheese guy was a bit of a disappointment, but we knew we’d still have the opportunity to get the stuff.

And if not, we could always order it online.


Mimo Pirritano told us the factory was on the road we traveled, but further up into the mountains.

Next: The Soverato Market

One thing about Italian drivers — they’re nuts. And if you abide by the rules, they think you’re nuts.

We quickly learned in our 10-hour trip from Rome to Sant’Andrea to move out of the left lane if anyone was behind us, because no matter how fast we were going, they wanted to go faster.

We were routinely high-beamed, honked at and nearly pushed off the road by teeny weeny cars whose drivers felt they had to go as fast as their cars would take them. For us, that meant 130 kilomoters per hour, or 80 mph. Our Fiat Panda simply refused to go any faster, even downhill.

The trip down to Sant’Andrea was an experience, but nothing prepared us for driving with Nino.road-sign-roundabout.jpg

Nino kindly volunteered to take us to the supermarket to get groceries for Aunt Nuzza and company. It was the least we could do considering how they had graciously opened their home to us.

Before we got on our way, Nino quietly went upstairs. I didn’t notice he was gone until, no more than five minutes later, he came out looking like Dapper Dan. For our trip to the store Nino had quick-changed from his gardening outfit into a pinstriped suit.

It was a a mind-boggling contrast from just minutes earlier that took me some adjusting to.

With Nino all spiffied up, we proceeded.

A minute from Nino’s house toward the Davoli supermarket — the only one open between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., when everything closes for an extended lunch — you come to a roundabout.

Here’s how it’s supposed to go: You go to the right and the guy coming from the other direction goes to his right, allowing for a continuously flow of traffic.

Easy, right?

Silly American.

Nino’s the type of guy who has to turn his head every time he talks, which usually means he slows down at best or veers off course and slows down, supremely ticking off decidedly impatient Italian drivers.

As we approached the nicely manicured roundabout, Nino was doing his driving-while-talking routine and slowed down near the entrance. He proceeded around the right side, but the guy behind him, apparently peeved by Nino’s dawdling, zoomed around the left side and lunged to cut us off.

Nino would have none of it. He and downshifted from third to first gear and burst into an assembly of curses that would have been difficult for anyone to follow. With the car’s engine screaming, we jettisoned around the roundabout.

Now, all I was thinking in this blink of a moment was, “Please God, I want to see my girls again.”

Surprisingly, we didn’t die. In fact, Nino won. We squeaked ahead of the wrong-way driver.

Even after his victory, Nino continued his litany of curses, calling the other guy crazy and who knows what else. (All I heard was, “Buh buh buh buh buh.”)

Uncle Bruno, being the smart guy he is, repeatedly agreed with Nino about the other guy and entirely overlooked the actions of Mario Andretti to his left.

The good news is that we survived. Nino helped us get the best bargains in the store and even treated us to Italian McDonald’s.

We got back to Nino’s each with our respective pieces in places.

After swigging down some of Nino’s homemade coffee liquor (gasoline) and chatting with some of Poppy’s old friends (help me here, Uncle Bruno), we agreed to come back the next day for lunch with Nino and his wife. Then we would be allowed to get the cheese. He told us he would take us to the guy who sold the cheese at the Soverato open market on Friday. We’d go just before we left for Rome.

I should have known that there would be a lot more to the story before that happened.

Some random videos

Here are some extra videos:

The view from Nino’s house

Something else, huh?

Chiesa di Matrice: Inside the church

This is the remake of an ancient church. Just about everyone in town is ticked off that the Powers That Be decided to time rebuild the church rather than repair it.

Rome from Garibaldi Square

One of the highest points in the city.

A walk down the tiny alley

You know it, you love it. Here you get to see the scrapes on the walls

See all the videos in the Sant’Andrea playlist.

I think this is interesting. It’s from a site that provides demographic information about Italian towns.



The most common five family names in Sant’ Andrea Apostolo Dello Ionio:

There are in Sant’ Andrea Apostolo Dello Ionio Surname
145.18 Codispoti
116.62 Sama`
97.58 Cosentino
80.92 Lijoi
71.40 Frustaci