I have my surname thanks to my father, who is the dearest Del Borrello in my life, he is the sweetest man I know, always happy, accepting and tolerant of what life has given him and with an almost stoic ability to overcome anything. My Dad loves to talk about his beloved home town of Vasto, memories of his Aunts and Uncles, mostly his mother’s family the Di Cicco’s who welcomed us with open arms on a pilgrimage back to Italy in the mid ninety’s.
We don’t talk much about our branch of the Del Borrello’s but I know my father’s great-grandfather Pietro Del Borrello was widowed and remarried with eight children from the first wife (Giovina Zinni) and seven from the second (Maria Nicola Chiola), so you can imagine how many Del Borrello’s there are dispersed around the world. Dad has cousins in Canada (Toronto), the States (Philadelphia), Australia (Perth) and Italy (Vasto).
I’ve never had the desire to go back to Vasto, it would be strange without Dad with me to interpret my family tree and to be honest I’ve been quite distant from the Del Borrello’s anyway.
I have recently discovered some friendly Del Borrello cousins on Facebook who have rekindled my desire to know more about my family.
Since moving to Sicily I’m constantly being mistaken for a ‘Borrello,’ without the Spanish ‘Del‘ the name becomes one hundred percent Sicilian.
I like to think part of my heritage was Spanish and spoke that Vastese Abruzzese dialect which mixes Spanish and Croatian syntax.
The literary lover in me adores the idea I share part of my origins with the Victorian writers Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Christina Rossetti who moved from Vasto to London to become famous poets and writers.
Thanks to my new family connection I’ve discovered how my Dad’s family came to Australia. Four Del Borrello brothers (offspring from the first marriage of my great-grandfather Pietro) Gaetano, Giuseppe, Domenico and Luigi migrated to Australia. Then Gaetano curiously renamed ‘Charlie’ by the systematic Anglo Saxonising of Italian names which were so common in 1950’s Australia sponsored my Dad’s eldest brother my Uncle Peter who then helped his other brothers Nicola and Giuseppe to come to Australia. Like many links in a family chain, they pulled one another into a new life. Uncle Peter moved my grandparents Domenico and Annunziata and the rest of the family, Alessandro, Maria,Antonio, Giovina and Michele to Australia in 1953, after selling off everything they owned in Vasto.
A large chunk of my Dad’s family, Uncles, Aunts, brothers and cousins migrated to Australia from the Abruzzo region of central Italy. I can only imagine the large gaping hole it left in the Italian family tree.
Since my father was the last to get married, my brother and I are the youngest of all the cousins and unfortunately are slightly ignored, for want of a better word, to a certain extent it is only natural to be thought of as ‘the little ones’ when you are the youngest in a family.
I have vague memories of my elder cousins weddings, Dad introducing me to my Aunts and Uncles and sitting at the table like an eaves-dropper and sometimes never being invited at all. I have never been a part of a large inclusive Italian family, despite the Del Borrello’s propensity to populate and migrate all around the world. For me, an extended family is a dispersed and distant one.
Nonetheless I love trying to sketch out the family tree, after all, it still pertains to me. Fragmented stories from my Dad tell me bis Nonno Pietro was a wealthy landowner and had property in the countryside. Dad has wonderful memories of scaling down the escarpment of old Vasto to swim and fish in the Adriatic sea. Today Vasto has become an extensive tourist town with endless ugly hotels along the coast and built up industrial areas.
As for my family recollections, they are quite sparse. I recall visiting my Nonno Domenico in his Perth nursing home, his gruff voice and chain-smoking, his was my first ever funeral. My Nonna Anunziata died the same year my parents got married. I never knew her, yet in photos, I am aware of the same sense of joy-de-vivre which is a part of my own father’s heart. Mother and son have the same smile. Oddly enough even if I never met her I dreamt of her when I was pregnant with my first child, who I even considered naming Anunziata until she decided to go directly into her Nonna’s arms in heaven, then giving my daughter the name of Estella, she who comes from the heavens, seemed more apt.
My Dad’s eldest brother, extravagant Uncle Peter died suddenly and I still smile at the memory of his larger than life warmth and those fun pool parties playing billiards were awesome for a girl like myself.
If I close my eyes I can still remember the last time I heard Zio Alessandro’s gravelly voice over the phone as I called him to wish him well before flying back to Italy,
‘Grazie, grazie bella, un bacio.’
I recall Uncle Nick’s positive energy as he was slowly worn down by cancer.
I don’t remember Zia Giovina who was the first of my father’s family to be taken away by an aggressive male as they say here in Sicily, which is our modern plague.
All I have is a handful of muddled yet poignant memories of an overgrown and complex family tree. It would be grand to fill in the missing parts of my family tree, not for vanity’s sake but rather for more tales from my history, as life is about stories.
Dedicated to my Dad Antonio Del Borrello and his cousins Peter, Karen and Laura, who I hope to see sometime soon. And my own cousins who share the same monumental family background.