May 26, 2003—At the Napoli train station we boarded a train for Benevento. The whole trip was a little strange because we had no guide book for this excursion. I didn't know what I would find in Benevento, or how we would get to Colle Sannita. I was just glad Paul was willing to try.
I guess that's Mt. Vesuvius way back there. The ride to Benevento was going to be about 1½ hours, so we were far removed from the city.
There were interesting castle-like buildings up on high hills along the way. I never was able to find out anything about them.
There's a sign for Benevento, but I don't know what to expect.
I bought a post card when we got to the train station in Benevento, but we didn't have the chance to see any of these sights.
Now that we were in Benevento, we were completely at a loss as to how to get to Colle Sannita. We walked into a hotel where a very helpful clerk gave us a bus schedule and a map and tried to tell us how he thought we should get there.
We boarded a bus with lots of students from the university, checking first with the driver that the bus was indeed going to Colle Sannita. I tried to pay the driver, but he let me know we should sit down and we would pay later.
During the ride deep into the countryside, two young women were coming around collecting busfare. We needed to find out what our options were going to be for getting back to Benevento later. They spoke very little English, and that's when the entire bus pulled together to help us. It was amazing. The tickettaker went around speaking to different people trying to piece together what I was saying and what she needed to communicate to me. She did a great job and came back to tell us that 45 minutes after we got to Colle Sannita, the last bus of the day would be leaving. (It was only mid-afternoon, so we weren't expecting that.) So she gave us the name of the hotel in Colle Sannita, saying it's a very nice hotel and they would take care of us.
We were quite disappointed that we had to either see the whole town in 45 minutes or spend the night in the hotel without even a change of clothes or a toothbrush. So we started out just seeing what there was to see. As soon as we got off the bus I saw a sign for a business of some sort with the name Paolucci, which is the last name of cousins I was hoping to find.
It was a little town, and in its center was this monument to the town's war heroes. A few Paoluccis are listed here. We saw the town's municipal building, but everything seemed to be closed.
Walking back toward the busstop I found the Paoluccis' store, although I still don't know what they sold. It seemed to be a weird combination of baby carriages and kitchen sinks. I remember thinking it could be a kitchen supply store until I saw the carriages on display way up high.
My dream of stumbling across a house with my maiden name on the door didn't come true, so we were going to head back to the busstop. On the way we saw an ATM at a Banco di Roma. We were running low on cash, so Paul put his card in the ATM. Nothing happened. There was no display on the screen and the card was all the way in the slot. A man was working on what turned out to be an electrical panel there in the vestibule, and he was trying to tell us he'd have the electricity fixed in a few minutes. We were getting very close to missing that last bus out of town. The clock was ticking and we were getting nervous. We saw some people inside the bank, but the door was locked. We tried to get their attention, and two or three people came to the door. I told the manager, half in Italian, that the ATM had taken our card. So the manager, who began speaking to me in English, let us in and offered us a seat in his office. There were having a power failure and he had quite a few problems on his hands. The back of the ATM was in his office, but he was unable to get the card out of it.
I explained that Paul and I were there because that's the town my grandfather was from, and that we'd travelled there from Sorrento that day and had just missed the last bus back to Benevento. The manager offered to drive us to Benevento, where he lived, if we could wait for a while, which we did. In between dealing with one crisis after another, the manager asked his workers if they knew the name Iamarino, but they did not. I told him I might be related to some of the Paoluccis in town, but I really didn't know for sure.
Finally the manager was able to lock up the bank and drive us to Benevento. He had a beautiful Lancia parked outside. He told us he had lived in Fort Lee, New Jersey for about four years, and that he missed being able to speak English to anyone. He asked us to wait in the car while he took care of something. He was probably doing another good deed for someone because he pulled into a gas station and spoke to an old woman in the building next to it.
Then he drove at least 100 miles per hour into Benevento. He looked at me at one point and said I didn't look nervous, which surprised him. I told him we'd been on a few wild bus and cab rides and I was getting used to the high speeds. The car handled superbly and he seemed to be a skilled driver. When we got to Benevento, he parked in an island in the middle of the road with the train station on one side and the headquarters for Strega Liquor on the other. I told him I always knew Strega was from Benevento, like my grandfather, but I never thought I'd be standing outside their building. He told us to send him a post card from the States some time, and I promised I would. I've actually been collecting post cards for him, but I haven't sent them yet. Maybe after the next trip!
So now it was getting to be evening and we took the train back to Napoli, then took the Circumvesuviana train back to Sorrento. On that train we met an Australian couple and their grown son who had been in Siena when we were there, but they got to see Andrea Bocelli. I think we were all happy to find people to speak English with.
In Sorrento we took the bus back to the Hotel Minerva. It was 10:00 at night when we arrived. We asked the people at the front desk if they knew where we could get dinner that late at night. They made a phone call or two for us and sent us right across the street to La Minervetta. We ate on a covered balcony overlooking the water. It was so serene, and the food and wine were excellent. The waiters were very nice, too. And we were not the only ones looking for dinner at 10:00!