Tracing Roots of the Family Tree

Traveler makes new discoveries returning to Italy

By Terry Wangsness, 3-time traveler from Benson, Arizona

Though my ancestors have varied backgrounds, my grandfather, Philip Cannizzo, emigrated from Catania, Sicily, when he was twelve years old. I wanted to see the country he came from, so although I’ve been to Italy before, I really wanted to go to Sicily.

This gentleman I met sitting on a park bench in Corleone reminded me of my grandfather. We were laughing, going back and forth with a translator, me in English, him speaking Italian.

Every time I’m in Italy I discover something new. Sicily had the most wonderful pastries.

Cannoli is one of the desserts for which Sicily is famed—and rightfully so.

And, of course, the main courses are always delicious. There was a lot of pasta, but each one was prepared in a different and interesting way, each with its own sauce, generally with no meat. There wasn’t an abundance on each plate, but what there was was just enough. The flavors were just perfect.

Homemade pasta, and bruschetta, prepared with fresh bread, tomatoes, and herbs.

We had a great meal on when flooding from Mount Etna in made it too dangerous to drive to our Home-Hosted Dinner. Fortunately even when it rained on this trip, it was still beautiful.

There are lovely vistas, including this ocean view, at almost every turn in Sicily.

The Program Directors were great, they called a restaurant and organized a meal for us really fast. We had a great time—there were a couple of locals who came in and played the accordion and kidded around with everyone.

One of the local entertainers yukks it up with a fellow traveler.

There was also a cake for everyone to enjoy. One of the couples was celebrating their first anniversary. It was a wonderful surprise for everyone!

Jeanette and Kenneth Bendure, 9-time travelers from Freemont, California, celebrate their first anniversary.

Another surprise was the beauty of the Greek ruins. The Valley of the Temples, and the Temple of Juno are more impressive than what I’ve seen of the temples in Greece.

Grecian ruins at the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento.

One of the most memorable moments for me was in Savoca. We were about to leave when it started raining and everyone ran to the bus—except for one other lady and myself. We stood there as the clock struck noon and church bells started playing Ave Maria. It was so beautiful, we stood there with tears streaming down our faces. We didn’t get on the bus until the whole piece had finished. It was truly a spiritual moment I will always remember.

Another memorable experience was in Taormina, and the wonderful Sicilian Agriturismo farmhouse in the countryside at the Messana family farm. The food was delicious. When were about to leave, our bus broke down, and all of the luggage had to be put in a tractor. It was piled high and as it went down the hill, we laughed and waved goodbye, and the host and hostess invited us back into the house and made more coffee for us while we waited for a replacement bus. We were all so happy to see that our luggage made it safely to our hotel!

Our bus driver, Mario, was really personable and just a lot of fun!

We found the same hospitality extended to us at the school we visited. The fifth-graders practiced their English skills on us, and I must say their English-language skills are stronger than my Italian. The children were charming. I worked as a school clerk before retiring so I'm used to kids.

Here I am with the fifth-graders we met at C.F. Aprile Elementary School.

I’m a people person, and I’m really active as a tour guide at Kartchner Caverns in Arizona. It’s made me aware of how hard it can be to be a guide, with 20 strangers staring at you. Our Program Director made it look easy! My experience as a guide has fueled my sense of adventure and exploration. One of the people on my tour was just radiant when they were telling me all about Croatia and Dubrovnik, and it got me thinking about going there next. Although I had been thinking about Ireland, too. I just watched the videos for both. Now I just have to decide!

If you’d like to learn more about this trip from our travelers, check out this video featuring Grand Circle travelers like Terry describing—in their own words—what made their experience in Sicily so memorable.