If you family roots are in Italian, and in particular from Atina and the Comino Valley, you will be surely interested in a very surprising story of emigration, fantasticly remembered in a little, but really very little museum in Atina. The name of this museum is Accadémie Vitti, and it explains the fantastic and even incredible story of the Caira Sisters.
In the second half of 19th century, the economical situation of the Comino valley was very critical. The traditional manifacturing were loosing their markets in Europe, and the lack of work was the mail problem the population had. Poorness was so bad, that many people left this area to look for a little job somewhere in Europe. A lot op people left Atina and the surroundings with a bear of the Abruzzi National Park, and mooved to Paris, where they trained it , and made it dansing on the road, and some nice girls found a different kind of job, one of these you can not told your mother, at the time: they became art model in France.
At that time, the Italian models, male of female, were considered the most impressive ideal of beauty of the time, and a young girl or boy was able to gain a lot of money this such a profession. Naturally if it seems now a quite light job, but please, thing about being naked for about 10 hours, without fireplace, or hiting, and being mostionless for so many hours, must be very hard for them, even if it was a well paied job, for those, who had this opportunity.
Between all the girls who worker as a model, there were three girls, the Caira Sisters, Maria, Giacinta e Anna. They left Gallinaro, next to Atina, and moved to Paris. They worked some years as models in Montmartre, untill when, Maria married Cesare Vitti, a youg model from Casalvieri, and they decided, being too old to continue to be art models, to open an Art Paiting Accademy, only for Ladies. The Vitti Accademy, was very famous at the time, very popular by rich Ladies who wanted to learn painting (girls could not be at the time painters), and some of the teachers of this accademy were Gaugin and Picasso.
The Accademy was opened in 1889 and closed in 19014, 25 years long, when the Caira sisters decided to move back to the Comino Valley. They were very rich, but they lost quite all their money during the First World War. Maria died later than the other after the Second World War, and lived in a little stone house, on poorness, with his nephew. Many years after his death his grand grandson Cesare, was very surprise to find paintings, photos, letters ad a mirror in the old garret of this family house..... and he discovered the fantastic story of his family.
Photos of Maria, Giacinta and Anna, sometimes wearing our local traditional dress, sometime naked, letters sent to their family explaining that they were doing in Paris, and the mirror forgoten in the accademy by the famous poet Rainer Maria Rilke, and fantasticly described in one of his letters to a friend of him.
Many of the inhabitants of the Comino Valley, of Atina, San Donato Valcomino and Casalvieri, moved tho Paris or London to become art models, but families usually were not happy to remember them, because at the time it was considered not a proper job for a youg lady or boy...
What about your family?
Genealogy and heritage reserches in Atina
The half-day Heritage tour of Atina (about 3h30 hours) includes:
1) pick up from the Railway station or from your hotel in Cassino with a Minivan at 10.00 a.m or 02.00p.m.
2) about 3h.30 guided tour of the most meaningful sites of Atina and researches:
- promenade in the village of Atina
- visit to the religious archives of the village
- visit to the townhall (if open, if not, I will do it for you in advance)
- visit of the cemetery of Atina
- (If you want to visit the Accademia Vitti Museum, please let me know in advance)
3)return to the railway station or hotel in Cassino at 01.30pm or 05.30pm
4)Price per person 90 euros
Informations and Booking
Our rate on Tripadvisor is 5/5 on 63 reviews.
If you don't believe me, have a look on Tripadvisor
Dr. Anna Maria Priora Ph.D
WW2 Monte Cassino Battlefield expert, researcher and tour guide