For those who where so lucky to ear their parents or Grandparents telling stories about San Donato Val di Comino, now you have the possibility to have a tour of your ancestral town.
San Donato Val di Comino is a medieval village on the slope of the Parco Nazionale d'Abruzzo. We know that this tiny village is ancient, because the first document about San Donato was written in 778, when a powerful Lombard duke, called Hildebrand of Spoleto, sold the area to the Monastery of Saint Vincenzo al Volturno. After two centuries the village was donated to the Monastery of Montecassino, that keep it until 1150 when after a battle the area became part of the possession of the family D'Aquino. I think that the name of this family can be familiar to some of you, because it is the family of one of the most famous Italian Philosopher and Saint Thomas Aquinas, the so called Angelic Doctor. The family d'Aquino provided the village with a strong castle. We must wait until 1595 to have a new powerful family in San Donato, the Gallio that let the village only at the end of the feudalism.
During the Second World War the area of San Donato Val di Comino was very next to the Gustav Line, and the Germans built very large Bunkers. To build them, the Germans took the inhabitants of San Donato prisoners during a roundup in the main square and obliged them to dig burrows.
Very often the Germans used the Italian civilians to build bunkers and trenches, because they tried in such a way to punish them for subversive activities. When The battle for Rome was won, and the Allied continued their way to the North, NZ troops defeated the Germans on the mountain. Because the village of San Donato was famous for the huge number of Stonemasons after the WW2 many of them left Italy and to move to America, following the American Dream. They were so good in their job, that the major part of them mooved to Massachusetts and worked in Quincey, transforming this town in the Granite City.
Some year ago I met Rose and her daughter that were following the paths their Grandfather walked in Italy. He was born in San Donato Val di Comino, and he let Italy from Naple.
I was so lucky to find the Marriage records of their Grandfather 's parents, but the volume of the parish records of their Grandfather birth was lost. The only solution was to search the civil records at the town hall. The two women were already touched by the marriage certificate of their Great-grandparents they had in their hand, but the emotion grew when we found the birth record of their Grandfather Giuseppe. After so many emotions we had a tour of the village, and Rose and her daughter wanted to take photos everywhere. We visited the ruins of the Castle, the Sanctuary dedicated to Saint Donato, and the narrow paths going up and down. Then we reached the Cemetery where we fount the old gravestone of some ancestral relatives. I always remember their fantastic smile, when the employee of the town hall, opened the enormous book of the records and the two sweet ladies could read the name they were looking about.
It is always a big emotion to see them discovering their roots.
WHAT TO EXPECT
The half-day Heritage tour of San Donato Val di Comino (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 San Donato and researches:
- promenade in the village of San Donato Val di Comino
- visit to the religious archives of the village
- visit to the town hall (if open, if not, I will do it for you in advance)
- visit of the cemetery of San Donato Val di Comino
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
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Dr. Anna Maria Priora Ph.D
WW2 Monte Cassino Battlefield expert, researcher and tour guide