Sunday, December 17, 2006
I have discovered that our surname, Massarella, originally came from a small town in Tuscany (half way between Florence and Pisa) founded in 998. Originally, it was called Massa-Pescatoria, but was soon changed to Massarella. The town is situated on the south west edges of a lake and marshland area called Padule of Fucecchio which is the largest internal marshland in Italy and is a protected nature preserve that boasts one of the top bird watching areas in Europe. The Massarella Seal is a blue shield with two dolphins.
Each year there is a big horse race in the province (Fucecchio) which Massarella is located in and which they compete in. The race is called the Palio delle Contrade di Fucecchio. There is another Palio (horse race) that takes place each year in Sienna, also in Tuscany. It is world famous. The events are rooted in the chariot races of ancient . Like in Sienna, each town of Fucecchio has its own flag which they carry to and display at the race each year. I am extremely fortunate to have one! Click the photo of the Massarella horse to see more Massarella race photos.
Each contrada, or village, in the Fucecchio province has its own flag. This is an actual flag from the village of Massarella. A very good friend of ours visited Massarella while she was on vacation in Tuscany and found a very kind woman who gave this flag to her. She continued the kindness by shipping to me! It now hangs proudly on our living room wall in Plano, TX. Click on the flag for a direct link to a page on Massarella that gives some details and history on the town (in Italian).
For as long as I can remember, I've been curious about my last name - Massarella. It seemed so mysterious and rare. Since it was my great grandparents who immigrated to America and my grandfather, Sam Massarella, had died young, I had no one to ask where my family came from. But then, one winter day, while having coffee with a distant cousin - Madelena - I learned that her father and my grandfather were "Paesanos" - meaning they came from the same town, or "paese". She told me that my Great Grandfather, Simone Massarella, came from a town called Venafro that in his time was part of the province of Campobasso (today falls in the province of Isernia).
At the crossroads of Lazio, Abruzzo, and Campania, Venafro has been a local center for trade, arts, and culture for millennia. Venefro (originally Venafrum) is an ancient town with Samnite origins that predate the Romans. After the fall of the Roman Empire, it was a Lombard stronghold for centuries. Once part of Abruzzo, today Venefro is in the Province of Molise, which split off from Abruzzo as an independent region in 1964.
Sadly, I don't know anything more about our direct descendants and the ones who could tell me are all gone. If you are from Venafro and know someone with the surname Massarella, please contact me on this blog or directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.