Sunday, December 17, 2006

My Great Grandparents' Paese - Venafro

Venafro "Skyline"

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).

Castello Pandone (10th Century)

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.

Monte Santa Croce and surrounding countryside

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

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