Greenwich group heads to sister city in Italy
GREENWICH — Like many in town this summer, a group of 13 Greenwich citizens will be departing this week for some time abroad. But this trip to Italy is no ordinary vacation. It’s retracing the steps of people who helped build the community.
The group of residents are traveling to Rose, which since 2013 has been a sister city with formalized relations to Greenwich. Dignitaries from Rose have come to the town in the past, and now Greenwich residents are making the trek to return the favor.
“This is going to be an astonishing experience,” Bea Crumbine, the town’s ambassador at large and the leader of the trip, said Monday. “This is all about looking back at the immigrant’s journey and about people seeing where their families came from for the first time.”
Crumbine said she is very excited about the trip, not just for the chance to see Rose but because of the deep roots it has in the town’s history.
Micelli/Mitchell had built homes in Rose, and he started building them here and working on store fronts as well.
“The more people saw his work the more they wanted to hire him so he needed help and he sent word to Rose for more people to come,” Crumbine said. “The people left behind everything they knew including their families to come here and he made it easy for them, sending his employees to Ellis Island to meet them and show that they had a job and a place to sleep and were ready to work. This has an enormous impact on Greenwich and was a great gift to Rose too.”
The workers began arriving in Cos Cob from Rose in 1880, Crumbine said.
They initiated the “great estates” era in Greenwich, during which residents of New York City came to town and bought up farmland to build new homes on. The grand homes were perfect for parties in the country away from the city for all their friends, and were used for hunting parties and debutante balls.
Once in Greenwich, workers sent for their brothers and cousins and, eventually, their wives and children.
“Greenwich wouldn’t look the way it does now if it hadn’t been for the people of Rose coming here,” Crumbine said. “It brought a brand new way of life to Greenwich. Before 1880 the census showed there were no Italians in Greenwich and this first wave of immigrants coming here for work brought more and more and more. Going to Rose now for so many of these people is going to take things full circle.”
The town has deep connections to two parts of Italy. Many of the residents of Rose settled in Cos Cob but immigrants also came from Morra De Sanctis and settled in Chickahominy, Crumbine said. Greenwich also has a sister city partnership with Morra De Sanctis, stemming from a project Crumbine began years ago exploring Greenwich’s Italian surnames that led to an exhibit with the Greenwich Historical Society.
The group going to Rose includes town Tax Collector Tod Laudonia, who is bringing his family with him. He says they’ll avoid the usual tourist spots in Italy, and instead focus on finding out more about their family.
“All four of my grandparents came from Rose at different times,” Laudonia said. “I’ve always liked history and I want to learn more about where it all happened.”
Crumbine once lived in Italy with her husband, former Selectman Peter Crumbine, and speaks Italian fluently. She will be serving as a translator and guide but will be visiting Rose for the first time.
“I can’t wait to see this beautiful town and see what life is truly like there,” Crumbine said. “I want to see for myself and better understand the people who so courageously left behind everything they knew and in some cases their wives and their children to come here.”
While they’re in Rose, the group will mark the Feast of St. Lawrence on Aug. 10. The annual feast, which has also been celebrated in Greenwich the past few years, celebrates the patron saint of Rose. At last year’s celebration in Greenwich, participants made a Skype connection with Rose in which the city’s celebrated band performed a song for the occasion. That band later came to town and marched in Stamford’s Columbus Day parade.
While marking the occasion, Crumbine said the Greenwich visitors would be part of the religious procession, take part in the feast and attend church services.
All told the group will be there for 10 days. Crumbine and some in the group are going to Rose after first stopping in Rome. Laudonia and the others will go there through Naples. While they’re in Rose, they will tour the town and the neighboring areas — and Crumbine will be made an official citizen of Rose in recognition for her work in establishing the sister city partnership.
Crumbine said she is looking to do more of that work while she’s there. She has collected the names of paternal and maternal grandparents and great grandparents from many Greenwich’s residents to do research.
“I can’t wait to learn more,” Crumbine said.