Thursday, July 12, 2012

Grandpa, Grandpa, Where Are You Granpa?

This was a special morning, because the first thing we were going to do after breakfast was search for the registry office, specially for the Artigraphie Office, where I was directed by the kind man at the tourism office. Ron must have a gyroscope in his head for his sense of direction is phenomenal. He knew exactly how to get to the office, but that is where all directions failed us once inside the building. 

Like most government buildings, this one had multiple purposes. After finding the initial sign with Artigraphie with an arrow, we were left to wander aimlessly for the rest of our search. I found a couple of broom closets if anyone should ever have a need for them, but the Artigraphie office was a another matter. In one section of the building, we did find a row of windows and peered in. Each seemed to have a worker behind a desk on a computer with presumably a client on the other side. This was the scene for the first four windows, making me feel like a stalker or a Peeping Tom.

Finally behind window number 4, I happened to notice that the worker was playing Solitaire and the seat across from him was vacant. I help up the paper that said Artigraphie on it. This could go one of two ways. Either he would wave me off to continue his game or he could call me in. He called me in much to my surprise. That seemed to be the end to my good fortune, because he spoke no English at all, but when he was willing to call someone else, I felt like I hit the jackpot once again. That bubble burst when man number 2 didn't speak English either. Years of living in Hungary have made me an excellent at charades and Pictionary is a close second on my list of accomplishments. 

I started with simple circles and put me in the bottom one. Then the 2nd circle above me was marked madre. On top of her was padre. Now if only they would not confuse this with a new version of the Kama Sutra, we were all set. I was not placing bets when both men looked at each other, smiled profusely, and disappeared. Were they going to practice what I had drawn, taken off for lunch and did they go for security to haul me away? 

They returned with young woman, apparently believing I needed a mother figure, which makes sense since this is the land of Madonnas. Lovely lady spoke about as much English as I do Italian. The only differences are her vocabulary could be repeated in polite company while mine couldn't. We finally communicated. She wanted me to fill out a form in Italian. There was nothing on it ever close to Spanish, so cognates were impossible. When she saw me staring at it like I had encountered a snake, she took my hand and told me what to write. When that was completed, she said 3 days to search. It may have been the sudden involuntary rush of tears that touched her heart. 

She took my wrist and brought me to the records room. She and a new gentleman took out this book of records that looked like it could have been the long lost wish list Columbus had scribed for when he met with Queen Isabella. For the thousands of times I have heard throughout my life that the name Nettis doesn't sound very Italian, let me assure you, there are more than thousands of them in Bari alone. The other common name here is Netti. They were searching with as much enthusiasm as dogs looking for that forgotten bone. That is until Ron decided to snap their picture for me and posterity. That drew their attention and ire, though it was short-lived and they continued on their search. As hard as they looked, they could not find grandpa. The woman apologized profusely like she lost him personally. She did explain that the entire region was once called Bari, but as the years went by the communities became independent, so the records could be within another community nearby, but they don't have access to those records. It seems there must be a grander scheme of things for registration, but language prevented us from finding out. Everyone in the office bowed their heads as I walked by as if to say "We are sorry for your loss." 

I had such high hopes that this was going to be a success. I was a bit heartbroken that it did not happen. The search will continue though. I have the records from Ellis Island. I told Ron maybe when they landed my great-grandfather said "Hi, we are the Nettis and they thought he meant their name was Nettis, not Netti.

 The rest of the day was spent trying to avoid the sunshine. It was in the 90s, but when close to the water, the reflection made it feel like 190 degrees. We did quite a bit of walking in and out of little alley streets, soaking up the color and if a few drops of freshly washed clothes happened to drip on us, we were thankful for it. 

We spent a couple of hours at the Castello Svevo, a castle built in 1131 by the Norman King Roger II of Sicily. It later refurbished from 1233 to 1240 by Fredrick II. Isabella of Aragon made it a royal palace in the 16th century. It is interesting to speculate that Italy was not unified as a country until 1861 and until that time, there were many kingdoms and fiefdoms dotting the lands with dozens of dialects of Italian, all Latin based. For more on Italian language and languages, see here. Later, by the sea, we ventured to a museum of art where we were the only patrons, but the guide was beside himself with joy.

For dinner we ate at a restaurant I had read about called Osteria Travi Buco, supposedly a historic eating establishment, but no details were given. The antipasto was a buffet, so sumptuous, we could have made meals from this alone. The next course was orecchiete con cima d rape, but few rape. It was served more al dente than I appreciate, so I was not thrilled with the platter, though the flavor was good. By this time, we had 1 bottle of beer, a 1/2 liter of wine, 2 antipasto, and 2 plates of pasta, but have not seen a menu. We quickly realized that those who are not language deficit were getting other types of pasta than we were. They were also getting other types of dishes than what we were understanding was available to us. After some quick calculations, we decided that our 50 Euro bill that we had may not be enough to cover the tab, so we said no to the secundo platter. Just as well, our bill was 36 Euros, so we may not have pulled it off had we indulged. There was no air conditioning in the restaurant, so the kitchen would have been way too steamy to work off any further debts, but there is a lion and column where they could flog it out of us (Colunna della Giustizia).
Photos from today are located here.
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