From: Winnipeg, MB
I trace my ancestry to Florence, Italy. My great grandmother’s name was “Esperanzo Ferrari” from Florence Italy (Can’t get any more Italian than that! ) She came through Ellis Island when she was 15 years old. Turns out, my great grandfather was on the same boat coming over (so that’s how they met). Her cousins were the Ferrari’s that went on to make the Ferrari car company – but as soon as they got wealthy they disowned everyone else in the family, so I’ll never ever own a Ferrari. Not that I could afford one, but it’s the principal of it.
My great grandmother got busted bootlegging for Al Capone in the ‘20’s. She showed up for court with 5 kids in tow. The judge looked at her, and threw the case out. 3 generations later (about 4 years ago), and my wife and I go into court to have custody of my stepdaughter changed in our favor. The judge presiding over the case happened to be the grandson of the judge that threw out my great grandmothers bootlegging charge.
Godfatherism: Because you can’t get Italian without some sort of badda-bingism. So at the court case for my wife’s custody hearing for her daughter…. I was going to have my dad come sit in the courtroom. I was also going to have my wife’s dad sit in the courtroom. My dad (a doctor) took care of the judge’s wife. My father-in-law was a state trooper who’d been in the courtroom many times with the judge. They were going to pull one of those “just sit there, and let the judge connect the dots of who they were and what their names were, with me and my wife’s name”.
Anyhow. I digress. Funny little storys that will get lost if they aren’t told.
No Florence connection, but an Italian one - building on your notion of the connections that make it a small world:
In the house across the street from me lived a widow who was a published author. The book she wrote detailed her brother's escape from captivity in Italy in WWII. (He was a Canadian pilot flying a Beaufort in the Mediterranean and shot down while attacking an Italian convoy.) In her research of his story she sent for some documentary information from Italy, but when it came it was entirely in Italian. The only place she could think of to find someone who could translate was a nearby Pizza Restaurant.
So she barged in and said "I need an Italian!". After some laughs with the customers and staff about her double-entendre, the owner came out to see her. She explained about her book and trying to trace her brother's escape route (jumped from a German train, hid in the countryside for days and was starving when he sneaked into an Italian village looking for food, was caught and treated as a hero by the populace!).
So she mentions the name of the little town in the mountains where her brother received rest, food and medical treatment and the restaurant owner's eyes went wide. Turns out he was a small boy in that town and remembered meeting a Canadian pilot trying to escape from the Germans (who took custody of all POWs). How strange a coincidence is it for them to meet a quarter of the way around the world, fifty years on!
PS - After recovering in the village her brother left to avoid the people being punished by the Germans if they found him. He made his way along mountain valleys to the front lines and managed to dodge German patrols to reach the Canadian lines in Eastern Italy. AFAIK very few Allied POWs escaped German Custody in Italy.
No matter how bad a situation is, you can always make it worse. - Chris Hadfield : An Astronaut's Guide To Life On Earth