A small, remote village in Sicily claims to be the birthplace of the grandfather of the future first lady of the United States. But the neighboring town insists that is not true.
Gesso, part of the city of Messina, is a remote, remote and sleepy hamlet with nearly 400 inhabitants. It’s one of those places that doesn’t make anyone’s travel basket, not even an Italian tourist. I had never heard of it before Joe Biden’s win. Simply because no one, other than the locals, really knows where it is or where to pinpoint its exact location on the map.
Messina itself is not part of Sicily’s main destination elite circle – if you’ve heard of it at all, perhaps because of a long-discussed undeveloped bridge to connect the island to mainland Italy. So forget about the glamor of Taormina with its Greek theater and shiny boutiques; the baroque and exotic elegance of Syracuse; and the gorgeous blue blood villa in Bagheria. It is a corner of rural, humble Sicily, once explored by monks, pilgrims, shepherds and peasants, where living conditions are so harsh that many families have fled abroad in search of a brighter future.
Now Gesso is enjoying its glory and its people are proud. Jill Biden is set to become her and her first American-Italian first lady No, no supposedly came from here.
A team of local nerds who are addicted to tracing the family tree claims that this is where Jill’s great-grandfather, Placido Giacoppo, departed when he sailed for the New World in 1900 with his family, including two-year-old Domenico, grand-pop Jill. Once in America, the family switched to the more American-sounding Jacobs surname and changed to Dominic. One researcher, obsessed with Jill Biden’s lineage, spent a decade digging through old archives from Ellis Island that show the names of Giacoppo’s family who landed in the US.
Sleepy little Sicilian hamlet of Gesso.Silvia Marchetti
The “discovery” has breathed new life into the village, bringing back glimpses of the days before emigration nearly emptied the place, covering it with a blanket of silence. The local people were very happy and felt as if they were touching the sky. The elders were jumping around happily and there was always chatter.
The “biden buzz” has crushed everyday idiocy, as curious visitors and journalists arrive. Time doesn’t stop anymore but Gesso isn’t used to being popular, let alone a tourist magnet.
Here, the so-called “tourist promotion office” doesn’t even have pamphlets or pictures of beautiful village views, and if you happen to be looking for a hotel, it’s best to drive down the hill to the beach.
But Gesso has many plus points, apart from the Jill Biden link. Pure nature, lots of folk tales, and lots of cakes to fill yourself up. Get ready for a rich diet that will break your waistline: a pile of lasagna, hand-twisted ‘ncasciata paste with eggplant and teardrop caciocavallo.dll cheese, deep-fried eggplant parmigiana dish, pork steak brothers and sisters, sausages, and other grilled meat dishes.
Most of the locals spend their time eating, gossiping and gazing out from the terraces overlooking the sheep grazing on the green hills dotted with centuries-old olive groves and abandoned limestone caves. There’s a lovely rustic vibe that’s perfect for people looking for a detox, cordless stay. On clear days, the view stretches out to the Etna volcano and the sparkling blue sea of the mythological island of Aeolian, very close.
The village usually comes alive on special occasions such as farmers fairs and festivals with lots of delicious food, music and wild dancing. Traditional Sicilian puppets mingle with dancers dressed in ancient costumes and masks, while horse-drawn carts parade along narrow alleys lined with old peasant stone houses and several aristocratic buildings. Orange trees dot the garden and lush, flowering vegetation grows over the old buildings. There is a ruined church skeleton with no roof and only the walls still standing, making it look like a pagan shrine.
The locals are deeply religious: legend has it that the village was born in the 1600s as a miracle created by a statue of a saint dumped by a ship under an oak tree.
However, the healthy spinster ritual remains. Each June, young single girls looking for a hunk dangles the pure white sheets from their balconies at night and when they pull them back the next morning, the man who happens to be walking under the road is said to be their soulmate.
But enough of the Old World. Gesso is now dreaming of the future of US stars and stripes, hoping to captivate American tourists.
1. The ruins of the old family home of Giacoppo di Gesso.Silvia Marchetti; Cetta Giacoppo 2. Cetta Giacoppo, distant relative of Jill Biden.
Bookworm Federico Antonio says his search was sparked by an interview Jill Biden gave 10 years ago about his Sicilian origins and real surname. “Giacoppo is a very popular name around here, and a lot of people are moving there [the] United States so I analyzed the family tree of almost all the Messina area families until the data pointed to Gesso as the original village of Biden’s Italian ancestors. “
Such is the existence of Dr. Jill excavated. They appeared, flabbergasted, completely unaware of such “elite” connections. I tracked down the five of them, who still have the rustic, rustic rock where Jill Biden’s grandfather was born.
And they are so happy, feel like superstars.
Cetta Giacoppo (short for Concetta) is the daughter of Biden’s (very distant) eighth-year cousin. “This is so cool, I don’t know [I was] in any way related to it up to the US vote, and I’m very excited about this. We know very little about our distant American relatives, it’s just that they have emigrated, “he said.
Blood bonds can be bad. The Italians have a saying: “parents are snakes.” So when one other distant cousin (aunt Cetta) started competing for the spotlight, starring in an Italian TV program calling herself “Jill’s cousin,” the others got angry.
“My aunt didn’t tell us about this, she hid us and gained fame. That is not fair. We also exist, and we are many, “said Cetta. I was personally sent a handwritten copy of the Giacoppo family tree as evidence.
Envy is a major ingredient of Sicilian-style family rivalries and city strife. The closer they got, the more bitter the strife would be. As Gesso’s fame spreads, other nearby villages stomped their feet in protest and began arguing about Giacoppos’ true origins.
A few kilometers from Gesso appears Castanea delle Furie, a breezy, 2,000-people hilltop village known for its mansions and large birthplace of Jesus scattered throughout the park and attracting hundreds of visitors at Christmas. It has a terrible name that locals seem to live up to, which literally means “city of maddened wrath” – the mythological god of vengeance and chaos.
Gesso risks being blown away from Castanea’s shiny new altar of popularity, because at Castanea, other researchers have discovered different document. This claim states that the original Giacoppos who migrated to America consisted of completely different families and that Jill Biden’s great-grandfather was actually a native of Castanea delle Furie who happened to marry a woman from Gesso. The paternal line in Italy is considered to be stronger in terms of procreation, as women lose all rights when they marry.
However, unlike Gesso, there are no distant relatives of Dr. Jill Biden who stepped forward in the Castanea delle Furie – so far.
Sooner or later, a third city may come up with a third claim given that Giacoppo is a popular name throughout the Messina region. Long ago, weddings were celebrated between neighboring village families, so in the end, everyone within a few miles radius ended up getting in touch.
One thing is certain: tourists are sure to embark on a treasure hunt in the northeast half of Sicily chasing Italian Jill Biden. Home sweet home, aka “home sweet home”. Even if it might end up looking for the surname “Smith” —a needle in a haystack.