Tuesday, May 1, 2012

In search of Giuseppe Tassi: Ascoli Piceno and Offida

So my dad is Jeff, and his dad is Leo, and they were all born in the US, and that's as far back as I know. But I've heard that Leo's dad (my great-grandfather) was one Giuseppe Tassi, who was the one to come over to the US from Italy. And then I heard that he (and some other relatives) came from a town called Offida. Here's the story of how I sought it out.

First stop, Ascoli Piceno:

It's the biggest town in the area, and I had a name and address (no phone number) of a Lino and Germana Francheschi who lived here. So I got a place to stay and sought them out. Found their place, but no answer at their door. So I went on to Offida itself.

I had a couple of possible connections here. First, Enrica Tassi at Via Cipoletti 49. Turns out Via Cipoletti ends at 47 (hah!). But I asked a guy and he asked a lady and they said "Tassi? They live over here at the piazza." I rang the doorbell, and no answer. As I was leaving, a nice younger couple was exiting the house. I said "Signor, Signora Tassi?" They were a little confused, but she spoke English, so I explained my goofy situation and she said yeah, two Tassi sisters live in the other rooms in the house. Turns out Giuliana was home, so we rang her bell again, and she came down to say hi.

Another Tassi, Elvira, was at work at the theater (taking tickets; it's a tourist attraction) so we went to visit her too. They were nice folks, but I couldn't figure out anything to say other than "good to meet you" and sort of explain my situation in broken Italian, so I left it at that and moved on.

They said "oh hey, another Tassi, Peppino, lives around the corner on Via del Merletto."

I went for a look.

No! Giuseppe Tassi! Could it be? I mean, he's my great grandfather and dead, but... is this his house? Did he used to live on this very street, walking through these cobblestones and stuff to get to farming or making barrels or whatever the heck he did?

Short answer: nope, it's another Giuseppe Tassi.

He's a friendly guy. I think. At first when I rang his doorbell, I sort of said "hi, my name's Dan Tasse, uh, my grandfather's name is Tassi, uh... ?" and he looked out of his window sort of annoyed and said something that sounded like "No thanks, I'm not interested, what are you doing, leave me alone." But then he came down and invited me in, he poured us each half a beer, and we talked for about a half hour in broken Italian. (I mostly just spoke Spanish. It was a silly mess.)

Long answer: Well, he is Giuseppe Tassi. (He's also Peppino Tassi. Giuseppe = Peppe = Peppino. It's a nickname.) But he's not the Giuseppe Tassi I'm looking for. (of course. because my great grandfather is dead.) He had no children, and as far as I can tell, he knew none of the other people I was talking about. Strange coincidental name? More distant relation? Why did all the Tassi's keep naming their sons Giuseppe? God (or a fluent Italian speaker) only knows.

I had one more name in my notebook. Given my half-luck so far, and the awkwardness involved in explaining why the heck I'm there, I almost just gave up. But it started to rain, and I found myself right outside Luciana Tassi's house, so I figured might as well give it a shot.

She started out equally confused, but then became quite excited to see me once she realized what I was on about. She invited me in, made me a coffee, her energetic little dog jumped all over me, and explained as much history of her side of the family as she could. The story gets a little more confusing from there (and involves at least one more Giuseppe!) but I think I figured out that we actually are related, and learned about some of the folks that she knows. Email me if you want the details.

Giuseppe (her father), center; Cesare (top right), her grandfather, who went to America.

I leave you with a couple of other things that were in Offida that day:

Santa Maria della Rocca. Cool church. Crypt on the first floor, church on the second. Looks like they built the crypt first then smashed a church on top of it just for kicks.

Boxing! Why not?

Even just being around Offida, it was neat to think that my actual forefathers did actually ramble around these streets (probably just like they are now) on their way to the fields or the barrelmaker's shop or whatever the hell they did. Made it all the way here, and I'm calling this a success. A little bit of roots: discovered! A+ all around, good job team. More photos!


  1. awesome, awesome story!!! reminds me a bit of the people- search in "extremely loud and incredibly close" that i just watched. have you seen it? a good (yet sad) flick.
    how cool! i'm glad you got to see the area and meet some locals.

  2. Nice work, Dan! You are remarkably tenacious- and bold. I'm glad you found friendly faces there. I'm not sure I understand how Guiliana is related to Jeff, but she looks a lot like Aunt Helen.....!

  3. Mom: Yeah, right? Must be somehow distantly related. I mean, there can't be a bunch of unrelated Tassis in the same small town, but the link may be quite a few generations back.

    Cheryl: nah, haven't seen it. Heard good things about the book. Didn't even know it was a movie... oh, this year! Cool.

  4. Dan,
    Too bad there weren't a few more distant aunts to squeeze your cheeks and feed you pasta. I'm sure the people you met were happy and pleased by your effort. Thank you for your interesting tour of Italy. (Rudy will be proud).

  5. Dan,
    Glad you posted your findings. It is amazing to see where my grandfather came from. Keep the info as up to date as possible. I'm sure your kids would love to hear about it.

  6. Awesome, Dan.
    You are the kung fu caine of the family -- or whatever the Italian version would be.
    You were walking the hallowed ground. Very nice.
    And that area looks like good cycling training ground.
    Onward and safe travels.
    Uncle Jay

    1. Hey Uncle Jay! You're right, I meant to mention- it definitely is good cycling territory. I saw folks cycling all over Italy. I guess it's popular in Italy, particularly central Italy. Plus, it'd be beautiful.

  7. Dan-- Great job! Please email me at ridolfimon@gmail.com with details. I met Luciana and her father Peppino back in 1970 when I visited there with my grandparents. She is a wonderful lady. I also met her grandmother, who was my great grandfather's (Filippo) sister. She is definitely related to us Ridolfi's through my father's mother's family. We need to establish the connection to the Tasse's. . .it has to be there somewhere! Any pictures of Luciana? Best regards-- Phil

  8. Pamela Tasse MortimerMay 9, 2012 at 2:21 PM

    I love that you are there representing "all" of us. Please keep posting...

  9. We went from barrel making and "whatever the hell else they did" in Italy to doctors, lawyers, scientific geniuses, teachers, business leaders, social workers, artists, animationists, engineers, social change leaders, and our favorite, speech-language pathologists in only a few generations. Thanks for coming over on the boat, forefathers and mothers! Dan, you are still very funny.

  10. Love this Dan! Great synopsis and looking forward to the next edition! Which, I hope is going to happen...thanks to you!! Patti

  11. Hey all- thanks for reading! Wish I had more to report, but either way it's been a fun journey. Good to hear from you, and hope you're well!

    1. Thank you so much Dan. What a fabulous adventure.
      Keep posting....love it. We will make sure our Dad, Lou sees this too!!
      Cindy Engel

    2. Can you send me the details to my e-mail T10L27@msn.com. Thanks.