Friday, December 30, 2005

Happy New Year (and a reminder)!

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy new year. And now for a reminder. I would love for people to submit stories, questions, recipes, comments to the blog. I know for a fact that people will read them (at least I know my cousin Mathew will). If you do sumbit something, you'll get a present when my wife and I return from Sonnino in late January.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Looking for a Relative?

My wife and I will be visiting Sonnino in January. If you're looing for a relative I'd be more than happy to ask around and pass on information. Just drop me an email at

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Contest! Amazing Prize!

I would love for people to submit stories, recipies, photos, etc to the Sonnino blog. Here's the deal, if you maker a submission to the blog before I go to Sonnino in January, I bring you back something or send you a Sonnino postcard. You can't beat that...!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Winter in Sonnino

Sonnino Covered in Snow Posted by Hello

Sonnninese in Louisiana

Here's a reflection of my time in Louisiana working for the Red Cross...the Sonninese were well represented.

So, here is my attempt to capture my recent experience as a Red Cross volunteer in southern Louisiana. First, the story of how I got myself involved with the Red Cross. Like many folks watching and reading about the devastation that hurricane Katrina was causing, I wanted to do something to help. I first attempted to contact the Boston Chapter of the Red Cross about volunteer opportunities. After numerous calls and messages I gave up, unable to get a hold of anybody. I then called a number of other chapters in the area and was still unable to find any courses with openings. Finally, I received a call from the Great Bay Red Cross chapter in Portsmouth, NH. They said that they had a training scheduled for Labor Day and there were a few spots left…so I signed myself up.

The training had about 70 people and lasted approximately seven hours, after which I was I was an ‘expert’ at feeding and sheltering…hmmm you say…that level of expertise takes at least eight hours right? True to their assurances, this was a job that you learned from doing (and doing and doing and doing…). We were also warned about the extreme conditions we might encounter: lack of power, water, food, air conditioning, bugs, sleeping on the floor, extreme heat, etc. The Red Cross rates disasters on a hardship scale of 1-13. This disaster was a 12, only missing extreme cold. Needless to say we were expecting the worst if were called to deploy.

I drove home having been assured that an immediate deployed was very unlikely, and in fact, we might never be deployed. I went back to work, wowing people with my new-found expertise, and waited to see if I would be called. Low and behold, two days later I received a call asking, “So Casey, are you ready to deploy”. After a moment of shock, I responded that I was indeed ready. I needed to drive up to Portsmouth, NH the next morning to get my ID and finish some paperwork. Upon finishing my paperwork and putting away my fancy new ID badge, I asked, to no one in particular, “Hey, any idea where I’m being sent?”. You see when you’re deployed, they don’t quite tell you were your going. You receive a phone number to call with a number to punch in. Once the number is punched in the recording tells you where you’re going. My recording said that I was being sent to Baton Rouge, LA. I then dialed the other number I was given to book a flight to Baton Rouge that left within 48 hours. I was going for 14 days. I got home, called family, packed my things in two smallish bags that I could carry on my back (thank you Margie), finished some work, and got a good nights rest before my morning departure.

I had an uneventful flight to Baton Rouge that Friday morning. The people at American Airlines were extremely nice and even sat me in 1st Class…..quite a treat. Upon arriving in Baton Rouge, I spotted large numbers or other bewildered looking folks. You see, they hadn’t told us how to get from the airport to the Red Cross Main Office. I dug up the number they had given me before I left and was able to reach somebody. I was told to go to the Avis counter and rent a car. A car, I thought. No sleeping on the floor for me, I’m gonna have a back seat! I then proceeded to get lost in the vast metropolis that is Baton Rouge. Once I decided to use the map, I quickly found the old Wal-Mart that now housed the Red Cross Main Office.

The office was huge…I dare say about the size of an old Wal-Mart. Once I was processed-in I attended an orientation…by myself. I was given short history lesson on Louisiana, of which I remember little. One thing I do remember being told is that the term “coonass” is not a racial slur. It is in fact a term folks in southern Louisiana use to refer to each other. It’s something akin to “redneck’ or “good ol’ boy”. Not exactly polite, but not as bad as it might seem.

Once the orientation was finished, I walked around the giant space debating which section to sign up for, medical was out of the question, as was legal, mental health looked interesting…but not as interesting as DRIVING AN E.R.V.! I’d heard about these magical beasts. They’re mobile feeding trucks that weigh something along the lines of 5,000 pounds empty. They go to areas with food/water shortages and give people warm meals. I’d also heard that people who drove ERVs often slept in them. I’m sorry to say that my request to join the ranks of ERV drivers was denied. I needed to take a couple hour training before they would turn over the keys. Alas, I moved on to sheltering, my designated area of expertise.

The nice woman working at the sheltering table politely listened to my ERV woes. She then asked me what I did in my ‘regular life’. My response included something like “kids, violence prevention, conflict resolution…” I asked if there was a chance that she could send me to a shelter farther south than Baton Rouge. She look at me, exasperated, and said that EVERYBODY wanted to go south to see the damage, but that the real damage done was here in the shelters…the people who now didn’t have homes. Feeling a little silly, I said that I would go wherever I was most needed. She shuffled though a pile of staffing requests and said “Hmmm…I think I may have the perfect fit.” The River Center Shelter in Baton Rouge was starting a school and needed people with a background in education. Perfect. She handed me the coveted Red Cross Disaster Relief vest (ok…so they gave me one of the ones that looked more like a smock) and a sheet with directions to the staff shelter where I would stay the night.

I took my assignment sheet and directions and headed off to the staff shelter, located in the recreation room of Our Lady of Mercy Church. I arrived at the shelter, claimed a cot and a pillow, put in my ear plugs (man there are some serious snorers!) and went to sleep excited about my upcoming first day.

After a breakfast of Honey O’s and toast with peanut butter (which I had every morning), I headed over to the River Center Shelter. Upon arrival, I was amazed at the enormity of it... as well as the enormity of the intimidating guns the Army and Air Force folks carried. The shelter consisted of a sports arena with a giant exhibition hall attached. It was also a microcosm of a city with all its wonders and faults. There was an amazing diversity of people in the River Center Shelter – people who you immediately befriended, people who would have been grumpy in any situation, young people and old people, people coming down or drugs and people looking to sell them drugs. There were even reports of prostitution. In all, I was amazed by the spirit and resiliency of our residents. I should also point out that 95% of them were African-American or Creole. We did have one or two each of Latino, White/Cajun, and Asian families.

Having taken some of this in, I walked up the turned-off escalators to the volunteer office. I told them that I had been sent to help with the school. They looked at me quizzically and said, since it was Sunday, the person I needed to speak with wasn’t in… I’d have to do something else for the day. I made my way down to the floor of the shelter to help set up cots ad hand out blankets. After a half hour or so the assistant shelter manager come down and said “Hey, I think I have the perfect job for you.” He explained that the recreation and activities manager had recently left and he had failed to identify someone to take over for him. He said with my background that I would be an ideal candidate. I agreed and he told me to get a clipboard and notebook because I was now a supervisor. He said I should put in my staffing request immediately. Staffing request? Yes, after 7 hours or training and a failed attempt to drive an E.R.V, I was now a supervisor making staffing requests.

I was showed to my area, which was a third of the shelter foyer that had been blocked off by metal barriers. Within these barriers was a small pool table, an air hockey table, and a ping-pong table. I went up to the closest where all of our movable supplies were stored and submitted my staffing request. The next day I would receive three people that would be with me from 7am to 7pm everyday. Until then, I would be manning the recreation area by myself. At 12:00 the kids came, played, and wore me out!

At 7:30, exhausted after my first day, I drove back to my shelter in search of food and a shower. Food I found, lots of it. The wonderful parishioners of Our Lady of Mercy had signed up to provide meals for us each night. Brisket, Po’ Boys, Jambalaya, Gumbo, red beans and rice…all made with meat! Unfortunately, almost none of it was vegetarian. So I made my way to a Mexican restaurant around the corner to eat my fill of enchiladas.

I should mention that at my staff shelter, lights on was at 6:00am and lights out was at 10:00pm. Since there weren’t showers on-site, parishioners would show up and announce “anybody want a shower?” at which point we would all run over excitedly. Dozens of parishioners would do this every evening. Even more amazing was if you put your dirty laundry in a bag and placed it on the “Dirty Laundry” table in the morning, when you got home in the evening it would be washed and folded. Talk about dreamy. We would get home after 8:00 pm, burned out, emotionally drained, and tired beyond tired and these wonderful parishioners (and Red Cross workers) would make our lives as easy as they could. They made us feel at home and truly valued.

The next day while setting up the recreation area I was told that I was getting three new volunteers. Katie, Nancy and Candice along with Alex and Ricky (non-Red Cross volunteers) would make up the Recreation Department at the River Center Shelter. Katie is a 23 year old who is about to start a Masters degree in Switzerland; Nancy is a recently retired teacher of 34 years; Alex is an aspiring model; Ricky is an evacuee from New Orleans; and Candice a nursing student in Virginia. These are the people I spent a minimum of 12 hours a day with. These folks were amazing – we had the best team by far, but I am a little biased. I was continually amazed by their commitment, strength, resilience, and adaptability.

During the course of my stay we would have to move our recreation area three times. One of the things I learned quickly was that there was no time to be angry or frustrated; we had to just pack our stuff up, find a dolly or two, and move our staff to a new area (harder than it sounds since space was at a premium).

All-Star team in place, we got to work. Over the course of the two weeks that I was in Baton Rouge, we were a juggernaut. With between 500-700 kids at the shelter, we managed a pre-school in the morning and the recreation area in the afternoon/evening. We set up arts and crafts and educational activities. We got donations and organized field trips to the movies and lunch, a swamp tour…with real alligators, a bouncy moonwalk for outside, a family photographer to come in and take pictures since most had lost all of theirs, a trip to the ice cream store with free cones, concerts, science exhibits brought to the shelter, and a movie room with nightly showings. I told you they were All-Stars.

I can’t tell you how happy I was that I got to work with children. They’re so resilient and full of hope. They gave us hugs and were excited to see us every day.

After two weeks immersed in Louisiana culture, I got used to being called Mr. Casey. I also got used to celebrities constantly walking around. During my stay, Tommy Lasorda, Daisey Funetes, Jimmy Smitts, John Secada, Gloria Estefan, Jesse Jackson, and a whole bunch of the New Orleans Hornets (NBA team) came through. For the most part they were all pretty great. There were a few that were more interested in the cameras than helping the residents. I also picked up a Louisiana accent, which is much different than southern accent.

Over two weeks, I had a total of 10 hours off. I used this time to attend an Acadian Festival in Lafayette, about 40 minutes south-west of Baton Rouge. I heard some of the most amazing Cajun and Zydeco music (and ate way too much fried food). My friend and I danced our stress away, as I told her, all the emotion in me was going to come out one way or another, whether it was crying, ranting, or sweating it out dancing to the Zydeco…I chose the latter!

In closing here are a few things I learned about southern Louisiana:

 Apparently, gator tastes like squid
 Vegetarians are a minority in Louisiana…as are Jews!
 They LOVE LSU football.
 Everyone used the word “buku” – meaning “lots”
 Mild flavoring still means hot!
 Man they love duck hunting
 A “Po’ Boy” sandwich is basically a sub that has a roll made of French bread

All in all, my time in Baton Rouge with the Red Cross was amazing… amazing people (both Red Cross and evacuees), amazingly hard work and amazingly intense. There was such a strong sense of community and commitment. Everybody was there to help… and there were people from every town in America, and from every walk of life. The singularity of purpose was incredible. I truly hope that we can work towards that type of community in times of calm and in all parts of our lives.

So there you go… that was my experience in Baton Rouge. I wanted to detail it out because many people were asking me what it was like, and a casual conversation couldn’t do it justice. And in truth, it really took me a while to process it all.

I want to thank everyone for your thoughts and support while I was away…it truly meant a lot to me.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Sonnino Blog needs your help!

I am looking for people to send in family stories/updates, recipes, pictures, looking for somebody, or anything else of interest to other Sonninese. I'll publish just about anything, seriously! Hope to hear from you. You can email me at

Bernardini's from Spain?

While visiting Syracuse this past weekend I got into a conversation with my grandfather about his parents, who were both Sonninese. My grandfather (Angelo Bernardni) told me that his father insisted that the Bernardini's were originally from Spain, where the name had been "Bernardo" or something similar. Now, this is the first I have ever heard of this. Does anybody know of any Sonninese of Spanish descent? I would love to find out it this is in fact true. Then again, it just be a family mythology.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

The view of the valley from Sonnino. You can see the town of Priverno in the distance. Posted by Picasa

My wife in Sonnino vechhio Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

One of my favorite Sonninese dishes

This is a great (and easy) bread soup that I have whenever I'm in Sonnino. I'm told it is the "meat of the poor" becasue it is so filling. My cousin Graziano was kind enough to send the following recipe.

Recipe for Zuppa di Pane e Faioli.

1° cut the Italian bread ( if possible) e put it on the dishleave them
then cook a little onion in olive-oil, when the onion is cook add a little piece of potato, a litle piece of celery, tomato, water and salt all togheter.
When all is cook add beans. When all is cook add all on the italian bread cut before.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

A fun picture of Sonnino in the 1940's (I think). Anybody know what kind of car it is? Posted by Hello

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Here is a picture of the crest of Sonnino. If anybody knows the meaning of the symbols on the crest please post an explanation Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Sonnino - 2� the world war

This is an individuals website that has an amazing number of pictures/information/interviews about the American liberation of Sonnino in WWII. It is in Italian, but the link I have posted is an english translation.

Sonnino - 2� the world war

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Official "province di Latina" Website

This is the official site for the province of Latina, which Sonnino is part of. There's lots of interesting information about the area. Remember, you can translate the page into English at the bottom of the blog using Bablefish.

Provincia di Latina

Monday, June 13, 2005

Italian genealogy Research

This is an amazing site with hundreds of links to genealogy resources. To many fun things to mention.

Cyndi's List - Italy / Italia

Friday, June 10, 2005

Look up where your last name is found in Italy (or the US)+

This is such a great site. You can type in you last name and the the website will show you where people with you last name live and the concentration. You can run the same search for the US as well. Apparently there are on Bernardinis in and around Sonnino. Enjoy!

- L'Italia dei Cognomi

Thursday, June 09, 2005

A Sad Passing...

Yesterday our family matriarch, my great aunt Giorgina (Jean) LaRosa passed at the age of 83. She will be remembered fondly by all who knew her.

Jean Bernardini Rotondo LaRosa, age 83, passed away Tuesday at her home. She was born in Syracuse and worked as a legal secretary and assistant to her husband Andrew with Rotondo Trucking. She was predeceased by her first hus-band, Andrew Rotondo, in 1974, her second husband, Ralph LaRosa, in 1978, and her son, Joseph Rotondo, in 2004. Jean is survived by three sons, John Rotondo of New Jersey, Andrew Rotondo of San Francisco, Mark (Christina) Rotondo of Camillus, NY; six grandchildren; two brothers, Angelo (Elsie) Bernardini of E. Syracuse, Nicholas (Ann) Bernardini of Liverpool; and one sister, Lucy (Dennis) Patota of Syracuse. Funeral services will be held on Saturday at 10 a.m. in the Pirro & Sons Funeral Home and 10:30 a.m. in St. Daniel's Church. Burial will be in the family mausoleum at Assumption Cemetery.

Monday, June 06, 2005

2005 Giro d'Italia Bike Race

Ok, so they don't ride through Sonnino. But they come close, and I love biking! Enjoy the 2005 pictures.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Minister tells Italy to consider axing Euro

Is is a link to a story about an Italian minister who thinks Italy should go back to the Lira.

Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | Minister tells Italy to consider axing Euro

Thursday, May 26, 2005

St. Thomas Aquinas Info.

Here's link to information about St. Thomas Aquinas who died at the Fossanova Abby on his way to Rome (I think).

The Revealer of Wisdom

Monday, May 16, 2005

A cool map of Latium. Posted by Hello I don't think Sonnino is on the map but I believe Priverno is.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Cistercian Abbey of Fossanova in Latinium

Here is a link to some interesting information and pictures of the Fossanova Abbey in Sonnino. It is quite beautiful. I never get tired of visiting...and it has a great little cafe as well!

Cistercian Abbey of Fossanova in Latinium

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Sonnino - Le Torce 2005 (The Torches)

The 2005 pictures of "Le Torce" are up on the site. Great work by Candidio on getting these up so quickly. Click on the link below to view them (the link says 2004 but is really for 2005).

Sonnino - Torce 2004

Monday, May 09, 2005

Sonnino in WWII: 339th Infantry

This is account of Sonnino's role in WWII. The region of Lazio saw a lot of action. Sonnino is mentioned in the last paragraph. The photo of Sonnino in the post before was taken by an American solider.

339th Infantry in WW2 Page 2 -Battle of Tremensuoli

Sonnino in 1940's Posted by Hello

Friday, May 06, 2005

The Sonnino Blog, Now In Italian!

I've added a link to BabbleFish translations at the bottom of the blog. Just click on the language (flag) you would like to read the blog in and it will translate it for you in a couple of seconds. The translations aren't perfect but they're better than I could do. Enjoy.

The Dialects of Italy

Here is some interesting information about the dialects through-out Italy. Maybe we should start a Sonninese dictionary/list of words/sayings. God knows I could use it. � The Dialects of Italy

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Mentuccia: The classic Sonninese Herb

I don't know if this is a staple in other people's kitchens, beacuse it sure is in ours. If it's a holiday or family gathering, you know there is going to be artichokes with mentuccia. Here's a description of it. Anybody have any good recipes?:

ROMAN MINT (Mentuccia)
Labiatae/ Calamintha officinalis
Similar to the mint available in America, but smaller and with a stronger taste and perfume.
Other Information: Scientifically known as melissa officinalis, wild mint looks and smells similar to lemon leaves, but unlike the latter grows wild in meadows. It is used in the Roman specialty Carciofi alla romana and for marinades.

Monday, May 02, 2005

A Sonninese Meeting Place

So I'm hoping that this blog can be a meeting ground for those Sonninese scattered around the world. You can email pictures, updates from recent trips to Sonnino/Lazio, or look for relatives. Maybe even bring us back a little of that amazing Sonnino olive oil! Basically it's what we all make of let's get started.

Live Italy Radio Stations

Here is a link to a great list of Italian language radio stations. I'm currently enjoying the traffic report on RADIO24.

Mike's Radio World: Live Italy Radio Stations

Free Translation into Italian

Here's a free translation service that I've used when writing letters. It's not completely accurate but works well enough and it's free.

Free Translation and Professional Translation Services

Thursday, April 28, 2005

The Official Sonnino

Here is a link to the official Sonnino site. It's in both Italian and English and has some great information and pictures. There's also a message board you can post to.