Poffabro ~ Origins of Me

My grandmother was the first one in her family born in America. The story goes like this: My great-grandfather, Dante, came to the U.S.A. with his family days before the stock market crash in 1929. A year later, my nonna, Elia, was born. The depression was terrible, the girls dropped out of school to work, boarders stayed at their house, but Dante stayed employed with tile and stone masonry. Life moves on, my grandfather met young Elia before he left for service in WWII, then returned safely, they married and had my father. My parents met in New Jersey, married and had me. The simple twists of fate align, but one part of it began here–in the mountains of Northern Italy–Poffabro.

This is the main square. My grandmother had this as a painting in her living room above the fireplace.



DSC_0255The inside of the church was clean and pious.



I walked around and checked out the cute little village of only 200 inhabitants. This was the only cafè that was open on a Sunday afternoon. They were friendly and happy to help me.








I had a local lunch at the only restaurant. It was tagliatelle ragù, and second was polenta, white beans and local venison, with a tasty German beer. I met some bikers who were enjoying a mid-ride lunch and we all chatted and made broken English and Italian jokes over espresso.



DSC_0250These geese were not happy I took a post-lunch stroll through their garden!


I finished off the visit in the forest, accidentally soaking my feet by slipping off the moss covered rocks and bringing home some of the mountain dirt caked to my sneakers.

DSC_0271Last is Via Colussi: my family name and probably the street where they lived. This house was occupied by my ancestors in the early 20th century before they departed for a better life. It’s hard to imagine leaving this hillside village for the bustle of 1930’s Philadelphia.



A bit of a dream come true to stand in the square of the painting that hung on my grandma’s wall for so long and I used to stare at it and imagine what it was like there. Now I know.

7 thoughts on “Poffabro ~ Origins of Me

  1. My two kids and I are going to Italy and Poffabro mid-July. We are all Colussy ‘s, currently living in Madison, Wi. I grew up in Bridgeville, PA. I f you would be willing to talk with me my number is 608-222-2708. Thank you very much. Connie Colussy

    1. Hi Connie. My grandma’s name was Colussi, and her family was from Poffabro. There’s not much to the little town, maybe a hotel and a coffee shop. What are you looking to do there?

      1. Hi Will, I am so sorry I just saw your reply. We did make it to Poffabro which is at the base of the Dolomite mountains. We had to walk from the neighboring town since there was no bus service on Sunday when we were there. It was well into the 90’s in mid-July. Poffabro and the surrounding area is stunningly beautiful. The church is in the middle of town, built from dolomite. It is where my grandfather was baptized; I have the record. Right around the corner is Via Colussi on which several houses are built, some of them connected to each other. I couldn’t tell if you had been there but for me it was a very moving experience. My grandfather’s father and three brothers left Poffabro when he was very young and they settled in Bridgeville, PA. That is where I was born. I grew up knowing him. The Colussi family is huge and they changed the spelling of the name to end in y because of the prejudice Italians faced at the time. They were primarily brick masons but my grandfather chose to farm instead. There is so much more but that is a pretty good summary. We are probably cousins somewhere connected in this long line of Colussi’s. My kids changed their names back to the Italian spelling years ago and I am in the process. Warm wishes from your cousin, I think 😊. Connie Colussi

  2. Bonjour, ma grand-mère s’appelait Maria Colussi, son frère Dante Colussi de poffabro, Dante est allé à Philadelphie, et mes grands-parents Maria Colussi son époux et leurs enfants sont eux allés en France où je vis, je ne suis jamais allée à Poffabro.

  3. Bonjour Connie, j’ai laissé le précédent message sans préciser que je me prénomme
    Marie-Thérèse, mon père est certainement le cousin de votre grand-mère Elia de vos grands-tantes Vilma, Emilia ainsi que votre grand-oncle Elio, mon nom de famille est Colussi car mon grand-père s’appelait également Colussi comme ma grand-mère, je connais ces personnes que par photos. Cordialement. M-T.

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