Last week, on my way back from TPAC I took a holiday in Florence, Italy. It was an awesome experience all around, but one thing was really personal and I wanted to write it down..
So... I am Italian.
I know, "Kardell" doesn't sound Italian - and that's because it isn't. Kardell is my biological father's name and it has, as best I know, a mix of German and Irish roots. But my from even my very youngest memories, I was raised with/by my maternal side. My parents divorced when I was all of 5.
My mother's maiden name is Frediani, and both of her parents were first born generations in America, shortly after their parents arrived. My maternal grandfather's family (Muzio Frediani) was from Tuscany. His father was a printer (and all of his kids were later). Their print shop was a historic landmark in Pittsburgh's strip district. He also founded the Italian Sons and Daughters of America. Among a lot of other things, they did a lot with Italian Americans, unions and political campaigns. My maternal grandmother's family name was Casale and they were from Silcily. Her father (Giuseppe Casale) was a contractor/mason and he built many of the houses in the neighborhood my grandparents lived in, and my mom now lives in.
This side of the family had a very strong culture. There was a lot of community. Some people in the family even still spoke Italian. They were constantly instilling this in me: You are Italian. And so, these are the roots that have always resonated in me.
When I learn about Michelangelo, Galileo, Dante, Leonardo, Raphael or Donatello (and so many more) - I felt... Actually connected to it somehow. I don't know, maybe that's silly. But the result was that Italy was the one place I've always wanted to go since I was a child.
I never really managed to get very far in making a family tree (lots of those services to help you feel outrageously expensive to me). Florence, where I went, is part of Tuscany. I went to Florence because my sister had been there kind of actively looking for connections to our family. Frediani isn't a super common name - I've never met another myself.
Anyway... I went to Florence.
A series of fortunate events.
I wasted no time, I spent pretty much all of the waking hours touring something: some church, garden, museum, street, bridge, etc. In a lucky coincidence, some friend from TPAC was also in Florence and we met up for dinner. They asked me if I had been to the church where Michelangelo was buried. No! They said "I think maybe Dante is also buried there?".
Wow I wanted to go so much - I'm so fortunate that I wound up in a situation where they were there and we had dinner and they could mention it! They had me at Michelangelo, I was very keen to go.
I went the next afternoon, but I was in shorts and that's not allowed and I'd have to shift my schedule and come back the following day.
So, on my very last day I went to this church at Sante Croce. Unlike every other thing I'd been to, there was no line. Because it was the last day, I had nowhere else I really wanted to go afterward. This was my last "big" stop. So, I decided I would really take my time, soak it all in, and pay my respects. Given this, I also decided to pay extra and do the audio guided tour.
Inside I was surprised to see there were tombs in the floor everywhere - people were walking on them. A few were roped off - I think they were damaged, but mainly there were just occasionally these tombs in the floor. Around the outer wall of the church were bigger memorials to a number of important Italians (mainly Florentine, but not exclusively). Yeah, wow. Michelangelo, Fermi, Galileo, Dante, Machiavelli - so many.
I really took my time. I learned a ton of interesting stuff and took a lot of pictures.
Before leaving the main part of the church I sat down and listened to more about how all of the people buried here were somehow "important".
I had this fleeting thought that maybe I should go through carefully and see if I can find my family name, but I dismissed this very quickly. Florence is a huge place inside the huge place that is Tuscany - there can't be more than 70 people buried here. The odds would be astronautical. I decided to plod on.
And just then...
As the tour turns from the main church, it points you to a marble corridor leading to the Medici chapel (and more). On the floor down the hall are numerous engraved marble slabs, many are worn to unreadable condition. As I looked down the hallway my audio suddenly said
The corridor is paved with white marble tomb slabs with gray frames, which bear names and coats-of-arms erased by time. One inscription is more clearly legible than the others, almost as if time itself had obeyed the wish it expresses; see if you can find it, it's the tomb of Cosimo Frediani, and on it is written: "Don't tread on me".
Wait what? Surely that is just my mind playing tricks on me.
I rewound it and listened again. It sure sounded like my family name.
I found how to switch and look at the transcript.. It was!
It kind of gave me a chill.
I searched the stones, even enlisting the help of the museum personel. There it was: It was also the only one with a relief carved on it.
But... Who was he? What did he do? How far are we related? I spent some time searching and I'm not totally sure yet! We've found a bit, but it will surely be a new family quest to find out.
But, I mean... How amazing is it that maybe someone in my family he is buried perhaps 50-100 meters from all of those famous Italians that I feel so connected with 🖤.
What a great experience :)