December 4, 2023

By Silvia Marchetti, CNN

There’s an island off the coast of Rome the place locals have been dwelling in cozy grottoes because the daybreak of time.

The shores and fishermen village of Ponza – the biggest island of the Pontine archipelago, which sits offshore between Rome and Naples – are dotted with cave dwellings reduce into the ragged sea cliffs, providing beautiful views.

These properties, recent in summer time and heat in winter, require neither heating or air-con. They’re the island’s gem, and now common with vacationers.

For the reason that nineteenth century, locals have been emigrating overseas, primarily to the US in the hunt for a brand new life. Nonetheless, they’ve held on to their traditions – which incorporates their conventional housing fashion.

One household to to migrate have been the Avellinos. Luigi Avellino was the primary of his household to depart Ponza at first of the twentieth century, initially going forwards and backwards between the island and New York, earlier than settling within the US completely.

Attilio Avellino – one among his 9 kids, and born on Ponza – joined his father within the Huge Apple in 1946.

However now, after a long time within the US, their descendants are again on the island – dwelling inside their outdated casa grotta (cave residence), which they’ve renovated to a contemporary customary.

Properties sculpted from the rock

Brigida Avellino, 70 – Attilio’s daughter – lives together with her daughter Loredana Romano, 44, in one among Ponza’s most lovely cave properties. It has thick, tough whitewashed partitions, and a terrace with views of the uninhabited island of Palmarola. Couches, chairs, benches, stairs, beds, tables and cabinets are all reduce out from the cave.

“These grottoes are a part of our DNA and heritage – every time a brand new child was born the dad and mom would dig one other room contained in the cliff, increasing the cave residence,” Romano tells CNN Journey.

The youthful generations moved to Ponza in 1980 when Attilio Avellino had a coronary heart assault in New York. His physician there advisable recent air, no smog and a peaceable place to stay – so the household returned to his birthplace.

Avellino has fond reminiscences of her childhood within the US. Whereas Ponza provides a slower-paced way of life, she misses the Huge Apple’s hectic world.

“I’ve realized you could take a woman away from the large metropolis, however you possibly can’t take the large metropolis away from her. It sticks, even when I’ve been again in Ponza for many years now,” she says.

Avellino moved to New York alongside her mom in 1955 when she was two years outdated. Her father and grandfather have been already dwelling and dealing there, alongside her uncles and aunts.

“I labored in a metal manufacturing unit for 22 years. I beloved the chaos, the visitors, the thrill, the noise and all these individuals speeding to work always of the day,” says Avellino now.

Her father and grandfather did all types of jobs once they landed within the US, from operating a fishery to engaged on container ships, cooking Italian delicacies and constructing skyscrapers.

“Name me loopy, however I actually miss New York’s beat. I used to go round the entire time on weekends, take the trains, go to the films with my mates, to eating places, to the hairdresser, and simply stroll, stroll stroll. I nonetheless dream of that metropolis power,” says Avellino. On Ponza, she says, there aren’t any hairdressers in winter.

Regardless of her age and rising well being points, she says she’d love to return to experiencing the fun of the frenetic, pro-active New York Metropolis way of life that allowed her to fulfill many individuals.

“NYC gave me the possibility to have so many experiences and job alternatives. It was an thrilling life,” says Avellino.

“I miss all the things of the Huge Apple: the workaholics, the visitors and the fixed noise. The excitement of the metal manufacturing unit and the grocery store’s fast beat, the place I additionally labored. I used to be all the time on the run. Ponza is gorgeous, the panorama is beautiful however there’s no person right here.”

Throughout summer time, the island’s inhabitants rises to over 20,000 individuals, with hordes of beachgoers cramming Ponza’s paradise-like seashores. However in winter there are barely 1,000 residents in Le Forna district, the place Avellino and Romano stay. It’s the most offbeat neighborhood, removed from the touristy spots, the place Ponza’s oldest households nonetheless stay.

Tradition clashes

Ponza goes from being ‘lifeless’ in winter to packed in summer time.(Picture Professionals GmbH/Alamy Inventory Picture through CNN) 

Ponza natives stay off farming and fishing, however primarily seasonal tourism. The island involves life from June to October, with the rest of the 12 months being fairly “lifeless and sleepy,” as Romano calls it.

Avellino, who says she feels extra American than Ponzese, says that she’s completely satisfied she acquired an American training and passport, which she retains in her bedside closet.

Actually, she says, it was a blow for her when she finally needed to return to Ponza after her father had a coronary heart assault. On Ponza, she met her future husband, Silverio – a local Ponzese – and gave delivery to Loredana, who saved ties with kinfolk again within the US.

She went forwards and backwards between the US and Ponza between the ages of 20 and 30, working as a waitress at one among her aunt’s eating places in Florida. At the moment, she’s now proud to be dwelling within the cave residence which her great-grandfather dug from the cliff along with his personal naked arms.

She’s now on a mission to get better her ancestral origins.

“I inherited this cave, which I just lately lavishly restyled. My great-grandpa constructed it simply earlier than leaving for the US for work. He wasn’t actually an financial migrant, nor was he poor, he simply wished to alter life and search for new alternatives on the opposite aspect of the Atlantic,” says Romano.

The 860-square-foot cave dwelling is situated in Ponza’s most scenic spot, overlooking two pure sea swimming pools sheltered by white granite cliffs. It has direct entry to the tropical-like waters.

The lounge options an outdated effectively used prior to now as a cistern to gather rainwater, which Romano nonetheless exploits when there’s little operating water throughout summer time.