Our last name is very rare, so I always have to spell it, and then everyone says, “Oh, just like it sounds!” We did some research, and found that “Tarabella” is even a rare name in Italy. In fact, most Tarabellas in Italy live in a 3 kilometer area in and around the beautiful town of Seravezza. So of course, on our trip this past January, we headed straight to this area of Tuscany to find our long lost family.
Booking a house ahead of time through Airbnb in the neighboring town of Pietrasanta, we met our hostess, who was a lovely young lady named Margherita. Airbnb only uses first names, so imagine our shock (and her’s as well!) when we mentioned we were trying to find Tarabellas, and she said, “I am a Tarabella! My father is a Tarabella!” The photo below is of Bob and Margherita with her mother. Women in Italy keep their own last names, so the mom was as much of a Tarabella as I am, but doesn’t get to have the cool name.
Above, you will see what a huge influence the marble industry is in this area. I’ve never seen so much marble in one house before. Marble floors, marble counters, even the front of the cabinet doors are marble. The door jamb, statues, sinks, were all marble. This is the area where all the great sculptors, like Michelangelo, found their beautiful white Carrara marble. We stayed for one night on the top floor of the house.
The next morning we drove into the beautiful city of Seravezza which is nestled in the Apuan Alps. The town was a refreshing change from loud, tourist-centered Rome where we spent the previous 10 days.
Seravezza’s sidewalks are even paved with marble. Not only does this area have gorgeous mountains, but it is also quite close to the Mediterranean Sea, so among the rocky landscape, you’ll also see a tropical palm tree here and there. It’s very unique and beautiful.
In the center of Seravezza, the confluence of the rivers Serra and Vezza, form the the river Versilia. And yes, that’s pure white marble lining the riverbed.
Imagine our surprise when we found the main street light poles decked out in yarn bombing, just like Fairhope did last fall! Art is very important throughout Italy, and not limited to large cities or huge museums.
Bob had made arrangements ahead of time with someone in the Seravezza City Hall about the possibility of meeting the Mayor . . . Riccardo Tarabella! A distant cousin, perhaps? When we arrived, the woman who had made the arrangements and spoke fairly good English, was out of the office, so no one knew what we were doing. All they knew was that we were strangers who showed up asking for their Mayor. After receiving some curious and suspicious looks, all was resolved when the door opened and the most charming man breezed in and welcomed us.
There was something about Mayor Tarabella that was captivating, and I’m not kidding. His eyes sparkled and he had the warmest smile. It was not the first time I’d felt the charisma and charm of a Tarabella man. I’d vote for either one of them any day.
Bob speaks Italian fairly well, so he and Riccardo were able to communicate. There was also a young staff assistant, Giacomo, who spoke a little bit of English and helped. We gave the Mayor a Fairhope coffee mug, which he probably thought was strange since their coffee cups are tiny (and full of jet fuel), and the Mayor signed a copy of the city’s history book for us. We sat around the conference table and talked for about 20 minutes. Mayor Tarabella was very interested in our hometown and was understandably proud of his beautiful city.
The date is in European style and is January 11, 2017 or the order they write it — 11/1/17, which makes much more sense to me than the way we do it. The inscription reads, ” In memory of our meeting, between Tarabella Families, with affection and . . . ? We can’t get the last word, but Bob’s Italian teacher is going to work on it.
*update: It’s thought to be, “simpatia” or “sympathy” which is a common closing in correspondence in Italian.
Riccardo good-naturedly corrected us and said our family name isn’t Tara-bell-a, but Tara-BAY-la. It sounded so much better when he said it. Actually, I could have listened to him talk all day.
It was a cold day, so there weren’t many people out and about, and it was also mid-morning, so we only stopped into a cafe’ for pastries and cappuccino, but we stepped into another restaurant that wasn’t open yet to ask directions, and the aroma was fabulous and smelled better than any of the tourist dishes back in the big cities. The staff was kind and helpful and I wish we could have stayed for lunch.
Bob had told the car rental company we needed something “large” because we were afraid we’d get one of the famously tiny Italian cars. With two long-legged boys and luggage, we hoped we’d end up with something like a station wagon or small SUV. Instead, they pulled this giant BUS around for us to drive through narrow streets and around tight mountain-hugging roads. The boys thought it was hilarious, although we got lots of curious stares. The photos above are of a hiking area we stopped to see.
The old building behind the boys says, “Seravezza Marble.” The entire area was a photographer’s dream. The city hosts many festivals and events throughout the year. How we’d love to return for one of those!
Being from a flat, coastal area, we were amazed with the majesty of the alps. The water was crystal clear and although it was cold, we stayed and looked at the beautiful scenery for a long time. If you are ever blessed enough to be able to travel through Italy, I would definitely recommend getting off the beaten path and exploring the”true” Italy. The smaller towns like Seravezza were definitely our favorite part of the trip, and finding other Tarabellas — and having them turn out to be truly nice people, was a joy that will last a lifetime.
To visit the Seravezza tourism page, click HERE. (There’s a button at the top right to click for English).
To see a list of quaint inns and hotels to stay in while visiting Seravezza, click HERE.