Cousins ​​and Cousins ​​Reunion in Italy Nurtures Family Ties


Piero (Peter) Riva of Glen Cove, New York, now in his 70s, recently reconnected with some 40 cousins ​​in his hometown of Imperia, on Italy’s Ligurian coast.

Independent family reunions and guided heritage tours are a growing sector of the travel industry, says Rachel Cooke of Kensington Tours, a bespoke tour company.

“You never leave home, your heart is always there,” she adds. The two years of near-isolation during the pandemic have led many people to reassess what is important to them, and family is often at the top of the list, Cooke says.

So when a cousin in Italy told Riva about an upcoming cousins ​​reunion, he didn’t blink. He immediately booked a flight to take a seat at the table.

leaving home

In 1961, at the age of 15, Riva left Imperia to work on the luxury ship SS Homeric. An itinerant traveler at heart, the teen worked on that ship and then on SS Oceanic a total of six years.

At the age of 21, he left the cruise line to join Alitalia Airlines. After a long and frustrating strike, he decided to emigrate to the US and accepted a job in the hospitality industry in New York, where he married and raised two children.

Like many immigrants, Riva found it difficult to be so far away from everything embraced by the unique concept of House.

“Missing immediate family was perhaps the hardest thing I had to overcome,” he says. “I felt sorry for my children who grew up so far from their grandparents, and for my parents who were so far away from their grandchildren.”

Ties to the homeland

Despite the miles between them, Riva made every effort to stay connected – both with his family members and with the rich history, art and gastronomic culture of his homeland.

Even with a young family in tow, he traveled to Italy at least once a year. Later, after both his adult sons began diplomatic careers with the United States Department of State, he returned to Italy alone.

When Riva’s only brother, Danilo, died prematurely in 2009, Riva began to travel to Italy even more often, flying home at least four times a year. “Sometimes it was my choice,” he says. “Other times my Italian mother made me feel guilty for being so far away,” he says with a chuckle.

The lasting relationship of cousins

Over the years, Riva lost touch with many members of his extended family as their lives took different trajectories. He remembers meeting a few at family events when he was a kid, usually weddings and the funerals of aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Riva’s great-grandfather, Giacomo Alberti, was born in Realdo, a small village in the province of Imperia, in 1852. (The small town is perched on a steep cliff and currently has an estimated population of just 25.)

In that hilltop town, Alberti fathered four children and ten more after moving to Caramagna, Imperia. All births took place between 1878 and 1930; thirteen of the offspring survived childhood. “He fathered his last child when he was 78, but died before the child was born,” said Riva, who was born and raised in the same house in Caramagna.

One of Riva’s cousins ​​in Italy, Francesca d’Arcangelo, was researching for Imperia’s centenary, which was set to take place in 2023. went on to a successful career in business and medicine.

When Francesca shared the findings with several cousins, they thought it would be fun to see all cuginis together. To compile a guest list, Francesca combed records at City Hall, the records of churches in Caramagna Ligure (now Imperia) and Realdo, and found a book written by an uncle, Giacomo (Nino) Alberti. She was able to find about 40 cousins.

The cuginis getting together

On the Riviera di Ponente, the part of Genoa’s Ligurian coast that extends to the French border in the west, many businesses close for the season. But Francesca found a perfect location to receive the group, Le Mignole in Sarola.

When a local newspaper, Sanremo Newstold a story about the upcoming meeting, 15 cousins ​​heard about the event, bringing the total of those in attendance to 66: 40 cousins ​​and 26 husbands and descendants.

“The group was a mix of age, background, appearance and style. They came from Paris, Strasbourg, Turin, Genoa, Rapallo, Pontida, Sanremo, Pontedassio, Piani and Caramagna,” says Piero.

“We started at 11:15 am with a memorial mass in memory of the many deceased Alberti family members. Then we went to an agriturismo to get acquainted and in many cases re-acquaintance, during the ever so important typical Ligurian meal,” he says.

The cousins ​​enjoyed local and regional dishes, including: Focaccia Con Pomodoro e Olive Taggiasche (the region’s native olives), Friscioli di Cipolla (onion fritters), Panissa Fritta (baked chickpea pudding), Torta Verde (green stuffed pie), Ravioli di Boragi con Burro e Salvia (seasoned ravioli with butter and sage), and Stracotto di Vitello con Patatine al Forno (veal stew with oven-baked potatoes).

“It was a wonderful event, full of warm feelings that brought back memories of happy times. Of course it was a thrill to see all the relatives we hadn’t seen in a long time and the ones we had never met,” Piero says.

No one was disappointed. In fact, the Alberti clan plans to host an annual cousins ​​reunion in the hopes that a few more cousins ​​will show up next year. A preliminary count suggests there will be 81 participants.

Kissing cousins

The cousins’ reunion strengthened the unique bonds that were already there. Blood ties between cousins ​​create an immediate emotional bond. And compared to those with siblings and parents, the relationships are less binding.

When Alberti’s cousins ​​in Liguria got in touch, they had the opportunity to rediscover their shared ancestral and cultural connections.