Saraceni House

The REAL Saraceni House
Why we built the addition
Blueprints and other plans
Prep Work - late April/ early May, 2005
Demolition - May 9th, 2005
Excavation and footings - May 11 - 24
Foundation Walls 5/26 - 28
Framing 5/31 -6/23
Windows n' Such 6/24 - 7/13
Chimney, siding & interior paint 7/14 - 10/15
Completed Family & Dining Room
Completed Livingroom
Completed Master Bedroom & Bath
Completed Kitchen
some small rooms also completed
Wine Cellar
Backyard Pizza and Bread Oven
The REAL Saraceni House

Here are some photos of the house my Great Grandfather, Rocco Saraceni ("Pizzacch") built in Orsogna Italy in1913 for himself, his wife and his 6 children.  It was started as a stable and was changed into a house after an argument with my Great Great Grandfather, Giuseppe Saraceni, with whom the family was living at the time.  Rocco was drafted in 1914 or 1915, so the house remained incomplete until his return in 1921.  Possibly this accounts for the two sections of the house, which I've called the "original" and the "addition" in the pictures to follow.  Also note that many of these pictures can be clicked on to allow a bigger view.


My grandfather, Adamo Saraceni, said this about living here at that time, “…And we remain in that stable, ,... this is supposed be for the animal, (but was) turned into a house, it wasn't finished.  With nothing to eat… Nothing.  We didn't even get the bread.   We didn't even get something to eat  'till later on, and they give us a stamp to go get the bread.   I ate it all before I get home.   And you know what we did?  No salt, - we didn't have nothing,-  you couldn't buy salt.  We used to go over the field and see the tender grass grow, you know, they call them dandelion, you know, all of this stuff and we used to boil it.  But we didn't have nothing, you know, the salt, the fix, and we had some oil, not too much, because we had to save it, the olive oil.  But the olive put the olive, and you don't have nothing to pick them, you don't have people to pick them, so when they come and pick you've got to share with them for the labor.  You don't have not much.  Then in the end they started to give you bread.   Then the Americans come, and we got a sack full of wheat.…From the United States, and we got a lot of can of beans, I used to love them.  And meet the two American soldiers on the field.   I got scared.  And they call me and they give me a chocolate bar.   Boy oh, boy, every time I remember.”

This is the exterior of the original part in 2000
Taken by my friend Vincenzo Iocco

This is the front of the house in the 1970's
taken by my Grandfather on a return trip

Taken in 2000
Photo by Vincenzo Iocco

Exterior of the addition in 1970's
My grandmother poses.

This is the collapsed front door of the addition
seen intact next to my grandmother above

Here is a topo map of the area

Here are some additional photos around the outside:

the farms in the valley are all Saraceni or Pace

We work our way back to the house
photo by Vincezo Iocco 2007

Jessica's back is facing the house - 2007 trip

Montepulciano grapes in field next to house - 2007

The property is located at a split in the road, with the main road continuing to the left of the house, above a retaining wall.  The height of the road is about level with the second story of the house.  The other branch of the road heads down hill toward the Moro river.  The front of the house is accessed from this branch.  The house itself is badly overgrown and has been abandoned for about 50 years. 

This is the exterior taken from the road in 2000
picture by Vincenzo Iocco

Don't sit here!
Top of well

Looks to be about 25 feet deep
Empty of water after a dry summer - 2007

overgrown door to stable

There is also a small stable next to the house.

View from front of the house in 1970's
this is all a jungle now

So... let's go inside!

This is carved on the front door. What's it mean?

My Father, Gene, at door of house

















There are two rooms downstairs... In the original part is a single room with a fire place.  There are rings in the ceiling for hanging hams, some shelves with a few old bottles and an iron stand for raising a pot up out of the coals when cooking on the fire place.  The other room on the ground floor is in the addition, and contained the stairs to the second floor and a bigger living space.  The ceiling in that part has collapsed and threatens to pull the rest of the house down with it.


Rachel & Nick by the fireplace

Nicolo Pace, cousin of my father
picture by Vincenzo Iocco

interior door into first floor addition
danger! Cave in!

Fireplace as it appeared in the 1970's





























During the time that his father, Rocco, was away, two of the children died exactly one year apart on St Martins Day.  Here is a bit more of my Grandfather, Adamo's, recollections of WWI in the house. 


"…I don't remember the name at all...  they die.  ... what beautiful kids, oh boy I'm tellin' you….  Two Santa Martin's straight, each one of them boys die.

...And my mother cried so much, want to get out, get out of that there, to end that life because she figured it was a curse, since the day they went to that land, that house.  Oh, she was so bitter and go pray, every Sunday, pray with tears in her eyes…. Die.  Nice little boys…

 I remember for ten years back, I would call, I used to call his name.   I used to play with him, he was a couple of years younger than me.   Nice little guy, the guy had red cheeks.  There was a tree down.  We walk on top of that tree and play the night before he died.  We play, yeah.  We play over there and then he died in the night.    When I got up, I holler.   We don't know, we don't know.  The same two years straight, Santa Martino.  She wanted to get out of that house.  She wanted to get out of that house....Then the war broke out, my father left, we remained.  When Nicole (my grandfather's older brother) was seventeen years old, he got drafted, they didn't wait for 18, they got them at 17. ..He joined so he could get more money to feed my mother, you know. I remember all that, oh, my God… I will never forget that.   And my mom, oh, I see my mother cry, praying to saints on her bureau upstairs.   “I want to go, I want to go, I want to go,” she hollered all day, “I want to get out of here,” in Italiano, you know. And what are you going to do. …You can't go no where.  You see next farmer to us, we had a priest, had that land, but he had the guy working for him and live in the house, and he used to come, maybe every weekend to visit the farm.   But he was so friendly with my father, that he used to trim all his olive trees, to the priest in the next farm.  And everything he had to do, my father used to,...  for him, you know.  He paid, you know, but they got to be friendly.   And whatever, he came over to see us, and he talked to my mother and he says, "You correspond?"

and we say, "We didn't get no letter," you know, "for so long."

                                So, he come the second time, and wanted to know if we got any letter. 


                So, he wrote a telegram to the Army, whatever it was  I don't know where.  And he got in touch, he got a letter.  You see the government,... they write, but they don't send them out…. So, what happened,… my mother never got a letter.  But, this priest got action and he wrote to the Army to the headquarters whatever he did, and finally the letters started coming in.  And we had a good correspond.  But it was not a danger place where he was, until the war really coming to the end, you know, Germany give everything they had.   La ritirata di Caporetto (“the Caporetto Retreat) when they broken up dam and the bridge, a lot of people got drowned.   The water was tremendous…. La ritirata di Caporetto.  The Defeat over the German Army… Yeah, they flood.  You see, what happened, the only thing the German who was against Italian was advancing tremendous amount of armor, you know.  And the order to the cavalry,... which my uncle was in the cavalry there,.. was a retreat to this bridge, full of everything jammed, artillery tank and everything gone, retreat, si salvi chi può (“every man for himself!”) was in the order, salvatevi finché potete (idem).  

                                So, my uncle was (in) retreat and everybody already's broke order.  They try to run.   And when you get to this bridge, ...the Italian blew the bridge, to save the land.   And God knows how many got killed.  And whatever was there, my uncle got caught, Rocky, Zio Rocuch, he got caught, and the horse jumped and when he fell, he fell with the bridge, with the pier, and he went far away, he didn't hit the wreckage there, but a lot got killed.

He flew down, the horse swim and swim and went all the way down there, but he come out.   Yes, he came out.  He never left the horse… You ought to see what a mess of people a horse and metal, wheel, it was full. 

                                Then when it was dry, all the water came out of the dam, La ritirata di Caporetto you ought to see the picture. All the sand, all soldiers, horses, all the water right now was all sand and people.   They took about two or three months over there to get all the mess out.  It save Italy,  but it destroy God knows how many people. Caporetto retreat, La Ritirata di Caporetto.”  They helped clean up the mess. And when they pull him back, it was not right away, three or four months, when the war was over, he still didn't come back. 


So when he came back, I got scared.   I see this guy come in the driveway,... they have a little path, all woods, you know, I see the guy and he had, you know, la mantellina di soldato (“a soldier’s cape”) and they didn't have an overcoat… I didn't know it was my father, with all beard, crummy looking, all full of lice.   I remember when he come back, he hug my mom over there, they cry..   Then I remember Mom boiling the water, took his clothes off and boiled in the tank with the hot water. .. And she scrubbed, you know,  with the brush,  scrub all his skin, because it had the pidocchio (“lice”) lice.   Oh, the lice. 


You know a lot of the stuff we had to burn it.   You know they had thick woolen underneath underwear, you know.  You couldn't save them, God knows how long he didn't change.  It is full of lice.  You ought to see his back, all eat up.    ...we threw away the clothes.  You know, to throw away them clothes,- we didn't have nothing - to throw them away, they must be very bad.


But we save his pants, his jacket, the uniform.   La mantellina (“the cap”), that was nice, oh, I love it, I wanted it, it had two stars.  They had a thing with the thing on the back, with a feather on the side.   We save that. 


Boy I am telling you.  I got scared, I thought it was the end of me, I didn't know it was my father.  I forgot about my father.   Four or five years. …They ended the war, I saw. 

 …He never was a bad guy, never did nothing, always singing.  If he got drunk, he sang…   He was a counselor in City Hall… And he had a farm.  Every time they had to pass a bill, he had to go vote. I don't know how far he went, you know, in education, but he knew how to write… everybody liked my father, you know what I mean?  The town (says), 'we got to see Rocky.'  Everything that they got to do they got to see Rocky.  And he was busy all the time.   ...They met once a year to vote for consolare.  He had to leave an hour or so, they pass a bill, he had to go and then come back to work  on the farm, that's all.  Yeah, he gets called by the mayor.  And it is a small town, but everybody working, the consolare, you know, you don't get much for that.  You don't get nothing, you get maybe a little bit, you know, for the time you loose.