Where We Came From

Detroit, May 27, 1979


"In darkness duels the people which knows annals not"
-Thucydides (460-400 B.C.)


The roots of the Di Loreto family are found in two towns in the central Appenine Mountains of Italy in the Abruzzi region, Barrea and Alfedena. The towns, at about 3300 feet above sea level, are nestled on the north sides of the Meta Mountains, located 77.5 air miles (125 km) east of Rome and 64.5 air miles (104 km) north of Naples. The chain runs west-south east, south of the towns and rises to 2300 meters or 7500 feet. From its peaks, it is possible to see Rome, the Vesuvius and the Adriatic Sea.

The name Barrea is derived from “Vallis Regia” through the later “Varreggia”. Little is know of the ancient history of Barrea but recent excavations (1950-1970) carried out by one of our cousins Dr. Oscar Di Loreto (1911-1971) have shown that the town was part of the Marsican and Samnite tribes in 300-200 B.C.

The history of Alfedena is well attested by the excavations, which started in 1885 with A. De Nino, and in 1897 the civic Museum was organized. During World War II, the collection was recovered at Chieti and is still waiting to be returned to Alfedena to be housed in a proper building. The artifacts consist mainly of bronze coins, arms, medals, ornaments and assorted ceramic vases, all recovered from the more than 1500 tombs excavated in the Roman necropolis in what is now Viale della Stazione, the road that leads to the railroad station.

Aufidena (Alfedena) was the capital of the Caraceni, a tribe of the Samnites and was situated north of the present main square on the left side of the Rio Torto, the small stream that divides the town. The remaining megalithic walls, about a mile long, are seen together with distinct evidence of the acropolis. It is interesting to know that of the original Italian tribes, which tried to block the expansion of Rome, the Samnites were the only ones, which actually defeated the Roman legions. In 321 B.C., at the Forche Caudine, the Romans were made to pass under a yoke. However, victory was short-lived. Aufidena was conquered by the roman consul Gneo Fulvio and by 272 B.C. Rome was master of what is now central and most of southern Italy. Aufidena became a faithful roman colony.

The wanderlust of the Alfedenesi developed many centuries ago and, in the Annals of Tacitus, Book 1, we see that “Aufidenius Rufus” who was a camp commandant, having been advanced from private to centurion, was instrumental in fighting the Roman troops, which had rebelled in Pannonia (Austria) after the death of Emperor Augustus in 14 A.D. Because of its faithful service to Rome, its strategic location, controlling the mountain passes of the north/south route from the Adriatic to the Tyrrenian Sea, and the east/west route to Rome, Alfedena received the designation of Ala Fidelis (Loyal Wing), the A – F of the coat of arms.

For several centuries, the Abruzzi region shared the fate of Italy, that is, internal wars and occupation by invaders. During the Middle Ages, the region was ruled by barons, princes at the service of the German, Spanish, French Emperors or Popes. In 1860 with the fall of the Bourbon kingdom of Naples, the Abruzzi became part of the kingdom of Italy until June 1946, when the present Republic was established.

During the early middle Ages, the inhabitants moved away from the stony hills on the left side of the Rio Torto to the flat land at the right. The land was and is very poor but the forests and stones are plentiful, hence making of charcoal and stone cutting developed. Most of the streets of medieval Rome were paved by the “selciaroli” from Alfedena, who are also responsible for developing the many stone quarries found in the Alban Hills. Alfedenesi have roamed, paving streets in England, Belgium, Germany, Romania, North Africa.

At about 1880, the temporary and later permanent migration to our country began and, as we know, there are more Alfedenesi in Detroit than at any time in Alfedena.

As mentioned, the Di Loreto root is from Barrea, where the family was the landed gentry of the town. Several branches of the family still exist and during the 19th century contributed outstanding citizens to law, medicine, commerce, church, and the Army and Navy, traditions which are still continuing. Our grandfather Panfilo, following his schooling in Naples in 1871-72, until his coming to U.S.A in 1913, was the Segretario Comunale (City Clerk) for the towns of Montenero and Scontrone, a nonelected job under the direct supervision of the provincial authorities.

The other root, the Gigante, is unique. There is only on family in town with that name. Incomplete records indicate that the family originated in Atina, a town on the southern slope of the Meta Mountains about 20 air miles from Alfedena. The Roman bridge Ponte d’Achille, next to the Gigante’s house carried an inscription commemorating the alliance with Veroli and Atina. Church records, now destroyed, mentioned a bishop Gigante, and until recently, the altar to the right of the main altar of the higher church was reserved for the descendants of the Gigante family. The family possessed some very desirable land, the “Vigne” and “Le Corone” south-west of the Piazza and in via Casili a garden, stables and a carriage house. On a wall, about 30 feet long, there were frescoes which, supposedly, had been painted by the renowned Cola d’Amatrice or his school in residence of Maria, the youngest daughter of Alfonso and Elvira Gigante. The Gigante family was engaged in various commercial and civic activities. Since the end of the last century to the present, the family has given several mayors and many professionals to the town.

The roots were unquestionably strong and transplanted in our country with its freedom and unlimited opportunities, the many trees can only continue to grow.

Researched and prepared by: Armand DiGiulio (oldest First Cousin)