Family Origins

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The Region Molise - Province of Campobasso

The Province of Campobasso is administratively divided into 84 Municipalities with a surface area of 2909 square km and a population, in the census of the year 2000, of 235,452 inhabitants. The present territory of the Province was not the same as in past centuries. After the unity of Italy, in 1861, the borders of the whole Molise region were fixed along the Fortore and Volturno rivers and the region was united to Abruzzo for about a century.

After the Second World War there was a strong movement to make the region autonomous, and in December 1964 a constitutional law established Molise as an independent region with one Province, and capital Campobasso.
On February 2, 1970 52 municipalities of this Province were separated and a new Province, Isernia, was established.
 The Village of JELSI

 Jelsi is a predominantly agricultural center of approximately 2000 inhabitants. It is located to the right of the Campanelle River, a tributary of the Tappino River, 23km E.S.E. of Campobasso. Jelsi’s origin is very old and according to scholars this is where Bulgarian populations settled during the Lombard period (VIII century). The name Jelsi, scholars say, is a derivative of Tybicza, a town situated at the junction of the Tibisco and Danube rivers.

The oldest inhabited area, almost elliptical in shape, is situated over a precipice called the Ripo, on the Carapelle River. Stretches of the antique fortified walls are still visible. Also visible are some gates, small narrow streets and alleys with steps. The latter run into a large square where you can find St. Andrew the Apostle’s Church dating back to the XIth century. Also located in this square is the XVIth century Ducal Palace belonging to the Carafas and the Chapel of the S.S. Annunziata, it’s crypt completely covered with frescoes depicting scenes from the life of Christ dating back to 1300 A.D.

The Valiante Palace dominates the highest point along the main street. Dedicated to the Andrea Valiante (1761-1829), a brave soldier who opposed the Bourbon power and an active member of the “Carboneria” movement. This Palace it is a typical example of a fortified residency of the XVIIIth century.

Remarkable for their color and persistent blooms, rosebushes adorn the square in front of the Town Hall with its majestic clock tower, the impressive “Fountain of the Dolphins”, and the main street of the village. The more modern part of Jelsi winds along R. n.17 and, following the crossroads, penetrates into the countryside.

A little more than a kilometer from the village is the Shrine dedicated to the “Madonna delle Grazie” with the annexed Convent of the Franciscan Grey Friars. Here is an oasis of peaceful tranquility and spirituality in a landscape rich with green spaces and cool natural water springs. Through a closed system of roads, the traveler will be rewarded with long walks admiring charming breathtaking views of thick valleys, small artificial lakes abounding with fish, and rural hamlets perfectly integrated with their surroundings.

The population of Jelsi reached its peak in the 1950’s, mainly agricultural (200 farms for a population of about 2000 inhabitants) and has been greatly influenced by migratory waves especially towards Canada, the USA, Australia and other European countries, renewing traditions and customs of their native land wherever large Jelsi colonies settled.

Deeply bound to agriculture, Jelsi natives everywhere celebrate the annual Wheat festival (La Sagra) that is held every year on July 26th honoring St. Anne because She saved Jelsi from total destruction during the earthquake of July 26th 1805. The “Sagra” consist of a parade of “traglie” (big carts adorned exclusively with ears of wheat) representing scenes of rural life, through the streets of the village also decorated with festoons and wreaths of wheatears. In the olden days, the carts were drawn by oxen and had skids-like sleds instead of wheels.

Local products are olive oil, known for its low acidity, wines of the Macchione and S.Martino, delicatessen and cheeses. A typical winter dish is the “panatella”, a tasty mixture of vegetables seasoned with chopped panchetta and corn pizza cooked under “u seste” (a metal pan covered with ashes and lighted coals on the hearth and used like an oven). Among the characteristic cakes from the region are the “peccellati” at Easter and the “calzoni” on March 19 (St. Joseph's Day) made of puff pastry stuffed with mashed chickpeas and honey. 


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