Family Story: The Carola Hotel

Title:  The Carola Hotel

Location:  Agropoli, Salerno, Campania, Italy

Occasion:  Visit to Muro and Serrapede Families in Our Ancestral Hometown

Time:  Summer 1976

My Maternal Grandparents, Josie (nee Muro) and Sam (Sabato) Serrapede, took me on a three week trip to Italy in the Summer of 1976.  The main purpose was to celebrate my Grandmother’s retirement and to reconnect with the family in Agropoli.  Both my maternal Grandmother and Grandfather were born in that town which is near Salerno in Campania Province.

Grandma Josie was firm that we were going to stay at the hotel because she wanted the comfort of all the modern conveniences.  I did not understand her emphasis until after we arrived in Agropoli.

The Carola was situated at the foot of the Old Town, a slight distance from the high hill upon which the Old Town is located.  There was a view of the beach from our room.  It was especially beautiful at sunrise.  I remember how the water looked bronze and the side of the hill began to light up from the base to the top as the sun climbed higher in the sky.  At night we could see the night fisherman out in their rowboats carrying lanterns.  I was told the light would stun the fish and make them less likely to escape from the nets.

The weather was very hot and on some days slightly humid, on other days dry.  I ended up taking two showers a day, frequently washing my hair.  The hotel did not have air conditioning at that time.

My Grandmother and I shared a room while my Grandfather had a large room to himself on the floor above us.  We could hear him from the terrace right above ours as he talked to friends who passed by on the street below.  Our room was very simple by American standards.  There were no rugs or fancy drapes or slip covers.  I’m glad there weren’t because the room would have felt too closed in during the hot weather.  The walls were smooth and painted a neutral color, beige or sand.  The furniture was very simple, too.  Everything was very neat, well-ordered and very clean.  Given how bright the sunlight could be and how hot the long days were, I found that simplicity and order all I needed to be satisfied with the comfort the room offered.

I didn’t appreciate just how much the conveniences at The Carola Hotel meant to me until we visited Grandpa Sam’s sister Italia.  She lived in a very, very old Pre-WWII building right at the foot of the stairs leading up to The Old Town.  It was quite an accomplishment that Italia’s family had gotten running water up to her apartment.  The toilet, though, was still a shared facility.  It was situated in a little room in the hallway of the floor where she lived.  Other tenants on the floor also used that toilet.  There were times a bucket of water had to be thrown down to ensure everything got flushed away.

I wasn’t aware that the Carola Hotel was owned by the family from which Mary Angela (née Carola) Muro’s father was born into.

Mary Angela was my Grandma Josie’s sister-in-law.  We always called Mary Angela by her nickname of Angie.  Angie was married to Grandma Josie’s younger brother Peter Muro.

On February 13, 2014 Claudia Muro, daughter-in-law of Angie and Peter Muro, told me the Carola Hotel was closed some time ago.  Claudia is married to Angie and Peter’s son, Robert Muro.

Claudia told me that the Carola Family operated the hotel and its restaurant separately.  She knew one of the cooks who worked at the restaurant.  He wanted very much to work in America and he loved Wilmerding, the Muro’s home town in the U.S.A.  He was unable to complete the process, though and could not come here to live and work.

As much as I loved visiting all the relatives, I was thankful we had the hotel room to retreat into each night while we were in Agropoli.  I enjoyed the quiet company of my Grandma Josie and the view of the beach each morning and night.  I needed that quiet time after all the sightseeing and visiting each day.

EmilyAnn Frances May

May 14, 2014

15 thoughts on “Family Story: The Carola Hotel

  1. It sounds like a lovely hotel – simplicity is often best. And what a great opportunity to spend such a lot of time with your Grandmother

    • Yes, Norma! It was very different from being with my Mom, who loved to have conversations and share daydreams. My Grandmother was very practical and explained many of the day’s events to me. That added to my enjoyment and understanding since I spoke no Italian.

      • It must have been hard without Italian. Have you learned since?
        It’s a beautiful language. I only have enough to stumble around but I do love it.

      • Norma, I dedicated my time after that to post-grad studies in fashion design and draping. So no, I did not learn the language. It would be good to know but there’s just so much time and energy and so many possibilities. I never thought I’d get into family history and study of my ancestral home towns. My Mom and Dad discouraged me from learning even the Agropoli dialect. At the time the trend was still towards assimilation and Americanization which was good in some ways but deprived people of my generation from a richer appreciation of their ancestral heritage.

      • There’s so much to learn & never enough time to do it. It’s interesting that your parents discouraged you – i suppose it was very important to make a solid homogenous society?

      • Yes, that was the overarching goal. In 9th grade the concept of hyphenated American was introduced. We were told we were “Italian-American” or “Irish-American” or “German-American” or “African-American”. Even though I use the “Italian-American” to describe myself in this blog, when I meet other people in real time I look at them as human beings, people with feelings and talents.

  2. Pingback: Links to postings with photos of 1976 trip to Agropoli | Through The Byzantine Gate

    • Yes. The relatives did not have air conditioning. The only relief was a breeze coming from the sea.

      I’ve been asked what the décor was like. I remember the room looking something like the living room in the home of Antonio and Aldisa Aiello. You can see that in the posting about Michael Muro’s trip to Calabria. It’s a more recent posting. The only differences are that there was no rug, coffee table or artwork on the walls. If you substituted beds for the sofas, you get an idea of how the hotel was.

      Not having any TV or radio worked out well. We awoke to the sound of the gulls or the people talking as they went to market. We were focused on the present and not the distraction of a news program.

Comments are closed.