Sunday, March 6, 2011

Amanuensis Monday -- Nonno Enzo's Diary -- November 1, 1915

Vincenzo Di Bennardo (1900 - 1982)
 during his Salesian boarding school
days as he approached the
priesthood. He was never fully
ordained.  Picture taken circa
1918 in Catania, Sicily
I have decided to start translating my grandfather's diary, written during the school year of 1915-1916. I have slowly been transcribing it in Italian into a Word document, and I am about half-way through it.  I may as well start translating the diary into English as well.  Amanuensis Mondays may help me accomplish the feat.

Some information for background:  My grandfather was born 15 November 1900 in Palagonia, Sicily.  His mother died when he was a boy, and, as was common at the time, he was sent to a boarding school (called a "college" in his diary).  His aunt Filomena was the Mother Superior at the school, so he wasn't completely without family, but it is clear that he missed his father and family dearly.  The diary begins November 1st, which would likely have been his first day of school.  The boarding school he went to was of the Salesian religious order and was located in San Gregorio, Catania, Sicily.

Note: Some oddities may exist since I am attempting as faithful a translation as possible.  This attempt also makes the grammar a bit difficult to apply as correctly as I would like.

See translation below...

See translation below...

1 November 1915

Today is the commemoration of All Saints’ Day.

A High Mass in song in the parish church.

Not too much studying and plenty of lunch.

After lunch, I along with my companions, headed by Don Gardarella, went for a walk along Via San Gregorio-Trecastagni-Via Grande-San Gregorio.

Some of my friends wanted to go Pedara, but the order of the Director was followed precisely by Don Gardarella. When we arrived at Via Grande, it was already 4:30 pm; therefore, it took us two and a half hours, which seems like a lot of time, but then saying we visited two cemeteries in San Gregorio and San Giovanni la Punta, the time it took seems relatively fair.

Messina, my classmate from the fourth gymnasium, a good and pious pearl, and I, with the consent of Don Gardarella, walked away from our companions: I did, so I could visit my old school friend Giuseppe Mirone d’Ignazio, a boy as good as bread, a scholar and a saint for religion. One small defect obscures his gifts: his temper; but calming down as he asks forgiveness from his antagonist ends in playing and chasing each other again.

Messina instead went home to visit his relatives and then returned to me in the house of Mirone, where at his father Mr. Ignazio’s insistence, I was forced to accept a small glass of Vermouth.  My friend (Messina) came by after his visit to the cemetery and gave me a handshake while insistently forcing chocolate candies into my pocket.

Giuseppe, knowing that my schoolmates were there, not far from his home, with kind words let my other friends in his home and offered everyone a small glass of Vermouth that my comrades did not refuse.

To me, he spoke of Bronte, where he would go on November 3rd to spend a year with my other old friends, such as Sebastiano Salafia, a one-of-a kind young man and the top student of our school.

His hometown is Sortino -- also the hometown of my stepmother, Vincenzina Tannelli -- a very beautiful town in the shape of a Citadel.

Then he (Giuseppe) took us to visit the cemetery where I admired many chapels, among which the first one was for the Mirone family. So I squeezed his hand affectionately, and together with my companions we returned to San Gregorio. While on the road back, as it became dark, we sang until we arrived back at the college.

At my arrival, there was not-so-great news awaiting me. The doorman, a young man of 18 years of age told me this:

“Di Bennardo, your relatives were here until a few minutes ago, but then not wanting to make the carriage for hire wait any longer, and being that it was becoming dark, they departed, leaving some packages here” – and in so saying, he presented me with wrapped presents that I took to my room. There, I found a bottle of Marsala, sweets, some apples, a basket of chestnuts, and a pair of scissors I had asked them for in a letter.

This news so disturbed me; I would have liked to see my dear family and tell them many things; what fortune could have distanced them from me? But what can be done about it?

I took my bundles and then went to my desk after placing them up high in my room. But I could not study because the distressing news of tonight had produced its effect on me.


  1. I think he had nice handwriting. that makes it so much better to translate. Your so lucky to have a journal like that.

  2. Oh, I know! I am so grateful:).