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Meet Our Owners: Tiffany Sica (How She Found Her Italian Family)

As far back as I can remember, my dad always used to say that once he retired, he was going to leave New York and just take off for Italy to go indulge in la dolce vita and find all of our Sica relatives. Throughout the years he would tell me the little bits he knew about his ancestors, but I was very young and always thought that we would have time to get into the details one day. I was fascinated at the idea of imagining a family that shared our blood and lived in the mother land! Dad would joke with me that I couldn’t come if I wasn’t a good girl and it was probably better that he just goes on his own. It was an ongoing game between us and he would tease that he was going by himself, and nobody could say a thing about it, and only if I was lucky would I get to go too one day.

Anselmo Sica, my great-grandfather

Years passed, life went on, I grew up graduated from college, worked for a year in New York City then moved across the country to Los Angeles. Unexpectedly, out of nowhere, one day I got a call from my brother saying dad was in the hospital and to get on the next plane back to the east coast. My heart sank. He wasn’t sick, there hadn’t been an accident. I couldn’t think straight…and couldn’t stop imagining the worst. Devastatingly, the moment I arrived at JFK airport I could see the look on my brother’s face. I had lost my Dad. He suffered a severe heart attack that took his life. He was gone. Just like that. But I wasn’t going to let his dream fade away.

After a few years of trying to wrap my head around the fact that Dad was no longer with us, I kept thinking about his dream to go to Italy. How amazing would it be if I could go and find the family and make his dream come true? I had no idea where to start. I remembered that my great grandfather’s name was Anselmo, but I didn’t have much more info. Where were they originally from? Dad had mentioned the south of Italy and said that he thought his mother’s family was from somewhere near Naples. Hmm… With little to no information, and just 1 name to start my search, I decide to take off on the mission on my life: to go to Italy and find my Italian family.

The Sica Family

Having grown up with an Italian last name, I felt Italian. It was something to be proud of. Most people called my brother by his last name and so I automatically became Sica’s sister. There were tons of Italian-Americans in my hometown and we always thought it was so cool to be Italian. Yet I was constantly wondering what Italians were really like. Were they all loud and vivacious? Did they all speak with their hands and flip each other off like you see in the movies? What did real pizza taste like?! Do they smash grapes with their feet to make wine? Unfortunately, my grandparents had already passed away, my grandmother before I was born and my grandfather when I was just a few years old, so I didn’t grow up with them and didn’t know much about real Italian culture or traditions, other than the ones my dad shared with us from his childhood. I didn’t have an Italian nonna cooking pasta for us on Sunday afternoons or a big, giant family who gathered together to celebrate every holiday. I felt Italian, but I had no idea what that meant. I had to go there. I had to go to ITALY. I had to see it for myself, experience what it felt like to be surrounded by Italians, taste the food, see the Vatican, swim in the Mediterranean Sea and find the Sica family. I felt in my bones that the only way I was going to find them was if I went there myself. Alone. Sure, I could have started doing some research online or paid a lawyer to help me track down people that were part of my family tree, but I strongly felt in my gut that I had to physically come to Italy myself and I believed things would all fall into place.

After I had made the move to Rome, I started to live my life here and without being able to speak the language, that was no small feat. I took a 1-month course to become certified to teach English as a second language and started working straightaway. It wasn’t until I was talking to one of my roommates one late night, that I decided to really begin my search. She was Italian and spoke English fluently, and she was really inspired by my story to find my relatives. She promised to help me and this was the motivation I needed. So, we started writing to people on Facebook who had the last name Sica and seemed to be living in or from the south of Italy. There were hundreds!! I tried not to feel discouraged, but how in the world were we going to find the right Sica family amongst all of these people! We came across a guy who had the same name as my great grandfather, and my roommate was convinced that we were somehow related, since Italians usually keep the same first names in the family. She helped me write him a message in Italian (since I still could not speak the language very well, let alone write in it!) and I continued telling my story to everyone I met, hoping in one way or another I would find this family that I had been imagining my whole life.

Nonna and I

Then one day, almost a year later, I received a message from Anselmo Sica. He said that wasn’t 100% sure, but that we might be related! He told he that he would check with his Zia (Aunt) and get back to me soon! I couldn’t believe it! Sure enough, about 2 days later I got a phone call from Nonna Antonietta and one of her grandchildren Annalaura. They were ecstatic, saying that we are in fact related! Nonna had the same mission years ago, to find her relatives that had left Italy for America. She found cousins of mine who were also from New York, but she never found me. And then, there I was, here in Italy to find HER! She was just as shocked and excited as I was! “Che gioia! Che gioia! Un altra parte della mia famiglia!” she said. I was crying the purest tears of joy. It was one of the most incredible moments of my life, and I felt my father standing right by my side. Antonietta explained that her family was quite large and her uncle (my great grandfather) was her father’s brother, and that she used to be very close to him. She was a Sica, like me! How miraculous! I couldn’t wait to learn more about the family history and my great grandfather.

Soon after that call I went to meet her in Imola (a city outside of Bologna) and she introduced me to her enormous family! There were so many beautiful people! She had 5 children herself, and they all had families of their own, and even some of those children had children. What a whirwind!! I met so many smiling faces that first day, and cried so many happy tears, it was overwhelming. Every person I met welcomed me with open arms and treated me like they had known me my entire life. Such joy. So much love!

The next day Antonietta took me to meet her brother Orfeo and his son, Anselmo, her nephew who I had found on Facebook. We all sat together, ate together, shared wine together (we are in Italy!) laughed together, and cried together. Then I received the most amazing gift, old photos of my great grandfather and his 3 sons (one of which was my grandpa) at the very first SICA Paint store in New York. I started to have an out of body experience. I had only heard stories of this store and my grandfather and his brothers starting a business with their dad all those years ago and now the images I had only imagined in my mind, were in photo form right in front of my eyes! My Dad had explained how important it was for the family to start that business, and then his father continued it with his three sons. Sica and Sons was my grandfather’s company for decades, and when he passed on my father continued the business after the two previous generations before him. Now, there I was looking at pictures of that first store and my grandfather and his brothers with their father Anselmo, my great grandfather who I had never even seen a picture of before that moment. It was unreal, no surreal! I couldn’t believe my eyes! Che gioia indeed!! I had to go outside for some air and to get a hold of my emotions. I actually felt my Dad above me. I know he had been there all along guiding me on this journey, but now I could feel him there, smiling with pride and showering me with love. Flashes of the past few years and all the time I had spent thinking about this moment, all the times I had felt discouraged and wanted to give up my search were running through my mind. Everything I had done had led me to that house, at that moment, surrounded by our Sica family. There I was standing next to our living Italian relatives, our blood. And they were all so kind and gentle and loving! I did it Dad, I made your dream come true!

Nonna and her son Ernesto explained the family tree to me, and gave me a copy of it, along with a copy of the pictures of the first Sica paint store. These two things are two of the most precious gifts I have and probably will ever receive. Che gioia!

I am still in touch with Nonna, who is almost 91 years old now! I spent Easter with them that first year I found them and I try to visit them at least a few times a year. I visited my great grandfather’s hometown, Colliano, which is a tiny village about 45 minutes outside of Salerno, in the south of Italy. Nonna and a few of my cousins came to my wedding in Sorrento and met my brother and my mom for the first time. Another incredible encounter! I feel so deeply lucky and blessed to have these extraordinary people in my life. I cherish each one of them and I am so grateful that I followed my instincts, took a chance, changed my life and moved to Italy to fulfill my Dad’s lifelong dream. La vita e’ davvero bella se la guardi bene.

TESTIMONIALS

Christopher JohnsonChristopher Johnson
23:09 30 Jan 24
Mark and Tiffany did an excellent job planning my trip to Italy. The attention to detail was on point and helped make a truly incredible and memorable experience. Their knowledge of the language, culture and everything in between was truly superior and I'd highly recommend Immersive Italy Tours to anyone looking for a great adventure!
Charm CleaningCharm Cleaning
17:08 23 Jan 24
Mark and Tiffany did such an amazing job helping me plan my trip to Italy last year! They were very professional and took the time to listen to everything that I wanted to do in Italy.They were super helpful with every step of the planning process and I felt ZERO stress when I was preparing for the trip. This was the most memorable trip of my life and thank you again Mark and Tiffany!!!I recommend that you 100% hire them to book your tripod Italy.
Nicole RomanNicole Roman
21:24 16 Jan 24
Tiffany has helped plan two trips to Italy so far, and both times we had an excellent experience! Her knowledge of the region is remarkable, and she was very attentive to our needs. Our first trip was spent in Rome, Florence and Venice, with a trip to the Vatican. The second trip was to Sorrento and Positano. Both trips were so memorable, thanks in large part to Tiffany's masterful planning! We will definitely be using Immersive Italy again in the future!
Monica McQueenMonica McQueen
15:53 26 Oct 23
Mark & Tiffany did such a fabulous job - I cannot recommend them enough (in fact, I've told everyone I can about them). I used them to plan my 50th Birthday Girls' Trip, as I've never been to Europe. I'm an event planner with very high standards for details, and they both made my trip experience so relaxing, from buying all the train tickets to arranging private tours and drivers, to knowing where we needed to spend extra time and the order of seeing the cities and which restaurants and bars to go to. I especially appreciated their tremendous support with little things while we were there - I actually never thought we'd hear from them while there, due to the time difference, but they were so attentive, making sure we got where we needed to be at all traveling points. Beyond that, they're extraordinarily nice people, and we felt like they were part of our trip family. They paid attention to all of my 'wish list' items (cooking classes, winery tours/tastings, boat trips, food tours) and created a completely over-the-top feeling, custom trip and for much less than I would have thought it would cost. They went above and beyond every step of the way, and I can't wait until I can plan another trip with their help.
Colleen OmanColleen Oman
23:24 26 Jul 23
Mark and Tiffany did an exceptional job planning and organizing our trip…. Highly recommend using their services!
Am NorgrenAm Norgren
00:13 21 Jul 23
I learned about Immersive Italy Tours while I was recently traveling in Italy, and I'm glad I did! Mark shared an outline of experiences and detailed recommendations for the area I was visiting, and it saved me tons of time that I would have spent searching. Highly recommend!
Bill MurphyBill Murphy
15:33 15 Jul 23
Mark and Tiffany planned an amazing trip for us! Their professionalism and attention to detail made our trip such a memorable experience. The travel was seamless and very easy. Definitely hire Immersive Italy to plan your trip.
Kim PanzanaroKim Panzanaro
20:50 29 Jun 23
Tiffany and Mark were amazing! They helped us plan our trip from NY to Rome, Florence, Ischia, and sorrento! They set up all of our travel plans within italy on the high speed trains and ferry to and from ischia. The excisions they arranged we awesome! The private day trip to Tuscany was an absolute dream with lunch at a winery and visits to Siena and San Gimignano. We had a private boat to take us out for the day around Capri that was the best! Can’t wait to go back and do it all again, with immersive Italy’s help, of course!
Kate KennedyKate Kennedy
22:28 19 Jun 23
Our family vacation was an absolutely amazing, fully customized, unique Italian experience thanks to Immersive Italy! There’s so much to do and see there — it’s so exciting, but it can feel overwhelming when planning — that’s why we were so thankful to have expert guidance every step of the way. From coordinating our overall itinerary, train travel and professional ground transportation to specially selected tours — each experience went smoothly and took the stress out of the logistics so we could enjoy each moment. It was refreshing to know if we needed help during our trip, the team was extremely communicative and available to offer personalized assistance. We loved our private tours of some of the top tourist attractions, including: the Vatican, Colosseum and Pompeii. The English speaking guides were passionate, knowledgeable and friendly — and skipping the massively long lines to walk right in was so worth it! We especially enjoyed our private wine tour in Tuscany and day trip boating excursion to Capri — unbelievably special, amazing experiences! Huge thanks to Immersive Italy for memories that will last a lifetime.
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