First Posted: 8/30/2013
Pittston’s Italian roots run deep.
From the culture and religion to the traditions and food, Pittston has Old World charm.
Officials from a town on the eastern shore of Italy, where more than 300 Pittstonians came from around the turn of the century, hope to team up with Pittston as a sister city.
San Giacomo degli Schiavoni, Italy, meet Pittston, Pennsylvania.
Oscar De Lena’s grandfather lived and worked in Pittston from 1921 to 1931. De Lena is resident of San Giacomo and webmaster of the town’s Web site.
“From this country at the beginning of the last century, about 300 people left here to come to work in your coal mines,” De Lena said. “Even today many families live in Pittston from San Giacomo. We’d love to create a twinning San Giacomo-Pittston.”
San Giacomo Mayor Rino Bucci and Pittston Mayor Jason Klush are both behind the effort.
Pittston City Administrator Joe Moskovitz said the ties are strong.
“When you look at it in context, of the 1,000 villagers in San Giacomo, 300 of them came here,” Moskovitz said. “A third of the town relocated to Greater Pittston. You can understand the impact their city had on our city.”
Moskovitz said council and Klush hope to move forward a proposal and perhaps have the Italian officials visit Pittston and Pittston officials visit San Giacomo.
“There’s a rich Italian heritage here in Pittston as embodied in the recent Tomato Festival,” Moskovitz said.
San Giacomo lies in a hilly landscape and is a quiet, farming village. The town lies directly across the country from Rome, on the Adriatic coast. The nearest city is Termoli, about four miles away and has about 32,000 residents. A popular sight is the Church of Maria Santissima del Rosario from the 17th century.
San Giacomo’s economy is tied to agriculture and large factories in Termoli. Typical products produced in the area include olive oil, wine, sausage and ham.
A stone plaque hangs in town dedicated to the soldiers of San Giacomo who died during World War I. It was hung in 1922 with money sent by natives who worked in Pittston.
There are still members of the third and fourth generation living in the Greater Pittston area, said Joe Insogna, a Pittston native now living in New Jersey. His own family tree has names that include Lizzi, Tancredi, Ditoro and Pancreti.
“There are a lot of families, including mine, here that have ties to San Giacomo,” Insogna said. “It just makes sense to formally link the two towns.”
From 1000 to 1806, the town was a fiefdom of the Bishop of Termoli. The bishops had a number of farms called “casali.” One of these “casali,” situated on the hill called today Contrada delle Piane, belonged to the Templar Knights, likely a check point and resting refuge for the pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land.
San Giacomo was hit by a disastrous earthquake in 1456, which killed thousands of people in southern Italy. The town was nearly destroyed.
In the following decades, survivors were joined by Croatian immigrants that were brought in to work on the farms and concentrated around the church, where the current village was built. These immigrants were called “Schiavoni” and this gave the town the second part of it’s name since 1564.
Another attraction is the ruins of Roman Villa that dates back to the 4th century BC in the called area called San Pietro. A popular jazz festival is held each summer.
Moskovitz pointed to Pittston’s downtown revitalization as a good reason to move forward with plans to link the cities.
“The city’s recent developments in terms of arts and culture is something to be proud of,” Moskovitz said. “The administration is dedicated to taking every opportunity to advance cultural and entertainment opportunities that are presented to the city.”