December 20, 2012
During my research into my Italian family I’ve been in touch with my Mum’s cousin who has been exploring our shared heritage for many years. Recently he asked me to take care of some items that had originally belonged to my 2x great-grandfather, Michele Coppola. He felt it was time to pass these cherished artefacts onto the next generation and I was touched when he asked me to be their next custodian.
When the parcel arrived I opened it with great excitement and anticipation. Inside were six books of postcards from Italy that my ancestor had kept as mementoes from his native country. The books are souvenirs from Milan, Rome, Turin, Florence and Venice and each one holds 24 or 32 pictures of the main sights all folded into a concertina. There are no dates printed on them but one was produced by G Modiano & Co, an Italian publishing house in Milan. Gustavo Modiono began publishing picture postcards in the late 1890s so it’s likely that my 2x great-grandfather’s collection is just over a hundred years old.
Michele Coppola came from the village of Picinisco, between Rome and Naples. In the early 1880s, he travelled to England with his wife Maria and their two young daughters, Angelina and Dominica. The young family settled in Ancoats, Manchester, one of the poorest areas of the city at that time. Like many Italian immigrants he established his own ice-cream making business that he ran from home with the help of his family.
Michele and Maria had ten children in total, six of whom died in infancy. My great-grandmother, Nunziata, was born in 1888. By the turn of the century the Coppola family had moved to Salford where Michele opened a fruit shop and café.
These fragile and exquisite postcards are precious treasure, a family heirloom that I will pass on when it’s my time to do so. It never fails to surprise me what gems relatives have tucked away in the back of drawers and I am immensely grateful to my cousin for sharing with me the privilege of protecting these keepsakes for generations to come.