Share The Craco Society Website:


As we learn of the Cracotan men who fought in WWI we know the experience was life changing for all of them.  The lives of Peter Benedetto and Nicola Francavilla were cut short; Frank Muzio, and Antonio Spera carried their experience and injuries with them.  The remaining three men we are aware of that served in the US Army, Nicola Camperlengo, Nicola Roccanova, and Edmond Salomone also had life changing experiences.

Nicola Camperlengo

             Nick Camperlengo  was born on 1894 in Manhattan, New York to Vitantonio and Teodora LoRubio.  He was living at 50 Roosevelt St. and working as a shipping clerk for Michele Stramiello at 281 Front St. when he was inducted on April 27, 1918 .  He was reacted to He was assigned to the Medical Evacuation Hospital No. 28 and then on June 14 he was reassigned to Base Hospital No. 78.  Private Nick Camperlengo boarded the SS Anchises with his unit on Sept. 1, 1918 in New York bound for the European battlefields. His story and the horrors of war is best understood in the words about him from the late Dr. Henry Camperlengo who wrote the following:

“It was into that maelstrom that my “Uncle Nick,” whose memory I cherish as a kind human person saw in plentitude the horrors of war.  He and others worked untiringly night and day to the many wounded.  They soon exhausted basic medical supplies and even had to cut branches from trees to improvise splints.  After the wounded were rounded up they were painfully in trucks presumably headed to Base Hospitals.   Suddenly there appeared a squadron of German fighter planes and the entire column was machine gunned.  So many who had been carefully and exhaustingly cared for were now dead!  My Uncle sat under a tree and cried.”

Nick boarded the SS Dante Aleghieri on May 27, 1919 in Marseilles Harbor bound for NewYork with orders to report to Camp Dix.  The ship arrived on June 17th and he was honorably discharged the next day.  But as Dr. Camperlengo explains,

“He couldn’t tell us in words what effect it had on him.  I only learned to what extent this experience had on his psyche when I was a young psychiatrist in training. 

He had been remanded to the Northport VA [Veterans Administration] Hospital on Long Island for a psychiatric disorder that baffled the doctors at that time. 

I obtained his  medical records from the Northport VA and I saw plainly that the disorder he suffered from was P.T.S.D. or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, an entity only recognized by the American Psychariatric Assoc. and the A.M.A [American Medical Association] in the 1980s.  He spent 10 years in that hospital frequently visited by family and when discharged became a groundskeeper at a private boys school on Long Island.  I understand that he was honored with a plaque in his memory by the boys for his kind ways and wise advice to them.  For me he became one of the chief reasons I became a psychiatrist.

Nicola Roccanova

Unlike the others from Craco, Nick Roccanova did not serve in the “Metropolitan Division” and had a different experience from them in France.

Nicola Roccanova was born on May 1, 1898 in Craco to Vincenzo and Isabella Sellare. His older brothers,  had emigrated to the US in the early 1900s as did a sister, Antonia who had married Paolo Benedetto in 1905.

We learn about Nicola’s story from Deborah Roccanova who is the wife of Nicola’s grandson Richard.  She says, that Nicola’s father sent him to the US in 1915 “hoping he would avoid being drawn into the war in Europe,” but fate would dictate a different story.

He was living with his brothers at 65 Sullivan St., in Manhattan when he enlisted in the US Army at Ft. Slocum, at David’s Island (in Long Island Sound off New Rochelle), NY on Nov. 27, 1917.  It was one of the busiest recruit training stations in WWI and housed many of those who joined in the government sponsored recruiting zeal that occurred  in November 1917; explaining Nicola’s action. In December the governemt ended voluntary enlistments and relied solely on the draft.

But on Dec 8th, Nicola was assigned to Battery C of the 18th Field Artillery  Unit.  He would serve with them until his discharge.  His service records show he boarded the USS Aeolus  with his unit in Hoboken, NJ on April 23, 1918 however the departure was delayed and the Unit transferred to the USS Manchuria on April 30 when it sailed to Europe. 

Nicola and his unit were attached to the 3rd Division in France.  They distinguished themselves earning the French Croix De Guerre with Gilt Star on the battle streamers for the Champagne Marne and Aisne-Marne campaigns and was instrumental in helping to defeat the Germans during an final assault known as the “Ludendorff Offensive.”  After the German surrender, they served a tour of occupation duty.  Nicola  and hisunit boared USS Agamemnon in Brest, France arriving eight days later in Hoboken.  He was discharged August 22nd.

Deborah Roccanova tells us more about his experiences and how they impacted Nicola.  She says, He was gassed with mustard gas…The effects of the gas did affect his lungs the rest of his life.  He was hospitalized  with TB for 11 months in 1944 at a sanitarium in upstate NY.” 

She continues about the period after the war while he was stationed in France, “…he did attempt to return to Craco to see his parents and family.  This was denied due to the Spanish flu epidemic and all soldiers were confined to base.  He never saw his parents again…but his mother Mary (Francavilla) Roccanova died from the flu in 1918…” when it struck Craco.

We also learned from Deborah that Nicola married Isabella Sillaro (born 1898, Craco).  She was the daughter of Giuseppe and Rosa Dolcimele.  After their marriage in Manhattan in 1920 Nicola worked with his brothers in a paper box making business, for a while.

Deborah tells us after that he, “drove taxi and eventually owned his own laundry and small apartment buildings. …Nicholas did eventually moved to Sacramento, CA at the urging of his son Vincent and wife Lois.  Nicholas and Isabella lived a very happy and successful life, investing in real estate and surrounded by family in Sacramento.  …Nicholas did return to Craco and Roccanova Italy in 1978…

Edmond Salomone

The experience of Edmond Salomone during WWI was unique.  He was born in Manhattan on March 24, 1897, the son of Michele Salomone and Angela Mormando.  On Sept. 9, 1918 he was drafted into the US Army and sent to Camp Gordon, GA.  With the war raging in Europe the Army had developed plans to train recruits to replace the battlefield soldiers. Edmond was assigned to the 14th Infantry Replacement and Training Battalion.   On Oct. 18 he was assigned to the Automatic Replacement Draft designed to fill in the ranks of soldiers in Europe.  Just 5 days after the armistice on Nov. 16, he was transferred to Company C 162 Infantry and shipped overseas on November 27th.  He served there until returning to the US on July 27, 1918 and was demobilized on Aug. 2nd.  

Brothers in Arms—Edmond Salomone (right) is shown with his future brother-in-law, Joe Chicichella when both were in the US Army in 1918.
Posted on in category: Crachesi in America Photos | Comments Off on WWI CRACOTAN MEN IN FRANCE-LIFE CHANGING EVENTS

April/Aprile 2019 Newsletter – Italian

Posted on in category: Uncategorized | Comments Off on April/Aprile 2019 Newsletter – Italian

April 2019 Newsletter

Posted on in category: English Versions, Newsletter Archives | Comments Off on April 2019 Newsletter

May in Craco Vecchio

The month of May was a very significant month and active time in Craco Vecchio.

Following the church calendar, and centuries of tradition, on the first weekend in May they celebrated San Nicola and the Madonna della Stella, starting with a “processione” for San Nicola on the Saturday. On Sunday, the entire day is dedicated to celebrating Madonna della Stella, starting with a mass in the morning followed by a procession throughout the town.

To receive special favours from the Madonna, people would decorate a “cirio” (a wooden framed structure) with candles.  The cirio would be carried by a devotee along with the procession until it reached their home.  A small alter was prepared at the house, and prayers were said, thus completing their act of devotion.

In the afternoon, everyone gathered by the Madonna della Stella church for potato sac races, horse races, and bicycle races. In the evening, people gathered and ate fave, lupini, and ceci.  In the late 50s and 60s some amusement park rides were added for kids.  The day’s festivities always ended with a display of fireworks.

For all Festas, a committee was formed consisting of 5-10 people and overseen by the priest.  Their role was to raise funds and organize the entire festa.

Throughout the month of May there were daily visits to the church of the Madonna della Stella to celebrate mass or to say the rosary.

In the fields May was also a busy month.  The fave and ceci were picked and left in a large pile to dry.

The people also started preparing for the arrival of hired farm hands that came from as far away as Lecce to assist with the grain harvest.


Maggio a Craco Vecchio

Maggio è da sempre stato un mese particolarmente significativo e ricchio d’attività a Craco vecchio.

Secondo il calendario ecclesiastico e secondo secoli di tradizioni, durante il primo finesettimana di maggio venivano festeggiati con una processione San Nicola e la Madonna della Stella.

Mentre la processione per San Nicola si celebrava di sabato, la giornata della domenica era interamente dedicata alla Madonna della Stella: le celebrazioni iniziavano con una messa durante la mattinata, seguita poi da una processione in suo onore attraverso la cittadina.

Gli abitanti solevano decorare un “cirio” (così veniva chiamata un tipo di struttura in legno) con delle candele per ricevere i favori della Madonna. Ogni cirio veniva trasportato durante la processione dal proprio credente, finchè egli non raggiungeva la propria abitazione sempre seguendo la processione. In casa sua veniva quindi innalzato un altarino sul quale i famigliari pregavano, completando in questo modo il loro rito di devozione.

Nel pomeriggio tutti si riunivano nella chiesa della Madonna della Stella per giocare con i sacchi di patate, per fare gare equestri ed in bicicletta. Durante la sera invece la gente soleva riunirsi nuovamente per mangiare fave, lupini e ceci. Al termine della seconda metà degli anni cinquanta e degli anni sessanta del secolo scorso furono aggiunte alle consuete celebrazioni anche delle giostre per i bambini. Il termine delle festività era caratterizzato sempre da scene di fuochi artificiali.

Durante ogni festa veniva eletta una delegazione di circa 5-10 persone, capitanata dal parroco di paese. Il loro ruolo era quello d’ottenere fondi e di organizzare il corso dell’intera festa.

Durante tutto il mese di maggio la chiesa della Madonna della Stella veniva quotidianamente visitata da credenti, i quali partecipavano alle messe o più semplice-mente si trovavano per dire il rosario.

Nei campi maggio era invce un mese molto intenso. Venivano raccolte le fave e i ceci, prima di venire essiccate in largi contenitori appositi.

Gli abitanti iniziavano a prepararsi per l’arrivo dei manovali, contadini che assistevano e lavoravano durante la raccolta del grano e che arrivavano fin da Lecce.

Posted on in category: A Year in The Life | Comments Off on May in Craco Vecchio


Dr. Donato Viggiano, the doctor from Craco appeared in several Newsletter articles including in April 2020, July 2014, and March 2012.

This appearance was prompted by a new photograph sent by Society member Annette Benedetto from her college graduation celebration in 1961.

In 1903, the then 27 year old doctor, Donato Viggiano arrived in New York from Craco and began helping the immigrant community on the Lower East Side. Obviously, coming from Craco he was preferred by his Cracotan “paesani” providing for them and other immigrants from his office at 76 Mott Street. In 1912, he married Elvira Manghise and they established a home in Brooklyn.

Dr. Viggiano crossed paths with Mother Cabrini early in his career and supported her by caring for the ill. While continuing his work on the Lower East Side and attending to the immigrant community there he also worked with the Columbus Hospital that Mother Cabrini founded, ultimately taking on an administrative role there.  In the 1930s he and his wife were regularly listed in newspapers as sponsors promoting fund raising events and activities aimed at supporting the hospital during the Depression.

Dr. Viggiano continued practicing medicine into the 1950s and passed away in 1972 at the age of 95.

His impact on the Cracotan  community in New York was significant. Families who had ancestors in Little Italy in his era have stories about their interactions with him.

Cracotan Physician—Dr. Donato Viggiano (shown above in a 1924 passport photograph) was a fixture in Little Italy and preferred by his Cracotan paesani because of his ability to speak the dialect.  He ultimately became an administrator of Columbus Hospital in Manhattan that was founded by Mother Cabrini.  Also pictured is his eleven year old daughter Rosina and wife Elvia who traveled with him  that Summer to France and Italy. They left New York on July 10th aboard the SS Albania and returned October 11th from Naples aboard the steamship Conte Rosso. Dr. Viggiano and his wife made trips back to Italy in the ensuing years with visits in 1948 and 1956.
Un medico Crachese — Il dottor Donato Viggiano (immortalato in alto in una fotografia da passaporto del 1924) diventò una figura di riferimento a Little Italy, essendo preferito dai suoi paesani Crachesi per la sua capacità di comunicare in dialetto. Alla fine della sua carriera coprì un ruolo amministrativo nel Columbus Hospital di Manhattan, fondato da Madre Cabrini. Nella foto é visibile anche Rosina, la figlia di undici anni, ed Elvira, sua moglie, le quali lo accompagnarono durante il viaggio dell’estate del 1924 in Francia e in Italia. Salparono il 10 luglio da New York a bordo della SS Albania e ripartirono da Napoli verso l’America l’11 ottobre a bordo del piroscafo Conte Rosso. Il dottor Viggiano e sua moglie completarono diversi viaggi in Italia negli anni seguenti, con due visite principali nel 1948 e nel 1956.   

Elvira and Dr. Donato Viggiano 1939.
Elvira e Dr. Donato Viggiano 1939. 
Elvira (right) and Dr. Donato Viggiano (left) 1961. Elvira (destra) e Dr. Donato Viggiano (sinestra) 1961.
Elvira (destra) e Dr. Donato Viggiano (sinestra) 1961.

The Viggiano Brothers – Below from the left, Donato, Prospero, Antonio (nicknamed “Judge” and Antuono (nicknamed “Tony”). Donato a doctor and Prospero a barber lived in Manhattan and were active in the Crachese community there.
I Fratelli Viggiano – Donato, Prospero, Antonio (soprannominato “Giudice”) e Antuono (soprannominato “Tony”) sono visibili in basso sulla sinistra. Donato, di professione medico, e Prospero, di professione barbiere, risiedevano entrambi a Manhattan e rappresentavano figure portanti all’interno della comunità crachese.


Il medico di Craco Donato Viggiano è apparso in diversi articoli dei nostri aggiornamenti mensili, tra cui anche quelli di Aprile 2020, Luglio 2014 e Marzo 2012.

Il suo riferimento è dovuto ad una nuova fotografia condivisa dal membro della Craco Society Annette Benedetto e risalente al momento di celebrazione della laurea di Annette stessa, 1961.

Nel 1903 il medico Donato Viggiano arrivò a New York ad appena 27 anni d’età. In quel periodo iniziò ad aiutare la comunità di immigrati del Lower East Side. Grazie alle sue origini Crachesi, il dottor Viggiano era altamente preferito dai suoi paesani che visitava assieme agli immigrati di altri paesi nel suo ufficio di Mott Street 76. Nel 1912 sposò Elvira Manghise prima di stabilirsi con lei in una casa di Brooklyn.

All’inizio della sua carriera, il dottor Viggiano incontrò diverse volte Madre Cabrini e la sostenne prendendosi cura degli infermi. Sempre continuando a lavorare nel suo ufficio del Lower East Side e frequentando la comunità di immigrati della zona, il dottor Viggiano lavorò anche con il Columbus Hospital fondato da Madre Cabrini, in cui alla fine assunse un ruolo amministrativo.

Negli anni trenta il dottor Viggiano era regolarmente menzionato assieme alla moglie sui giornali come sponsor poiché promuoveva eventi e attività di raccolta fondi atti a sostenere l’ospedale durante il periodo della grande depressione.

Il dottor Viggiano continuò a praticare come medico negli anni cinquanta e morì nel 1972 all’età di ben 95 anni.

Il suo impatto sulla comunità Crachese di New York fu senza alcun dubbio significativo. Molte famiglie che vivevano a Little Italy in quell’epoca parlano ancora delle storie e degli incontri che i loro antenati ebbero con lui.

Posted on in category: Crachesi in America | Comments Off on THE DOCTOR FROM CRACO

The Frana—December 1963

In December 1963 one of the most destructive episodes of Craco’s frana event occurred.  Contemporary newspaper articles give us an understanding of the events.  

The first article appearing on December 7th raises concern with two-thirds of the town being impacted and states: “the situation remains grave …”

December 8th found the following report: “…The landslide…moves slowly …and covers ten acres of land…The houses involved in this area are a hundred. Twenty-five are at risk, so that the mayor has already issued the first evacuation orders…The town is situated…on gravel and clay. It has a population of just over 1700 inhabitants divided into 380 families.” 

Then on December 11th the news turned worse: “a dense rain, falling for more than twenty-four hours…the landslide movement…was further exacerbated…The landslide affecting the village has extended to other buildings, so much so that some owners of houses on DeCesare and Alighieri streets reported injuries to their buildings…Craco is on the list of towns to be consolidated at the expense of the state. Approximately eighty percent of the buildings have damages.”  

It continued the next day on December 12th: “The rainfall has increased the concerns…the landslide has abruptly moved further…damaged homes increase and orders for evacuation of about forty were issued…It is a painful spectacle: the household goods are transported…from homes… Even those who still have a house in good condition, do not hide their fears.”

On  December 16th harsh conditions continued to be reported: “Violent gusts of wind…Craco remained in the dark due to failure of the electricity grid…two more orders for eviction were issued for homes at risk.”

The December 21st articles provide: “Christmas is coming. The people, however, are sad and worried about the serious threat of landslides…Craco residents live in a day by day state of panic…” 

Then on December 30th: “News that instead of dissipating fears…has increased. In essence, the landslides are of two different intensities. The first and largest includes the southern facing center of the town and the other is slower but no less worrying. The hopes of a temporary containment are in the large arched wall built along Route 103, which almost surrounds the town. The wall although solid, has a central bulge…and would lead to landslides of significant quantities, the destruction of many homes…The situation…to safeguard public safety…raises many moral and economic problems of considerable scope: Can a small town of 1700 people be evacuated? What would remain of the old town? Absolutely nothing. Then there are serious apprehensions of the owners of houses (cost and the sacrifices of generations), who see their property at risk and do not know if they have adequate compensation or urgent rehabilitation works envisaged by authorities…”

We know the subsequent events and results but also recognize that even after all these years there is a resilient spirit to somehow bring Craco Vecchio a rebirth.

This article was originally published in The Craco Society Newsletter, July 2009.

Posted on in category: Craco Pre-Frana Photos | Comments Off on The Frana—December 1963


This Easter time specialty from Craco was passed down from Antonia Francavilla Spero (b. Craco 1889; d. NY 1961) to her daughter Lena and then to Lena’s daughter Annette Cono Mule. It continues to be made annually.

2 1/2 lbs flour
1 tbsp. salt
1 3/4 sticks butter melted & cooled
Crumble into flour, .make a well in flour and add
4 beaten eggs
2 oz. oil
1 cu. Warm water, add as needed
Knead until smooth ball forms.

3 links semi dry sausage cut into small pieces
(You can use hot or sweet or a combination, remove casing of sausage).
3 lbs ricotta
3/4-lb mozzarella
3/4 wet basket cheese
1/2 dry basket cheese
6-8 eggs, 2 egg whites, reserve yolk for top brushing.
Fresh parsley
Grated romano cheese
Mix well
Use a deep 12″ pizza pan
Roll out dough, fill with mixture, roll out cover, crimp edges, prick with fork, brush with beaten egg yolk.
Bake 375 1 hr.

This recipe yields: 1 -12″ pie pan, 1-141/2″ pie pan, & 1-9″ round pie pan. The ingredients used above can only be found in Italian pork stores. The wet and dry basket cheese may only be available in some areas at Easter time.

Posted on in category: Recipes from Members, Holiday | Comments Off on PIZZA RUSTICA

Pork Rind and Beans


600 g of pork rind 

500 g of beans 

100 g of freshly grated Pecorino 

30 g of chopped parsley 

125 ml of extra virgin olive oil 

100 g of peeled tomatoes 

6 garlic cloves, minced 

Pepper to taste 

Chili pepper to taste 

(or 1 hot red pepper) 


Wash and clean the pork rind. Cut six equal squares. Sprinkle with pecorino, parsley, salt and pepper. Roll up each square to make a bundle and tie with twine. Soak the beans overnight. In a large pot of water, cook over low heat the pork rind bundles and the beans. While cooking, remove the fat and other impurities with a spoon, from time to time. In a separate saucepan, heat the olive oil and brown the garlic, the parsley and the hot pepper. Add the peeled tomatoes and cook about 15 minutes. When the pork rind bundles and beans are cooked, season with the sauce. Cook over low heat for an additional 20 minutes. Serve as a one dish meal. 

Reprinted with permission from Regione Basilicata, Dipartimento Agricoltura e Sviluppo Rurale.

Posted on in category: Recipes from Basilicata | Comments Off on Pork Rind and Beans

Calzone with Chard

100 g of flour 

35 g of brewers’ yeast 

1 kg of chard 

200 g of pitted black olives 

Hot red pepper 

Extra virgin olive oil 


Prepare the dough with the flour, a pinch of salt and the brewers’ yeast dissolved in a little bit of water. Add olive oil and lukewarm water and knead in order to obtain a smooth and pliable dough. Wrap the dough in a moist kitchen towel and put it in a warm place to rise, 3-4 hours. Wash the chard and cook it in salted boiling water. Drain thoroughly and coarsely chop it. Sauté in a spoonful of olive oil with chopped hot pepper and black olives. Set aside. Divide the dough into two equal parts and roll out two circles. Oil a baking dish and cover it with a circle of dough. Spread over it the chard filling and cover with the second circle of dough. Fold and seal the edges. Bake the calzone in a preheated oven at 170° C (335° F), 40 minutes approximately. Once cooked, you can serve the calzone with spoonfuls of tomato sauce. 

Reprinted with permission from Regione Basilicata, Dipartimento Agricoltura e Sviluppo Rurale.

Posted on in category: Recipes from Basilicata | Comments Off on Calzone with Chard

Baked Mushrooms


600 g of porcini mushrooms 

150 g of bread crumbs 

1 garlic clove 

1 tablespoon of parsley 

Pinch of oregano 

175 ml extra virgin olive oil 


Clean the mushrooms. Remove the stems from each mushroom and set aside. Oil a baking dish and place the caps turned upwards. Season with salt. In a bowl, combine the chopped garlic clove with parsley. Add a pinch of oregano, bread crumbs and a little olive oil. Spoon stuffing into the mushrooms’ caps. Bake in a preheated oven at 170° C (335° F), 20 minutes approximately. 

Reprinted with permission from Regione Basilicata, Dipartimento Agricoltura e Sviluppo Rurale.

Posted on in category: Recipes from Basilicata | Comments Off on Baked Mushrooms