Local connection results in trip of a lifetime for Hinckley man

by Emily Canning-Dean

Pallagorio is a tiny village in the south of Italy with a population of not much more than 1,000 people. It is also the birthplace of Hinckley resident Dennis Liccardi’s father. So naturally, when Liccardi and his wife, Heather, planned a trip to Italy last summer for Dennis’ 80th birthday, Pallagorio was one of the places they wanted to visit.

“It wasn’t part of our tour, but I managed to get a driver so we could leave the tour group for the day and drive around the town and hopefully find the house his father grew up in,” Heather said.

But thanks to the Liccardis’ friend and fellow Hinckley resident, Luciana McCartney, their visit to Pallagorio was far more memorable than they ever could have imagined.

McCartney said she and Heather had chatted about their upcoming and overlapping trips to Italy that summer. McCartney has family in Italy and was scheduled to visit for several weeks around the same time the Liccardis were taking their trip.

“Heather told me they wanted to find the town where Dennis’ father grew up and when she told me the name of the town I said ‘You’re not going to believe this, but that is where my mother spent her summers as a child,’” McCartney said, adding that Pallagorio is the neighboring town to where her family lives.

McCartney arrived in Italy a couple of weeks before the Liccardi’s and quickly got to work researching information.

When the Liccardi’s arrived, McCartney took them to the town hall, where Liccardi had the chance to see his father’s birth certificate. They also got to see his father’s house, which still had chickens in the front yard, just as Liccardi’s aunt had described to him. McCartney also located two of Liccardi’s cousins who still lived in Pallagorio and they were happy to greet him.

“They walked in the door and it was such a great reunion, even though they had never met,” McCartney said. “They hugged each other. It was the most beautiful thing. They looked so much alike. You could tell they were related.”

“I still have chills just thinking about it,” Dennis said. “We had no idea this would all happen.”

While Liccardi didn’t speak Italian and his cousins didn’t speak English, they were able to communicate still because the Liccardis’ driver had an app on his phone that would translate.

Liccardi enjoyed spending time with his newfound family members and also walking around the house where his father once lived.

“I don’t know what year it was built, but it looked like 12th century,” he said. “It was very narrow, but my grandma and grandpa raised four kids there. We went to the town square and looked out over the land and the hills. It was such a treat.”

Dennis said his father was about 10 years old when his family came to the U.S. He said he had heard stories about his father’s birthplace from relatives, but seeing it for himself and meeting long lost family was the experience of a lifetime.

“This is not a birthday I will forget,” he said. ∞

Dennis Liccardi holds his father’s birth
certificate which Luciana McCartney
helped him find.

Dennis Liccardi, center, had a joyful reunion with two cousins he never met prior to his trip.

Photo (main/above): Hinckley residents Luciana McCartney and Dennis and Heather Liccardi are forever bonded over their trip to a small village in Italy. Photos submitted.