“Memories of the Past”
By Rosario Mariani, http://www.europebychoice.com
As a small boy in the 1950’s, I remember passing by a shop in the piazza of my small town in Abruzzo and seeing the Rappresentante (“representative”) sign. Obviously, I had no idea what it meant, but somehow I knew that when it was my turn to leave Italy, the gentleman inside would make it all happen.
When I was in the second grade, I remember my school teacher saying to the entire class: “Boys and girls, today we say good bye to our classmate Francesca, who is leaving us to immigrate to the United States.” The scene repeated many times throughout the year, but the final destination changed often; sometimes it was Argentina, Canada, South Africa, Venezuela, Australia, and other countries as well.
I believed that somehow everybody’s turn to leave Italy came sooner or later. In October 1956, it was my turn.My father had been working as a chef at the Ritz Carlton in Johannesburg from 1953 to 1956. He loved Johannesburg and decided to extend his contract, but wanted the whole family to be there with him. So he told my mother to go visit the rappresentante, where she booked passage for us on the M/V Africa bound for Durban, South Africa.
The rappresentante was more than just a travel agent – he was the facilitator. He gathered all the necessary documents, issued the tickets, helped us with packing, and even drove us to Brindisi, 400km away (in his Fiat 600 Multipla) to make sure we all got on the M/V Africa. We departed on December 27, 1956. I loved the entire travel experience and from that day on, I knew I would one day be a rappresentante too. Fifty-nine years later, I finally retired from the travel industry, but I am keeping my rappresentante sign forever.
Rosario Mariani is the owner/CEO of Europe By Choice, which promotes travel to Italy and other select European countries. He has more than 40 years of experience in the travel industry, previously serving as Director of Italy Product for Italiatour and Club ABC Tours, and also in other positions with EuroFly, Alitalia and Air France.