Italian Heritage: April 2007 Archives


The 17th century Palazzo Onoratelli was the home of my great–grandmother Emma Onoratelli Barbato. The stucco ornamentation in the baroque style — with smiling angels over the arches — was done by the same artisan who decorated the Palazzo Reale (La Reggia) in Caserta.

The setting is almost magical. The palazzo built in the early 1700s has been beautifully restored. The family stemma (coat of arms) is displayed above the main entrance; it bears the sword of Saint Michael and is held aloft by two naked angels.


Carlo, Nunzio, Don Marco, Maria Carmen, Stefania, Gabriele


Nunzio Onoratelli


Carlo de Lellis


Maria Carmen and Carlo and Nora


Maria Carmen, Don Marco, and Nora


Nora de Lellis, the ever gracious hostess


Giovanna de Lellis Piazza, called "Bambolina"


Giovanna, Nunzio, and Stefani


Nunzio and Stefania Onoratelli

Pranzo at Sepicciano: Pasquetta

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My cousin Carlo de Lellis and his wife Nora invited me to the Onoratelli ancestral home in Sepicciano for the second day of Pasquetta, the Tuesday In Albis. Nora prepared a seven course pranzo that was indescribably delicious.


I traveled down from Rome with my cousin Nunzio Onoratelli, his wife Stefania, and Maria Carmen Balestrieri, a dear friend. Joining us in Sepicciano were cousin Giovanna de Lellis, her husband Gabriele Piazza, and her granddaughter Denise. Also invited were the Parish Priest, Don Salvatore, and his assistant from Cameroun, Don Étienne. The parish church of San Michele in Sepicciano was the private chapel of the Onoratelli family until it was given to the municipality to serve as the parish church in 1903.


One of the family stories retold at the table was about one of the many priest sons of the family who, in order to save his inheritance from being squandered by his gambling siblings, had a hen and twelve chicks made of pure gold, which he then hid in one of the walls of the palazzo. On his deathbed, the priest was stricken with paralysis and could not tell his nieces and nephews where he had hidden the treasure. After his death, they went to the mason who had sealed up the secret hiding place, only to discover that he too had suffered a stroke and couldn't reveal the hiding place. When Carlo and Nora restored the palazzo twelve years ago they engaged a professional with a metal detector to search for the treasure, but it was never found. Giovanna maintains that it is still somewhere in the walls of the upper stories where the priest son had his rooms. The same rooms are said to be haunted by one of the Marchesi Onoratelli. Cousin Ettore lives in them now.


About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

Donations for Silverstream Priory