The tiny village of Gesso in Sicily is celebrating the victory of the next US president Joe Biden and the historic rise to the White House of a First Lady with Italian roots, whose ancestors hailed from here.
Jill Jacobs Biden’s grandfather, Domenico Giacoppo, was born in this remote, offbeat hamlet where only 500 people live amid fluorescent green hills and oxygen-rich air. The picturesque cluster of old brightly colored farmer dwellings boast scenic views of the stunning Etna volcano and the mythological Aeolian islands.
Domenico Giacoppo was a toddler of barely 2 years-old when in 1900 his family set sail across the Atlantic to Ellis Island and later settled down in Hammonton, New Jersey.
The family surname Giacoppo was Americanized to Jacobs.
120 years after that epic departure, Gesso is in the spotlight. It’s no longer an unknown place.
Locals are excited and eager to welcome in the village the presidential couple, particularly Caterina Giacoppo, 64, a distant cousin of Jill Jacobs Biden (eighth degree).
She had no idea of her relationship to the new First Lady until a local duo of genealogical researchers dug out the Giacoppo family tree.
Speechless and shy, taken aback by the sudden popularity, Caterina tells me she’s thrilled for Biden’s victory and that she can’t wait to meet her American cousin.
“I’m so happy. I invite her to Gesso, I really hope she comes to visit me. When and if she will be here, I will make for her platefuls of meatballs with tomato sauce, lasagne, grilled meats and sausages of all kinds, and we will eat together”.
“I will also make Jill other top local delicacies like aubergine parmigiana with cheese, pasta ‘ncasciata and Cannoli pastries filled with fresh goat ricotta which are one of my specialties.”
Caterina never had any news from her distant relatives in America, saying contacts were cut-off when Jill’s branch of the family left Gesso while her family stayed behind working as farmers in the fields.
She’s a bit flabbergasted now at finding out that she boasts such a famous relative soon to enter the White House.
“This hamlet is beautiful, there are lots of things to see and do. Life here is great. I welcome everyone in my village, and I really can’t wait to meet Jill.”
“Jill, I’m here, my house is open for you, as is the entire village of Gesso. Please do come visit us next time you travel to Italy”, adds Caterina, who would love one day to visit the States and discover the land of her distant Americano relatives.
“Why not, perhaps in future I might go. Never been there. It would be great.”
Jill Biden has another cousin too: Caterina’s sister Felicia lives in an old age home near Gesso.
Gesso, proud of being the origin village of the Giacoppo-Jacobs, has been cheering for Joe Biden and his wife ever since the beginning of the electoral campaign.
US flags, posters and white blankets reading ‘Jill J. Biden US First Lady’ and ‘Gesso-Hammonton-White House’ can be seen hung on sun-kissed balconies.