A Sicilian’s Journey – William V. Fioravanti

Book Review

A Sicilian's Journey Cover-1William V. Fioravanti’s Book Description

This is a non-fiction account of the life of my grandfather. His life starts in Sicily and follows him through his arrival in New York and his experiences in the small colonial town of Johnstown and twin city Gloversville. Although it is not permeated with gangsters and violence, there is much action. Life for immigrants in these small upstate New York villages was not a simple transition and there are plenty of unusual happenings.

I wrote this story as a treatment for a screenplay and when you peruse the work you will see how it flows from chapter to chapter. Some chapters are short but still very visual. It is my sincerest desire that you will find a very unusual and exciting journey of a Sicilian immigrant striving to survive in a new and fast changing world.


History, love and passion are all prevalent in great abundance in A Sicilian’s Journey. This book is full of interesting information about the actual events of one family taken from all aspects. I have a great interest in Sicilian culture and the history of Sicilian immigration to America and gained much knowledge from reading this book. As soon as I had read two chapters I was engrossed to see how the story unravelled and to reveal the final outcome.
The story begins in Sicily in 1878 with Vincenzo Saviotti. Many villages at the time, although beautiful and historic, did not have an economy that could support families. Although the Saviotti family had lived in a small Sicilian village called Castelmola for many years, Vincenzo decided to take his trade as a cobbler to Messina. It is from this decision that the story of the Fioravanti and Andreana family begins. As Castelmola, close to Taormina, is a town that I visit often, I was very interested to read the differences between the Castelmola that I am familiar with now and that of two hundred years ago.

A Sicilian’s Journey moves between different points in time and focuses on different characters of this Sicilian family. It is written in such a way that is flows effortlessly from one section to another. I have found the family completely fascinating and I particularly enjoyed reading about Guglielmo Fioravanti, the author’s Grandfather, and genuinely cared about him. As I was reading the book, I constantly wanted to find out more about the journey of Guglielmo, and all of his family members, and what happened to them.
Sicilian Americans would relate to this book tremendously; I personally found it a truly emotional read. I experienced a wide range of feelings and became very involved with the story. It was easy to picture it all in my mind, making it very real and prompting me to learn more about the immigration of Italian Americans and the harsh reality of it; the dreadful conditions on the ships, the claustrophobia, the dysentery and disease… how did they manage to survive?

The fact that Italians changed their names from their own Italian birth names to American names highlights the prejudice felt by the immigrants and the measures that they were forced to take in order to be accepted. They faced terrible unemployment and difficult housing situations due to their Italian nationality and allegedly ‘lowly’ stature in America. It is easy to see why Ellis Island became known as the ‘Island of Tears’.
I was truly compelled by this book and by Guglielmo Fioravanti who, with great foresight, kindness, generosity and hard work for his family allowed them to prosper and to be blessed in his choice to relocate to the northern New York state of Johnstown. This lovely book is a must-read.

A Sicilian’s Journey can be purchased to read on your Kindle at the following link – http://www.amazon.co.uk/A-Sicilians-Journey-ebook/dp/B00CUMSMXI.

Debra Santangelo – www.sicilianconnections.com

About the Author

William V. Fioravanti was born and reared in the Colonial town of Johnstown, New York. He caught the tail end of the bigotry and hatred that had haunted his father and grandfather.
The author eventually graduated from Syracuse University where he had studied intensely in Theatre, Literature, and Political Science and History.

After many years in the world of business he returned to writing plays and the short book about his grandfather. It is his wish that anyone who reads his work “A Sicilian’s Journey” will catch a glimpse of the immigrant experience from a different point of view.

Debra Santangelo
Debra Santangelohttp://www.sicilianconnections.com
Debra Santangelo is a freelance travel writer and the creator of www.sicilianconnections.com, a website which unites Italian communities worldwide. Debra loves her home country of England, but has also followed her passion for the 'dolce vita' for almost fifteen years, travelling extensively throughout Italy and Sicily. She is a fluent Italian speaker and has a BA (Hon) degree in Travel and Tourism Management. You can read about her favourite aspects of the Sicilian island and culture in her blog at http://sicilianconnections.blogspot.com/

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  1. My Grandparents and father suffered similar fates.I also caught the tail end of such.My Grandparents came from a little village,Grotto,in
    the Agrigento region in the southern coast.Thank you
    Debra Santangelo,for sharing
    this wonderful book.

  2. People of all natioanlities suffered the predjudice of others back in those days.. My father was GISMONDO CAMILLO ANTONIO MAIOLO..when he got to NY..and his name became Jesse…as mine did when I was born in 57.I’ll have to read your book! 🙂

  3. I’ll be interested to read that, since I live only an hour away, and go to Gloversville all the time to search Italian microfilms at the Mormon church, just outside of town. I’m not native to this region though, so don’t know much about their local stories–except that there was a glove factory somewhere. I never actually go into the main town. Much more familiar with NYC and Philadelphia stories. So this should shed some light on better understanding the people here in upstate.

  4. My grandfathet immigrated from Sant’Agata di Militello to Cleveland Ohio in 1909 leaving his wife and baby daughter behind. It took 4 years to earn enough to bring her to Cleveland. She traveled by herself with my aunt who was age 4. How brave she must have been to make that journey on her own.. Life was hard even in Ohio..my grandfather had earned a living making charcoal from the nearby Nebrodi forests. In Cleveland he worked construction at night for the city. Soon he had 6 more mouths to feed and support (my grandmother bore 4 boys and 2 more girls from 1914 to 1920). My dad was the youngest son. My grandmother died in 1924 at age 37. The story of my dad and his brothers spending 3 years in an orphanage is another painful story.. The good news is they all grew up to be wonderful good-hearted people; all 4 sons served in WWII, they married except one brother who suffered from PSTD – back then they called it shell-shock- they worked all their lives, supporting their families and loving their spouses and children/ I have 17 first cousins. My grandfather died at age 61 in May of 1941..my sisters and a cousin and I found the house where he was born in Sant’Agata on our first visit there in 2013. It was a very emotional day for us as we walked the streets and visited the church where they were married and tried to imagine and grasp the reasons for leaving and bearing the hardships that so many new immigrants faced..I look forward to reading your family’s story.

  5. I will definitely read your story…My grandfather immigrated to Cleveland, Ohio from Sant’Agata di Militello twice – once as a single young man in 1902 with his older brother and again after he married and had 2 children (1 died in infancy) in 1909. He left my grandmother and baby daughter back in Sicily until he could earn enough to send for them. My grandmother and my aunt (age 4) made the sea voyage alone in 1913…Life was hard even in Cleveland..My grandfather wrote an “Argomento” around 1914-15 in Sicilian verse about why he left and what he found..”the streets were not paved with gold..” I think the Messina earthquake, the loss of life and massive destruction fueled his desire to try once again to find a better life. They had 6 more children, 4 boys and 2 more girls – my father was the youngest boy..My grandmother died in 1924 at 37..leaving him a widower with 7 children. The boys were sent to an orphanage for 3 yrs (another painful story), but grew up to become good husbands and fathers..the girls all married too..My grandparents must have been good people to have raised such wonderful children..I’m just sad that I never got to know them…

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