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: My Father’s Daughter, From Rome to Sicily
Author: Gilda Morina Syverson
Publisher: Divine Phoenix and Pegasus Books
Pages: 277
Genre: Memoir/Travel/Family Relationships


In this multigenerational memoir, My Father’s Daughter, From Rome toSicily, our author travels with her Italian-born father, Italian-American mother, and very-American husband to the villages of her ancestors. This trilogy tale leads the reader through ancient sites of Rome, landscapes of a picturesque countryside, seaside villages of Sicily, olive trees in the valley of Mount Etna, while contrasting an emotional journey between a father and daughter.

Former North Carolina Poet Laureate, Joseph Bathanti, says, “My Father’s Daughter: From Rome to Sicily” is a travel book in every sense. Syverson – a savvy, funny, elegant tour guide – expertly escorts us through the gorgeous time-locked terrain of Italy, but also along the often precarious byways of the heart. This book risks everything: its humanity, its courage, its sheer unbridled candor, the moving sweep of its poetic language and its refusal to turn away from the breathtaking mystery of love and ancestry.

For More Information

  • My Father’s Daughter, From Rome to Sicily is available at Amazon.
  • Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
  • Watch the book trailer at YouTube.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Book Excerpt:

Sunday, October 15

Bright lights on the digital alarm blink 5:00 a.m. Five o’clock? What in the world am I doing awake? And what is this inner voice nagging me about room reservations in Rome? Something doesn’t feel right. Today? Sunday. Tomorrow is Monday. We’re leaving—Mom, Dad, Stu and me—for our trip to Italy and Sicily.

Why this message now and not when the itinerary arrived two months ago? Wait. I did wonder why the address for the hotel was different from what Carol, our travel agent, gave me on the phone. Why didn’t I pay attention to those feelings when the reservations first arrived?

I’ve been to Italy half a dozen times. Anything’s possible there. The building could be on a side alley, the address on the main road. Carol referred to the place as Hotel Columbus, and in her next breath called it Hotel Cristoforo Colombo.

It didn’t seem unusual to hear her use English and then Italian. After all, we both have Italian backgrounds. That’s why I used Carol to make the flight arrangements. I even chuckled when she rolled those rich flowing vowels off her tongue. Maybe I shouldn’t be so friendly and focus strictly on business.

One night on the Internet, I looked up the Hotel Columbus. Just like Carol had said, the address was Via della Conciliazione, Numero 34. The ad even touted that they were only blocks from the Vatican. I assumed the street address on the itinerary was simply an error. How many Christopher Columbus Hotels could there be, anyway? It wasn’t a chain— that much I knew.

At different times in my life, I’ve learned to let go and let others do things for me. But it didn’t come easy. Being the second oldest of eight children, I’ve often felt overly responsible.

I can’t be in charge of absolutely everything. At least that’s what I’ve tried to tell myself after having moved away from my large Italian-American family. Besides, our agent is not just any fly-by-night. She’s been in the business for over thirty years specializing in trips to Italy.

Now, here I am the morning before we’re supposed to leave, and I can’t stop churning. If I don’t get back to sleep, I’ll wake my husband. There’s no sense in both Stu and me being sleep deprived. I slip out of bed, climb the stairs to my art studio and quietly close the door. I hate following up after Carol, but I’m calling that hotel in Rome.

Buon giorno,” I say in my best Italian. “Parla Inglese?”

I’ve learned that if anyone there admits to speaking English, his or her verbal skills are much more fluent than my broken Italian. Luigi, the person on the other end of the phone, takes my last name and my parents‟ name, then asks for our reservation numbers.

“No problema,” Luigi says in his rich accent; we are booked.

To be absolutely sure, I say, “Now this is the Hotel Columbus two blocks from the Vatican, correct?”

“No, not correct,” Luigi replies. “We are about fifteen kilometers from the Vatican.”

Fifteen kilometers doesn’t register. I envision fifteen yards, fifteen feet, fifteen anything but kilometers.

Si,” I repeat, “fifteen kilometers is right down the street from the Vatican, correct?”

“No, not correct,” he says again. “Kilometers, kilometers,” he repeats, pronouncing each syllable—key lom e tours.

And then it hits me.

KILOMETERS?” I bellow, “But my travel agent said that you were in walking distance of the Vatican.”

“We are not,” he says. “You will have to take a bus or a tassi.”

Frantic, I hang up furious with myself for not having listened to my intuition after the itinerary arrived months ago. I ignored that internal voice trying to tell me something was awry and assumed my imagination had gotten the best of me, as I’ve been told most of my life it did.

I click on the Internet and find the phone number for the other Hotel Columbus and call. A woman named Stefania also replies yes to my question about speaking English.

“I’m sorry, Madam,” she says, “We do not have your name.”

She doesn’t have the reservation number that I read off either. Obviously, the confirmation system at one hotel is different from another. But I am grasping here. It’s pretty apparent that our reservations are with the first place I called.

I’m going to Rome with my mother and father, seventy- three and seventy-six, respectively. Although they’re not old, they’re not young and used to traveling either. And we’re not even staying close to the Vatican.

My father attends Mass every day, sometimes twice. Mom is not compulsive about daily Mass, but she is excited about being within walking distance from what we’ve always been taught is the seat of Catholicism.

Thanks to Stu, my Episcopalian husband, we’re scheduled to see Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s piazza the morning after we arrive in Italy. Stu’s nephew’s wife’s father, a colonel in the U.S. Army, had once been stationed at the American Embassy in Rome, and he was able to arrange a papal audience for us. Well, the four of us and about 8,000 other people.

The plan is to walk to the piazza from our hotel. Since the year 2000 is the Catholic Church’s Jubilee Celebration, we do not want to fight the traffic with the thousands of pilgrims who will be flooding Vatican City from all areas of the capital. Even though the main impetus for the trip is to visit my parents’ ancestral towns in Sicily, how can we go to Italy with my folks and not visit Rome?

Now on the other end of the phone, Stefania, the woman from the hotel near the Vatican, is trying to calm my rattled nerves.

“Madam, stay in the hotel that you have a reservation for and then try to find another place after you arrive. Rooms are scarce here,” she continues. “You are lucky to have one at all.”

Lucky is not how I’m feeling. I explain to Stefania how my parents are older, that it’s my mother’s first trip abroad, and we are willing take any available rooms. After several apologies and her sympathy, Stefania says they are totally booked. Exasperated, I go back to bed and crawl beneath the covers. So much for trying not to rouse my husband.

“Stu,” I whisper, “Those hotel reservations in Rome… they’re not at all near the Vatican.”

His eyes pop open.

Now we’re both awake for the day. I wait until almost 8:30 before I call our travel agent at home. Carol and I spend most of Sunday on and off the phone. Even though she looks on numerous Internet sites for another place near the Vatican, none of her attempts meet with success.


About the Author

Gilda Morina Syverson 

Gilda Morina Syverson, artist, poet, writer and teacher, was born and raised in a large, Italian-American family in Syracuse, New York. Her heritage is the impetus for her memoir My Father’s Daughter, From Rome to Sicily. Gilda’s story was a Novello Literary Award Finalist previously entitled Finding Bottom: an Italian-American woman’s journey to the old country.

Gilda’s award winning poems and prose have appeared in literary journals, magazines and anthologies in the United States and Canada.  She is also the author of the full-length poetry book, Facing the Dragon, and the chapbook, In This Dream Everything Remains Inside. Her commentaries have been aired on WFAE, Charlotte, N.C.’s public radio station.

Gilda moved to Charlotte, NC after having received an MFA in Fine Arts from Southern Illinois University. She received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Art Education from Buffalo State College. Gilda has taught in the Creative Arts for over 35 years including memoir classes and workshops for Queens University of Charlotte, The Warehouse Performing Arts Center in Cornelius, N.C. and at various other locations. Her fine art has been exhibited regionally, nationally and internationally. Her angel drawings and prints are in a number of collections throughout the United States, Canada and Italy.

Gilda lives outside of Charlotte, N.C. with her husband Stu.

For More Information



What inspires you to get out of bed each day?

Being alive inspires me to get out of bed each day, along with my passion for creativity. I have been in the creative arts all of my adult life and before. I wake up with a passion to work hard, create hard, be present for my husband, family- which includes my parents and siblings, close friends, students who have been a huge part of my life, along with colleague/friends – both artists and writers.

If you could hang out with one famous person for one day, who would it be and why?

Since you did not ask whether the person is living or dead, today I would choose Hildegard of Bingen. (Tomorrow it could be Catherine of Siena, Elizabeth Gilbert or even Caroline Myss). Since I have always been interested in the mystics, I choose Hildegard because of her interests in art, writing, poetry, natural and medicinal herbs, role as an abbess, along with her courage and tenacity to stand up to a male-dominated system that did not, at that time in history, appreciate or even understand the value of the intuitive female.

What’s the story behind your latest book?

My story is a multigenerational memoir about traveling with my Italian-born father, Italian-American mother and very-American husband to the villages of my ancestors. My trilogy tale leads the reader through ancient sites of Rome, landscapes of a picturesque countryside, seaside villages of Sicily, olive tress in the valley of Mount Etna, while contrasting an emotional journey between my father and myself.

Tell us your writing process

Most often I begin my process by writing in my journal when I first wake up and again before I go to sleep. After breakfast, I take my journal entries, bring them to the computer and type them into a word document where I keep writing, until the story is written and ready for editing and revising. When I was in the heat of my memoir, I would often get up early and go right to the computer where I would work on a new chapter or edit one that needed revision. The days that I teach, I have to wait until evening when I can work on my writing. Once I’m into the writing, I have a hard time stopping. I get totally engrossed in the process and can easily lose track of time and stay up into wee hours of the morning.

When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

I came into the creative arts as a Fine Artist–drawing, painting and mixed media. It was 1985 that I found writing or writing found me, and I fell totally at home in the process.

Tell us about your main character:

Since my book My Father’s Daughter, From Rome to Sicily is a memoir, I think of the story as having four main characters. Because I write from my perspective, I will talk about me as one of the main characters. I am obsessive about getting to my father’s village in Sicily with him, and excited to be able to visit my mother’s family’s village only a few hours away. My obsession does not stop with getting to those villages but continues throughout the whole story with worry over whether we have the right rooms in Rome, arrive at the papal audience on time or get to the train with time to spare. I pay attention to the details of every need my parents might have either before they have them or even if they never have them. The bottom line is that my character is a bit obsessive and out to uncover a heritage that possibly helped create such a personality.

What are you working on next?

I have a story I’ve written about my initial discovery and experiences in Healing Touch, an energy modality like Reiki, that I got involved in soon after 9-11 took place.

Do you have any special/extraordinary talents?

Besides being a writer, I have been an artist all of my adult life and before. I also discovered that I have the ability to do energy work (Healing Touch), where I am able to sense and feel energy around people.

Who are your favorite authors?

This has always been a tough question because there have been so many over the years. I will give a few of who I am “presently” obsessed with, which means it could change next month. These are but a few authors whose books are sitting on one of the surfaces next to where I read:  Elizabeth Gilbert, Adriana Trigiani and most recently I’ve become enamored with Elena Ferrante.

What do you like to do with your free time?

I like to walk, bike, read, hang out with my husband, Stu, and I/we love to travel.

Tell us about your plans for upcoming books.

One of my books is about Healing Touch. I also have stories about the angels that I have drawn for the last two or more decades. I know there are at least two more books from the poems I have written and continue to write. There are a few other possibilities that I think about.


Any final thoughts?

My memoir My Father’s Daughter, From Rome to Sicily, has been an experience that has helped me to discover my passion for story. I am not talking only about my stories, although that’s where it begins. I’m also talking about the accounts of the people I teach in classes and workshops and meet at writing events. It is important for us and for humanity to get our stories written. I believe if we don’t capture our tales, the truth of our life will be lost.

Posted on October 7, 2015, in Guest Authors and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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