Family Vacation: Discovering Your Roots

Our Blog: Word on the Sidewalk

Family Vacation: Discovering Your Roots

May 24, 2013
posted by Robert Pasin

My grandfather and founder of Radio Flyer, Antonio Pasin, and his wife, my grandmother Anna, were born in Rosa, Italy.  It’s a small town nestled in the foothills of the Alps near Bassano del Grappa (famous for the after-dinner liquor by the same name) in northern Italy near Venice.Antonio Pasin (far right), founder of Radio Flyer, circa 1905, as a boy in Rosa, Italy with his family.

This past spring break I traveled back to the land of my grandparents with my parents, wife and children. I thought it was important to make the trip to where my father, now 83, had spent his summers as a child, and to the beautiful place central to my grandparents’ story—which is ultimately our story.

Italian Craftsmanship

Antonio (far right in the photo, circa 1905) was an apprentice to his dad (man in the middle), the head carpenter at a Northern Italian version of Downton Abbey, the Ca di Dolfin, during the expansive, historic residence’s glory days.  The children who lived in this magnificent villa had a playroom there with elaborate murals and a full-size carousel with hand-carved wooden animals.  The carousel was one of my grandfather’s first projects, and it was where he developed his sense of style and color, and possibly his desire to create high-quality children’s products. 

My family and I toured the estate.  It takes a little imagination to picture what it looked like in all its glory, as the passage of time has taken its toll.  The room with the carousel is closed, but it’s still there—I could see the outline through the window outside.

I appreciate the design, quality, craftsmanship and good taste of the Italian culture, which is apparent in everything from the food to the way they live.  This way of living was part of my grandfather’s DNA, and had a huge impact on products he created and built to stand the test of time—and I believe is in the DNA of Radio Flyer.

Discovering Our Family Story

We visited with my grandmother’s relatives and saw the places important to her and my grandfather—like her family’s grocery store where they met and the town square where they would go for walks and drink coffee.  It gave me—and my children—a better feeling for our heritage, and the people and places that are part of the fabric of who we are. 

My kids thought it was the best trip ever!  My eldest son, in middle school, discovered that my father spoke Italian after we first arrived when my dad ordered a meal at a restaurant.  I hadn’t realized that my son didn’t know this basic fact about my father – but trips like this reveal what we sometimes take for granted as parents.  Our kids don’t know everything we know.  Providing experiences to travel as an extended family helped us discover new things about each and rediscover old ones.  It also helped us gain an even deeper appreciation for what we have today.

I thought it was a great trip too. I indulged in my favorite Italian dessert-- chocolate gelato-- and saw my kids connect with their grandparents and history in a special way they never could have done at home.  It helped us to see why things are the way they are and understand ourselves and our family better. 

A Worthwhile Family Adventure

Going with your family on an adventure to another country can certainly have its ups and downs, but the memories and connections made are truly priceless.  Trips like these add a depth and richness to life.  It’s important to know your family stories and personalities, and understand where your own traits originated. My grandma, now 104, enjoyed hearing about our stories when we returned home and reminiscing and sharing more of her childhood with us.

Our family trip was a wonderful, really special way to see Italy—less as a tourist, and more as a native returning home to be with relatives.  They rolled out the red carpet and gave us an unforgettable glimpse into the culture today as well as family stories from long ago.  It was an once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Have you ever embarked on a family adventure to learn more about your history?

  • Rosa, Italy, the birthplace of Antonio Pasin, founder of Radio Flyer, is in the northern part of the country, nestled in the foothills of the Alps.
  • Rosa, Italy is near Bassano del Grappa, a city known for a wooden pontoon bridge called the Ponte degli Alpini. It was designed by Andrea Palladio in 1569, one of the most influential men in Western architecture.
  • Antonio Pasin was an apprentice to his dad, the head carpenter at the largest estate in Rosa, the Ca di Dolfin, a Northern Italian version of Downton Abbey.
  • The Ca di Dolfin, or "House of Dolfin" is a beautiful villa built by three Dolfin brothers, members of one of the oldest Venetian families.