Falconara Albanese,  19 Marzo 2001
Translated by Pino Tocci


Historical Background.

We have no reliable records reporting the precise date of its foundation. The only written information can be drawn from Rivista Calabrese, a magazine dating back to the end of the 19th century and started by the historian G. B. Moscato from San Lucido, who had among his correspondents Ferdinando Riggio (a talented man of letters from Falconara). The young writer, who later emigrated to the USA, left only some manuscripts. G. B. Moscato tells that Falconara was founded by seven families (Musacchio, Manes, Fionda, Joshi, Candreva, Staffa, Scuragreco) who arrived in Calabria in 1487, when Elena (or Eleonora), Giovanni Castriota's sister and Giorgio Castriota Skanderbeg's daughter, married the Prince of Bisignano Sollazzi, one of the most powerful and richest lords of Calabria, whose properties stretched as far as Apulia. The refugees coming with Elena had initially settled in San Pietro, a district of Falconara, which is thought to have been an abbatial feud. In this district they stayed for some thirty years, but then because they were afraid of the black sails, symbol of the Turkish corsairs, they withdrew towards the hinterland. The settlement of the first group of people in the town presumably dates back to 1517 and is to be localized in the wards of Manesato (here the first church was built and consecrated to S. Attanasio) and Kurtina. Ferdinando Riggio and Moscato agree on the date of the arrival of the refugees in Calabria, but not on the date of their settlement in Falconara. Perhaps they arrived in 1555, as can be deduced from a "record" in the 1588 parish registers, written by Fr Nicola Barone from Longobardi. Riggio states that from 1487 to 1555 the Falconaresi dwelt elsewhere. The oral tradition has it that Falconara Albanese was founded after 1468 by the above-mentioned seven families coming from Cruja and from Shkodra, both occupied by the Turks. The Candrevas and the Musacchios were related to Prince Scanderberg. The Joshis and Scuragrecos died out towards the end of the19th century. The former family left a toponym: Prroj Josh, (the Joshi Stream). From 1629 onwards, other Albanian families joined: Tocci, Baffa, Formosa; and others joined in 1700, Lupi, Genovese, Riggio and Caracciolo. According to the oral tradition on April 26th, 1468 the paint of a Madonna came down from the wall and guided the Albanians from Shkodra to Italy becoming since then Mother of Good Counsel. The painting is now in the Gennazzaro Sanctuary-Basilica, in Rome.
The Albanian emigration took place when the Turkish Empire invaded Albania and a large part of Europe. It was a massive emigration and coincided with the death of the bravest Albanian hero, Giorgio Castriota Skanderbeg, (January 17th, 1468). Skanderbeg fought against Murad II and Mahomet II, and in 1459 he came to Italy to help Ferdinand of Naples, who was fighting against John of Angiņ. The king of Naples was very proud of the Albanian soldiers because they were prepared to win or die on the battlefield, whereas the mercenaries often betrayed him. After his death Albania was first under the protectorate of Venice, and then under the Turkish dominion. The refugees, after a storm, landed on Sicily (see Piana degli Albanesi) and then sailing on the Tyrrhenian Sea arrived at Fiumefreddo Bruzio, whose lord was Girolamo Sanseverino, Prince of Bisignano. He gave them hospitality in a locality called Campo (field) on the outskirts of the town. Calabria in that period was going through a profound political, economic and social crisis. The countryside was becoming deserted and workers were strongly needed.
Partly because the people of Fiumefreddo did no accept the new comers, partly because the Albanians soon felt the need of a piece of land of their own, the refugees moved away from Fiumefreddo. Besides there were serious grounds for conflicts: language, culture and religion (Byzantine Rite). A vallje (typical Albanian dance) commemorates their departure from Fiumefreddo. 
At first the Albanians settled in S. Pietro, a district of Falconara. Here they began to build the first houses and a church, on the lands of Nicola Ringo, but the fear of the Turks made them withdraw towards the hinterland where they began to build the town.
Another man of letters from Falconara, Felice Staffa, (1801-1870) gives a different version to Cesare Malpiga: "seventeen families, about one hundred people, left Cruja on six sails and landed on Fiumefreddo." Malpiga, a Calabrian writer of the time, tells that "on a rainy and chilly night, roaming from vale to vale, from peak to peak, across ravines and rivers, at early dawn, they arrived on a knoll, an old falcon's nest, where the only strangers that can cleave the air are the eagles from the Alps and the African birds. Two elderly men go ahead, different in clothes and looks. One has a scimitar as his sole weapon, the other is unarmed leaning on a stick, in a long dark dress and with loose hair. Once on the top of the hill, they all stop. The two men look down and all around. A cry of jubilee echoes across the mountains. (...) Then prone they raise their hands to heaven and thank God, while the two men in black (the priests) bless them and the desolate knolls.
This poetic version echoes Aeneas on his arrival on the land of Latino!
In Dizionario dei Luoghi della Calabria, the historian Gustavo Valente states that the territory of Falconara was a hamlet belonging to Fiumefreddo Bruzio, and as such it was strictly involved with the feudal course of that town.
Until 1528 Falconara was an estate of the Sanseverinos, and from then to 1806 a property of the marquises of Rende. It was a forest inhabited by wild beasts and a few families that earned their living by raising stock and sheep. The Albanians were granted the right to raise their stock, cut wood and farm, in exchange they were asked to work on the landlord's private land for a number of days during the year, and give part of their harvest to the lord.
Geographical and cultural isolation strongly marked their existence and poverty forced them into ignorance.
At length, when the fear of the Turks began to weaken, they started to divide the territory among themselves. Manesato, a ward that still exists, was the territory where the Maneses lived; here the first church was built and consecrated to S. Attanasio. Only a square is left of the Staffas' territory and is dedicated to the poet Felice Staffa. Other toponyms refer to happenings and circumstances occurred in the town: Prroj i Markes (the marquise's Stream) refers to the Marquise of Mendoza's habit to stop there. Later on other the Albanian families gave their names to some wards of the town: Kroj i Sikurit (Sikurit's Fountain) is an example.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, the relationship between Falconara and the neighbouring towns of Fiumefreddo and S. Lucido became stronger, as is proven by the Registry Office of those towns, where Albanian surnames were entered. 
In the beginning the town's name was simply Falconara, as is confirmed by a German document regarding a privilege bestowed on the Pope by Emperor Frederic II. In this document we find an allusion to the Church of Cosenza, which included Rende and its hamlets; among the hamlets there is Falkunaria. Marafioti confirms that Falconara was originally a hamlet.
Some hold that the name Falconara comes from falcon, a kind of bird of which many specimens could be found in the area; others maintain that the name has to do with the light-medium cannon (falcon) used from the 15th to 17th century. The town took the name of Falconara Albanese or Falkunara Arbėresh in 1863.
At the beginning of the 20th century the town was sorely plagued by massive migrations towards North and South America.
The population was originally of about 270 inhabitants, then it increased, reaching its peak in 1951 with 2372 inhabitants, at the present time about 1100 people live in Falconara.


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