Submitted by: Dara Tommasi
Ancestor / Family Name: Martino Pisano
Ancestral Town: Calangianus, SS, SAR
At age twelve, my maternal grandfather, Martino Pisano, came through Ellis Island on June 8, 1916 with his mother, Francesca Costa Pisano and his three siblings. They traveled from their small village of Calangianus that was located in the northern mountains of Sardinia. I still wonder how they made their way from those mountains on that island to the port of Genoa to board the ship, Principe di Udine, that would take them from everything they knew. They came to meet his father, Giuseppe, who had arrived three years earlier. They subsequently made their way from New York’s Mulberry Street area to settle in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
After my grandfather married, he became a house painter by trade but painting was more than just his job, it was his passion! On weekends, he indulged in this passion and painted a large mural which encompassed the entire width of our living room from the ceiling to the back of the couch. The picture was a landscape of trees and pathways rolling over green hills that led to a few small houses. As the seasons changed, so did the mural. In the summer, he would put leaves on the trees, making the hills lush and green. And in the winter, the trees were bare and there was snow on the pathways, hills and houses. I clearly remember those Saturday mornings when he would stand on the couch with paintbrushes in hand, happily whistling and humming some Italian tunes as he went to work on the scene before him. I always imagined the landscape was a snapshot of the village he left behind in Sardinia, though I don’t recall any explanation of the scene ever mentioned in our family.
Painting brought him such joy and so he also painted our living room walls testing out various design techniques. I believe he was way ahead of his time using a crinkled rag to create a marble design in the paint and I recall him experimenting with a technique using a feather to create a design over the base paint. In addition to the wall designs, he also created his own borders including a scalloped version. He would create a template, tracing it on to the walls and then filling it with contrasting color paint. His love for painting also led him to invent a paintbrush holder that sat of the rim of the can. He was working to patent it, but sadly, that dream went unfulfilled. Next to my grandfather’s easy chair in the living room were his precious books. As a little girl, I remember sitting on the floor in the corner leafing through the big, colorful picture books, depicting the works by Michelangelo and Leonardo di Vinci, his heroes who not only fed his passion but instilled in him and overwhelming sense of pride in being Italian.