Bruno Garofalo, Pittsburgh, PA
Born in Petrella Tifernina, Province of Campobasso, Molise, Italy
Immigrated to United States 1962
Many Italian American gardeners work in construction or landscaping and although their days are filled with strenuous physical work, they often come home and head straight to the garden. They do this not only to produce food for their families, but also as a hobby, something they choose to do because they love it. This is true of Bruno, a semi-retired contractor. The joy and pride that his garden brings him was evident as he showed me around his lush expanse, filled with grape arbors, fig and other fruit trees, and a maze of vegetables. The garden covers adjacent properties of two homes, his and one of his daughter’s. His home sits above the sloping, terraced backyards, with a balcony spanning the length of the back of the house, reminiscent of many homes in Italy. The balcony is lined with potted ornamentals that Bruno starts from cuttings and vegetable plants started from seed.
From this bird’s eye view, one garden is visible, but the other is covered by a canopy of leaves from three very large fig trees. Two of the trees are over 50 years old, having been brought by Bruno, tucked inside his coat, from his hometown in Italy when he emigrated in 1961. He also brought tools such as a bidente (two teeth) a U-shaped hoe used for turning over the garden in the spring, much like our rototillers today.
Bruno and his wife, Maria Rosa, have a beautiful, close-knit family. Their four daughters can often be found at the family home, preparing meals or baking together for family events. Several of his sons-in-law help him with the task of preparing his fig trees for the winter, wrapping some standing upright and burying others lying down. The men often lightheartedly tease Bruno about his habit of saving and reusing everything. Good-natured Bruno just smiles. He knows he’s old school and it doesn’t seem to bother him.