Documenting TheSERGIOFamily Pilgrimage

Dr. Paul A. Sergio, D.D.S. sojourns with his family to Italy… the country of his roots.

  • "It was finally coming to fruition. After years of dreaming, I was taking my wife and children to Italy, the land of my family origin, where my father was born. My daughter, Danielle, got a head start by attending school at Villa Aurora for a year. We flew into Florence and rented a 9-passenger van before picking her up. You should have seen her eyes when we pulled up in a vehicle much wider than many of the chariot-sized roads that we hoped to navigate. Once again, prayers got us through some tight spots! After some time in Florence we spent a couple of days in Venice, then passed through Pisa to the Cinque Terra region, where we stayed several days. Following the coast south, we stayed a night in picturesque Santa Mariella, then onto Piano di Sorrento, where we lingered for a week. Finally, we were off for a visit with relatives near Plati, where my paternal grandparents were born. The circuit was completed back to Florence. Our mission: to sample the regional cuisine (an elegant way of saying ‘eating our way across the country’), while capturing images that express the emotion of Italy, not just the iconic photographic clichés (although a few did slip in). What you see here is a sample of those moments, captured by myself, Danielle and my son, Gabriel, that we feel visually express the spirit and emotion of our experience.”

  • Paul A. Sergio DDS and photographer Italy trip photos

  • a precarious one-lane street comprised of 180 degree switchbacks

    We chose an out-of-the-way little town, Piano di Sorrento, to stay for a week, in order to more fully experience life in Italy away from the touristy iconic attractions. It was soon clear why it was the “road less traveled”. Steep, narrow, one-lane switchbacks were the only means of entry, making it quite precarious with our over-sized nine-passenger van.

  • Cliffs at Piano di Sorrento at sunset

    The safe haven of man-made caverns hewn out of the sheer harbor cliffs at Piano di Sorrento allowed for the shelter and maintenance of many a tall ship through the decades. A lone figure standing in the opening offers some perspective as to the massive height of the entrance. Subdued illumination of the setting sun and a beam of light drew the attention of my lens.

  • Statues broken  by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius

    Although anachronistic, I found Mitoraj’s bronze sculptures drawing me into the Vesuvian story. A moment in time frozen for almost 2000 years, makes quite a unique and intriguing historical archive. The almost instant death of the local inhabitants of Pompeii reveals the human tragedy that can be overlooked when contemplating only archeological artifacts.

  • A hole in a stone wall reveals a vineyard planted many years ago

    An ancient breach in an even more ancient timeworn wall reveals verdant vineyards that, I imagine, appear almost identical to original crops. This figurative window to the past drew me in artistically as well as historically.

  • The color and decay that is typical of the ancient city of Venice, Italy

    Layers of History: Tint, tone, texture and time all come together in a limitless array of still-life compositions competing for your attention as your gondola slips gently through the Venetian canals. The unrelenting weathering of a doorway and exposure of timeworn brick reveals stories from days long past.

  • At sunset, a lighthouse on the island of Capri, off the coast of Italy.

    One of the best decisions we made was to rent a rigid-hulled inflatable boat, rather than take the commercial ferry to the island of Capri. This allowed us to explore where we wanted, at a pace we enjoyed. Waiting just a few minutes for the light to more fully develop left me with images that captured the emotion of being there, emphasizing the deep textural quality of the steep rock face.

  • The coastal town of Santa Mariella, Italy

    Our extended-stay locations were usually prearranged. Occasionally, while on the road for a few days, we’d just be impromptu for the night. Santa Mariella was one of those extemporaneous experiences that added to the excitement and adventure.

  • One of the Cinque Terre towns on the coast, the fishing village of Vernazza, Italy, at low tide.

    The little fishing village of Vernazza is one of five ancient coastal cities, collectively know as Cinque Terre. The romantic colorful houses give one a feeling of peace, which is in contrast with the fortifications still evident from the days of pirate attacks.

  • Of paramount importance in the “Italy adventure” is experiencing the food. My preference is the mama-and-papa, family-owned ristorante, where mama still uses grandma’s recipes, to create memorable culinary delights. Papa is out at the tables making everyone feel like family and the kids are serving food.

  • The village of Plati in the mountains of southeastern Italy.

    Off the beaten path and nestled in the rocky mountain slopes of southeastern Italy is the colorful and picturesque little village of Plati, where my grandparents grew up. My father was only 11 months old when his parents brought him to South Bend, Indiana looking to improve opportunities for him and future generations.

    To see more of Paul's photography, go to

  • The arch of a centuries old bridge frames a Venice canal scene

    A group of my friends and I took a gondola ride and half the time was spent in silence because we were all just trying to soak it in (not the water of course… because, gross!) Our gondolier laughed and flat out refused when my friend requested that he sing like in the movies. We were still satisfied customers because he navigated the canals like a pro.

  • Florence Italy cityscape

    When I first got to Florence I didn’t like it. I thought it was too crowded, but it quickly grew on me. When you turn corners you’re overcome with the scents of fresh pastries, coffee, and pizza. Then there are the views, like this one, that just take your breath away.

  • If you’re ever in Florence, visiting Gelateria La Carraia is a must. I loved to sit on Ponte Alla Carraia to eat my gelato and “people watch”.I’ve always been nosey, so I eavesdrop on the regular. However, I could consider it educational because I would listen to Italian and try to translate in my mind.

  • This little shop would switch out the dresses every few weeks. They were all absolutely gorgeous. I would always window-shop because they were rarely open. When I finally got to go in, all my dreams of owning one died when I saw the price tags.

  • These are my friends John Michael and Kaitlin. We met at our school, Villa Aurora. Their one-year anniversary of dating was coming up. John Michael asked me to help him surprise Kaitlin with a couple’s photo session. We wandered the streets joking and laughing while I snapped photos of them being adorable, per usual. They got married this summer and it was perfect.

  • Vespas (an Italian brand of scooters) are everywhere in Italy. This particular street consistently had a lineup of at least fifty. I was always a little concerned that I’d somehow trip and bump one, causing them all to fall like dominos. Luckily this never happened.

  • During Christmastime, Florence puts up a huge tree by the cathedral, “Il Duomo,” with strands of lights and stars floating over all the streets. Vendors come for the Christmas Markets with homemade trinkets and everyone just slowly wanders from vendor to vendor, buying things while snacking and drinking.

  • When my family came to visit, we got to travel to Platì where my great grandparents were married and my grandfather was born. We have family there that we had never met and they were kind enough to feed us and show us around. I was fascinated by the colors of these doors and the plant reminded me of Jack and the Beanstalk.

    I felt so at home in Italy when I realized that there, it’s “normal” to eat a whole pizza by yourself. In fact, it’s frowned upon not to. Everything is fresh and it’s nothing like American pizza, which has an inch of cheese and grease. I highly recommend Gusta Pizza in Florence. How I lost weight there is a mystery.

    I find little old Italian men so endearing. Whenever I saw one, I just had to take a photo because they have so much character. They probably have so many stories to tell. I wish the pasta man were my grandfather so that I could hear his stories over a bowl of fresh pasta.

  • To see more of Danielle's photography or to contact her, go to:

  • I’m obsessed with textures, so as we walked along a cliff by the ocean and saw the beautiful blue water crashing into rocks filled with gorgeous colors, I couldn’t resist taking a shot.

  • Ancient walls in Pompeii, Italy

    Pompeii – As we were walking around this ancient city frozen in time, this man captured my attention. The way he walked alone and his posture created an instant image in my mind that I was fortunate enough to be able to capture and share with you.

  • Photos don’t always come out the way I first imagine them, as was the case for this picture. While we were driving down the highway, the fog in the mountains was creating a perfect black-and-white image. Not until I cropped it and focused on the silhouettes of the trees, and the lines where one hill crossed in front or behind the other, did it come to fruition.

  • Florence, Italy at sunset

    Florence – As we walked to the replica of the statue of David the sun started setting, creating this warm “golden hour” color effect on the entire city of Florence. I knew I wanted a shot, but not just any picture of the city. I framed my image with something that would make it feel as if you were standing right there looking over the scene.

  • Florence – Just after finishing an amazing pasta meal we decided to go for a short walk around the beach. The waves and wind started picking up and the sky grew darker as a storm approached. I loved the bright happy colors contrasted with the dark mountains and clouds in the background.

    Gazing upwards is something I often forget to do, but rarely does it disappoint. The streets in Italy are filled with old buildings that contain so many textures. There are countless stories hidden in these walls.

  • Of course, if you go to Italy you have to go to Venice. If you go to Venice you have to go on a gondola ride through the water-filled streets. While on the boat, you instantly feel as if you’re a part of the Venetian culture.

  • Manarola, the smallest of the five towns known as Cinque Terre

    This is probably my favorite image from our time in Italy. I took this in Manarola, which is the smallest of the five towns famously known as Cinque Terre. It was almost completely dark outside when this image was taken, so I was forced to use a long exposure. This also helped create the smooth surface of the water as well as the starburst flares in the city lights.

    To see more of Gabriel's photography, go to:


    The Buchanan Art Center, Buchanan, Michigan will host an exhibit of the Sergio family's photography from Wednesday, January 2nd through Saturday, February 16th, 2019, with an open reception on Sunday, January 13th.

    Visit for additional information.



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