I’ve always been extremely interested in my family history. It’s hard to keep up with sometimes because, like your typical American, they come from soooo may different places. One family line that has always kept their history alive is the Champion, or Campeoni family.
The Champions came from Rovinj, Croatia, which was known as Rovingo, Venezia at the time. When their hometown was being conquered by the Austrians, the matriarch of my family sent her six sons to America because she couldn’t bear the thought of them wearing the Austrian uniform.
The sons landed in New Orleans and eventually made their way to Texas. They founded the town I graduated high school in, Port Isabel. I wrote a little more about them here.
There are now a grip of Champion descendents in South Texas and elsewhere in the United States. I’m friends with a lot of my extended cousins on Facebook, some of whom have taken a sort of pilgrimage to Rovinj, Croatia to see where our ancestors came from. Ever since I learned about our history, visiting Rovinj is something I’ve also really wanted to do. I finally got my chance during my trip to Italy a few weeks ago.
Rovinj is a gorgeous little town on the Adriatic Sea, about 2.5 hours from Venice. It used to be an island, but was later artificially connected to the mainland of Croatia. The houses come right up to the sea, and I can only imagine how lovely it must be to look out one of those windows every morning.
You can’t drive anywhere in the actual town. The roads are cobblestone and very narrow. At the top of the hill in the center of the town stands the St. Euphemia Basilica. St. Euphemia is the matron saint of Rovingo, who was killed for her faith under Emporor Diocletian in the 3rd Century. My great-great-great grandmother was named after her, as are many women from Rovingo.
I was so stoked to go up the belltower of the Basilica. It’s something that a few of my cousins who visited Rovinj have also done. The steps are really thin, almost like a ladder, and it is a bit of a workout to get up there… at least for a preggers like me. The views at the top were amazing.
After leaving the basilica we went down to the ocean. There were a lot of people sunbathing and swimming, though. We probably would have too if we had more time.
Visiting one of the towns my ancestors came from was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity, and I hope I can spend more time there again with my children when they’re older.