Costantino is kidnapped

How brigands from Itri affected the whole future of the Forte family

In 1806 feudalism was abolished and consequently all the power
struggles between the Princes, the Abbots of Monte Cassino and
the Church of Rome.   Brigandry was rife during this period and our
mountains became a thoroughfare for looters and thieves.   This
continued intermittently for many years and was at its worst when Italy
became a Kingdom in 1861, when there was considerable political
unrest particularly in southern Italy.

It was at that time that an event took place in Mortale, which,
unbeknown at the time, changed the fate of the whole Forte family thereafter.

In 1861, self-appointed soldiers roamed the area supporting the unification of Italy.  At the same time, a large number of brigands roamed the mountains and terrorised local villages.  At this time, the 'elder stateseman' of Mortale was the son of Marco Antonio Forte, Luigi Natale, who was born on 25th December 1811 and lived in Il Portone.  He was an important man in the village and some brigands from Itri, near Latina, planned to kidnap Luigi's 21-year-old and eldest son, Michelangelo Antonio Forte.  However, the plan went wrong and it was the son of Andrea, Luigi Natale's older brother, who was captured.  Indeed, whilst riding beyond the village confines, it was 12 year old, Costantino, who fell into the hands of the brigands and was taken up to a hiding place on Mount La Meta above Picinisco.  It was not long before a ransom note arrived back in Mortale.  The demand was for several thousand ducats, a huge sum of money, with the brutally frank threat that they would cut off the boy's ear if it was ignored.  If they had to ask a second time, it would be his nose.

Luigi Natale called a meeting of the whole family and there was no choice but to find the money.  It was quickly decided that they would sell the family's assets.  Jewellery was traded in, land and property was mortgaged and sheep and horses were sold, however, they were still far short of the required amount and so a large amount of money had to be borrowed from somewhere.  They turned to a wealthy family, called Visocchi, who were friends of Luigi and owned a large proportion of Atina.  The money was amassed and sent off to the brigands.  Costantino was duly returned in a traumatised state and, despite developing a heart condition in later life, fathered seven children, including Arcangelo (Pop from Bournemouth), Giacomo (Dalkeith, Barry Island), Vittoria, Giovanella, Maria (Portrush), Nina and Pace.  He lived to the ripe old age of 92 and is buried in the cemetery at Santa Caterina. 

Luigi's son, Antonio, rounded up many of the local men and led them into the mountains but the brigands were gone for good and the cost to the family was huge.  The family continued to work hard, but with very few assets to their name, they struggled to produce enough surplus to pay off their debts.  Added to this, the agricultural scene was changing and the introduction of mechanisation reduced the need for horses, and so the Fortes began to look elsewhere.  This was the start of the emigration process away from the area and it was to continue for many years as villagers took the brave decision to venture beyond their local area in search of greater prosperity. 

Once the Fortes had established themselves in other areas of Europe, they began to send surplus money home and the Visocchi debt was settled.  Who knows what might have happened had Costantino not been kidnapped?  As to the brigands, they were later brought to trial after Costantino recognised the woman who was in their gang.  She had been the one who had looked after him during the kidnap.

© 2010 Paul Forte

Costantino Forte
28 Jun 1849 - 27 Mar 1942

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Brigands from the local area