Les Anciennes Familles Italiennes de Turquie [The Former Italian Families of Turkey] - Willy Sperco

Original French version

Among the Italians who currently live in Turkey, many are those whose ancestors left Genoa, of Venice and other towns of Italy, in some cases over five hundred years ago, migrated along with temporary occupancy the islands of Chios, Tinos, Syra, Rhodes, Cyprus and finally electing their residence to be in Istanbul and Izmir.

It appeared interesting for me to know the origin, to follow the traces of these families through certain documents which one can still find in the files of the Catholic churches and the consulates.

For the history of the establishment of Italian families, numerous works have been published. Most known are: “Storia delle Colony Genovesi nel Mediterraneo” [The history of the Genoese colonies of the Mediterranean] of Roberto Lopez, “It Dominio Veneziano di Levante” [The domination of Venice of the Levant] of Bruno Dudan, “Histoire du Commerce du Levant au Moyen-Age” [History of the Trade of the Levant of the Middle Ages] of W Heyd, “Les Colonies Vénitiennes de Constantinople” [the Venetian Colonies of Constantinople at the end of XIVème century], in the “Etudes Byzantines” [Byzantine Studies] of Charles Diehl, “Notes sur la Colonie Gênoise de Péra” [Notes on the Genoese Colony of Pera] of Jean Sauvaget, “Questions Historiques” [Historical Questions] of Fustel de Coulanges, the “Relatione della Stato della Christianità di Péra E Constantinopoli” [State of Christianity in Pera and Constantinople] and the “Magnifica Communita di Péra” [Magnificient community of Pera] published by M.C. Dalleggio-of Alessio, “In Giro per I Mar Egeo idiot Vincenzo Coronelli” [A turn for the Aegean Sea by Vincenzo Coronelli] of Armao, who was Consul-General of Italy here, in 1935 and 1936, “It Dominio dei Giustiniani” [The dominion of the Giustinianis] of Giovanni Filippucci-Giustiniani, “Les Principautés Franques du Levant” [The Frankish principalities of the Levant] by G. Schlumberger, “Histoire de la Latinité de Constantinople” [History of Latin Constantinople] of M.M.A. Balin and remarkable works of Mr. Philip P. Argenti: “The Expedition of the Florentines to Chios (1599)”, “The Occupation of Chios by the Venetians (1694)” which is a very invaluable collection of documents drawn from the files of Venice and the principal European states. Finally the “Istoria tis Chios” [History of Chios] of Georghio Zalota, “Sur les routes d’Asie” [On the roads of Asia] of Gaston Deschamps.

These works and many others are still easily accessible. However to document in detail the origin and the ramifications of the Italian families established in Turkey for more than five hundred years it had been necessary to make a move, because the majority of the families in question were in Chios, before being established in Istanbul and Izmir. I thus decided to go to Chios.

It is easy to reach this island by Pireaus. However, there is a faster way, that from Izmir. From Çesme on the coast of Anatolia, the crossing to Chios can be done in two hours maximum. I had dispatched for a Greek sail-ship and I received confirmation that the vessel was at my disposal at Çesme. I left Izmir, happy to see closely the cradle of so much of these known and related families.

I couldn’t resist the pleasure of evoking memories of my small voyage to come. I left Konak square, Izmir at midday in a taxi .

Mehmet, an excellent driver with whom I had traversed right across the Vilayet, promised an excellent road and a voyage of two hours at most. We passed the villas of the rich Turkish traders who live in the suburb of Güzel Yalı are surrounded by extensive gardens. Some are staged on the slopes of the hill, others border the gulf and generally are prolonged by a small pier and a cabin. Thus the happy inhabitants of Güzel Yalı can in the morning, midday and evening, fish, have their meals and to rest after the bathe, without leaving their residences. We are soon out of the city, and we pass by the beach of Indjir Altı always well frequented in the summer.

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