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Who Was Valentino Flor?

May 8, 2020

In my genealogy studies, I have tried to shed some light on Valentino Flor. Who was Valentino Flor? To begin with he was the brother of my grandmother. He was born in the small village of Brez in what was then Austria (now Italy) on October 31, 1862. His parents were Angelo Raffaele Flor and Maria  Avanzini, both of Brez.  As one of eight children, Valentino excelled in his studies as a young man and prepared himself for a successful life.

By the age of 35, he became cancellista (equivalent to state’s attorney) and was stationed in the town of Fondo under the Austrian Hungarian Empire. Previously, he had been Serentenei Cacciatori (In charge of hunting in the Val di Non) As such, he held considerable legal power throughout the entire Val di Non in both positions.

It is not known where he obtained his legal degree, although the birth of his daughter Anna Giuseppina on January 26. 1896 gives some clue. She was the youngest of three children and unlike the other two who were born at the family’s house in Don, she was born in the large city of Trento. Trento served as the administrative center for what was to be the Province of Trento which included the Val di Non. His legal training was probably gained at the University of Trento.

In addition to serving under Emperor Franz Josef of Austria, Valentino was also the attorney of record for real estate transactions of  his brother-in-law, Emanuele Bertagnolli, involving the purchase of property at Lago di Tret on October 6, 1914. The property was acquired from Maria and Giuseppe Greiter as part of an estate sale of their father’s (Giuseppe, Sr.) assets. By all accounts, he was a very capable attorney and well thought of by his peers, clients and family alike. It is worth noting the Lago di Tret was formed when Emanuele Bertagnolli built a small dam downhill of a palu (alpine spring fed swamp).

His sister (my grandmother), Anna Maria Flor, had become a widow in 1912 when her husband (my grandfather) died at age 38 of a heart attack in the small village of Tret. Eight months later she gave birth to my father, Eugene Valentino Rizzi on April 1, 1913. Things became even more difficult for my grandmother when her daughter died at age 14 in the same year, coincidentally at the same dining table in Tret, also of a heart attack.

My grandmother then retreated to one of her three houses in the nearby city of Meran. She had purchased these three houses with her husband and the help of Valentino in 1898. One house was the Villa Gustav which was an enormous estate that included one of Meran’s largest vineyards. Valentino had financial interest in all three houses and had moved into one of the two houses located on Klosterstige.

Unfortunately, after the death of her husband and daughter, World War I swiftly made its way to the area, creating even more financial and social disaster. My grandmother remarried a local militia commander in 1917 but this man beat her continually and the marriage was annulled within a year. Badly broken, she called upon her brother to help her during the war. Because Valentino basically worked under Emperor Franz Josef, he convinced his sister to put all of her considerable money (about eight million in inflation adjusted dollars) into German war bonds. Obviously, as a result she lost every penny of her savings. My grandmother then left her native Austria, which had become Italy in 1918, on a ship bound for America in 1921 never to return. She traveled with two of her sons, my father and his brother Giorgio but left another son, Rinaldo, in Meran to tidy-up family business.

After 1918, Meran and all of the South Tirol became part of Italy. Overnight, the official language was changed from German to Italian and in places like Meran, an identity crisis and resentment of Italy grew.  On the left side of the Villa Gustav there remains a portion of what Valentino Flor had painted on the outside wall after the fall of Austria to Italy in World War I. It has been covered many times by many coats of paint, but the blunt block letters remain, oblivious to time. They read:

L’Italia non farà piu una politica di rinuncia e di viltà.

Italy won’t do (any) more politics of renouncement and cowardice.

Interestingly, the fate of Valentino is unknown to this day. He surely was still alive and living in Meran after October 4, 1914 and must have been present in 1916-1917 to give that fatal advice to his sister. He also wrote those infamous words on the Villa Gustav after 1918. But whatever became of him is unknown to the family. Several of his brother’s immigrated to Rock Springs, Wyoming along with other extended family members. As of this writing, I am still pouring over old archived documents in Meran and re-checking all the local cemeteries, including Meran and Don. So far, I haven’t found much.

His first-born daughter, Ortensia Emilia Germana Flor died in 1986. Remaining relatives have also died and along with them went the information I seek. Who was Valentino Flor? I know much but I don’t know how, where and why his life ended.

Photo: The balcony of the Villa Gustav, located in Meran, Italy. For more on the Villa Gustav, see: https://rizziallen.wordpress.com/2016/07/08/villa-gustavo/

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One Comment
  1. I hardly know where to begin. Such a tragic life you grandmother had! How strange for a 14-year-old girl to die of a heart attack.

    Good luck with your search for what happened to Valentino Flor. Such a man must have been noted somewhere with his passing.

    Liked by 1 person

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