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La Nostra Costa (Our Coast): A Family's Journey to and From the North Coast of Santa
Cruz, California (1923-1983)
by Ivano Franco Comelli
Ivan's book is recommended reading in conjunction with Memories of the Mountain by The Ladies of Bonny
Doon Club. Here are some enticing tidbits from Ivan that tie the two together (paraphrased from his
From Ivan's email of April 30, 2006:
My book "La Nostra Costa" (Our Coast) is about my family's journey to Davenport and the North Coast and
roughly covers the period 1923 to 1983. It mentions Bonny Doon (with pictures of Italian families
picnicking on the old Iacopetti property in Boony Doon.) It also includes a humorous story which
occurred behind the Iacopetti Store later to become the "Lost Weekend Bar" and now the Bonny Doon Vineyard
Tasting Room. I also write about the tragic events which happened in 1947 to certain members of the
Delucca and Rocchi families which are pictured in a photo on page 101 of "Memories Of The Mountains."
I think the two books "Memories of the Mountains" and "La Nostra Costa" compliment each other. I am
certain that people familiar with Boony Doon and/or the Coast would enjoy both."
Thank you. Ivano Franco Comelli
Ivano Franco Comelli is the author of La Nostra Costa (Our Coast), published by Authorhouse,
www.authorhouse.com, telephone: 1-888-280-7715.
Also available in the Santa Cruz Area at Agnus Dei Christian and Capitola-Cafe Bookstores.
From Ivan's email of May 1, 2006 was after he had been in touch with Jim Silva, whose mother is in the
picture on page 101 of Memories of the Mountain:
Yes, I have been in touch with Jim. He put me in touch with his cousin Peter Raffin, Norma Rocchi
Raffin's son. I hadn't talked to him since the Raffin murder in 1947. He informed me that his
younger brother Richard had passed away two years ago. He was very gracious, however, he didn't talk
much about his mother's death. His wife Violet informed me that it has only been recently since Peter
has started talking about the incident. She told me that Peter was in the backyard of house and
actually heard the shots when it happened. That kind of sent chills up and down my spine. What a
As for the book, it "can be had" locally at Esther (Frizza) Wilson's bookshop at Agnus Dei Christian
Bookstore, 138 Walnut Avenue, Santa Cruz, 831-457-2636 (This beautiful shop is located in the old White's
Mortuary Building. Talk about "Ghosts of the Coast.), or the Capitola-Cafe Book Store on 41st Avenue,
831-4415 (ask for Judy Stenovich).
You can also include my e-mail address
firstname.lastname@example.org, for those who wish to communicate with the
"author". I welcome comments good, bad, or indifferent. [...] Thanks for your help. Ivan
Following is a press release from Authorhouse.Com, the publisher. Order from Authorhouse.Com: Paperback
(6x9) $13.80 ISBN:1420879766 or Dust Jacket Hardcover (6x9) $18.50 ISBN:1420881922
La Nostra Costa (Our Coast) by Ivano Franco Comelli
Cultivating a Dream on the California Coast
Author's Family History Provides Insight into Italian-American Life in Santa Cruz, Calif.
SAN JOSE, Calif. - Santa Cruz is well known today as a relaxed college town. But this coastal city has
also become home to numerous Italian immigrants who began their American dream. Ivano Franco Comelli
shares personal history and sheds light on the plight of new Americans in La Nostra Costa (Our Coast): A
Family's Journey to and from the North Coast of Santa Cruz, California (1923-1983).
Comelli, a retired San Jose police officer, begins this fascinating true story in Nimis, a small agricultural
village in the northeast region of Italy known as Friuli. The year was 1923, and Benito Mussolini had
just seized power. Comelli's father, Gervasio, had a choice to make. Either re-enlist in the Army
or seek a new life in America. He chose the latter.
La Nostra Costa (Our Coast) offers a lively account of Gervasio's beginnings in a new land, from his early
days as a ranch hand to his return to Italy, where he met his wife, Valentina Bressani. When the eager
young bride joined her husband in America during the Great Depression, all that awaited her were hard work
and "infernal coastal winds." Using historical events and intertwining local family names with
historical figures both famous and infamous, Comelli brings to life the true and adventurous story of the
Italian immigrants who settled and worked "su per la costa" or "up the coast." He recounts his youthful
perspective of what it felt like to be declared enemy aliens during World War II; describes what it was like
for his family in Italy to live under Nazi occupation forces; and details the story of Valentina's youngest
sister, who survived the war only to be wrongfully branded a collaborator by Italian partisans. These
and other stories, as well as stirring photographs, serve to open people's eyes to an incredible family story
and the saga of an entire culture.
Readers follow Comelli's story into adulthood, when he left "la costa" behind to begin life with the San Jose
Police Force. In chilling detail, he describes how certain violent acts, such as the assassination of
his best friend, changed his life forever. From an innocent childhood in an immigrant household to a
career in the murky world of crime and punishment, La Nostra Costa (Our Coast) takes readers on an
Comelli graduated from San Jose State College with a bachelor's degree in law enforcement and served 30
years with the San Jose Police Department, rising to the rank of captain. In 2001, his article, "Wrong
Side of the Highway," was published in the book, Una Storia Segreta: The Secret History of Italian American
Evacuation and Internment during World War II (Heyday Books). La Nostra Costa (Our Coast) is his first
book. He currently lives with his wife, Mildred, in Monterey, California.
'La Nostra Costa (Our Coast)' offers glimpse into older Italian generation
Saturday, May 20, 2006 ... By Katie Niekerk, Lifestyles editor for the Gilroy Dispatch, Hollister Free
Lance, and Morgan Hill Times
Comments or questions for Katie Niekerk can be directed to (408) 842-9404 or
With the recent debates surrounding immigration, it can be easy to forget that those who travel here from
other countries have stories, families and beliefs that have molded them into who they are today. But
Morgan Hill resident Ivano Franco Comelli has made it his goal to share the personal histories of Italian
immigrants who sought their American dream on Santa Cruz's northern coast.
Comelli, a retired San Jose police officer, is the author of "La Nostra Costa (Our Coast): A Family's Journey
to and from the North Coast of Santa Cruz, California (1923-1983)." The true story begins in Nimis, a
small agricultural village in the northeast region of Italy. Benito Mussolini had just seized power,
and Comelli's father, Gervasio, had to make a choice: re-enlist in the army or seek a new life in
America. He chose the latter.
"La Nostra Costa (Our Coast)" narrates Gervasio's beginnings in a new place, from his early days as a ranch
hand to his return to Italy, where he met his wife, Valentina Bressani. The book goes on to depict the
true stories of other Italian immigrants who settled and worked up the coast. Comelli also describes
what it was like to live in Italy under Nazi occupation forces and what it felt like to be declared enemy
aliens during World War II.
Comelli's life as an adult has also been full of adventure and life-changing experiences while working with
the San Jose Police Department.
Comelli, born in Santa Cruz, lived in Monterey County for the past 11 years before moving to Morgan Hill
about a year ago to be closer to his seven grandsons, all who live in Morgan Hill. His daughter and
son-in-law, Madeline and Chris Fritter, are longtime residents of Gilroy.
"I had a lot of memories about the coast, and the prime reason I wrote the book is I wanted to put them down
so that future generations will know about the coast as it was, especially coastal farming," Comelli said.