Here's an old article about an alleged 'Contessa'. Any input?
The countess diaries: Natick woman finds out she is Italian royalty
By Sarah MacDonald / News Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 31, 2004
NATICK -- Seven years ago, Dawn Vivo Amore had hit rock bottom. She was getting divorced and recovering from a car accident which left her in physical therapy and unemployed.
Then one day, as she was hanging out in a friend's coffee shop, she remembered the stories her grandmother told her about Italy, her family's native land.
"I don't know, I just asked for a piece of paper and started writing, something like 'Hi, my name is Dawn Vivo Amore and I am looking for my family. I know my grandfather's name and that his relatives' names started with a P and they're from Corfini. Can you help me find any information?' I faxed it to the town and got a reply back in 20 minutes," Vivo Amore said.
The reply directed Vivo Amore to contact Antonio Varrasso, a historian who had been researching her family -- Italian royalty who ruled central southern Italy -- for years.
What Varrasso told Vivo Amore -- that she was entitled to be recognized as a Countess de Castiglione a Casauria -- began a whirlwind of change for the single mom and former customer service representative.
Next month, a Hollywood studio will finalize a contract to turn the story of the Countess Aurora De Petris-Fraggianni Vivo Amore into a movie. This fall, a book about the countess' life -- written by Natick resident Carmine Trubiano -- will be published.
"One day you're sitting there with a beat-up 1987 Honda Civic and then everything has changed. I was in shock," said Vivo Amore, who, at 35, does not fit the stereotype of a countess. "This only happens to Cinderella. This doesn't happen to me."
But, because of her relation to a family that at one point employed 14,000 peasants throughout its land and castles, it does.
The story begins with Count Lorenzo De Petris-Fraggianni, who lived in Castiglione, Italy, until his death in 1927.
The count married a woman who was unable to bear children, though his extramarital activities led to offspring. One of Lorenzo's mistresses', a famous opera singer, gave birth to a boy, Felice Vivo Amore, before the turn of the 20th century.
Lorenzo tried to convince his wife to recognize Felice as a blood heir, but she refused. Instead, the boy went through private and military schools before settling down in Leominster, Mass., where a number of immigrants from the region had gone. He got married, had children and died, all without recognition of his heritage.
When Count Lorenzo died, so did the royal line -- until Dawn Vivo Amore showed up.
"For three generations nobody cared, nobody asked, nobody wanted to know where they came from," said Natick's Trubiano, whose family is from Castiglione and who translated when Vivo Amore and Varrasso spoke.
While there are other Vivo Amore blood relatives, some more direct descendants than Dawn, royal rules say only one person can be countess at a time, Trubiano said.
"There is one contessa and she has been recognized by the Italian government," he said.
Vivo Amore traveled to Italy to meet some of the people who had cared for the count until his death.
"As soon as they opened the door, they saw the resemblance," Trubiano said. "They were just stunned."
Still something was off.
"She couldn't go to Italy and be Dawn. It sounds weird, Contessa Dawn," Trubiano said.
So Vivo Amore changed her name to its Italian translation, Aurora.
There's no family fortune and the modern-day Italian government does not recognize royal titles. Still, Vivo Amore received her family's section of a palace in Castiglione and can stay there whenever she likes.
Perhaps the biggest change is the treatment she receives.
"I live in the world where I go to work every day and I live in a world where people bow to me," said Vivo Amore, who now lives in Leominster. "It's always in the back of my mind. I am still the same person but there's this other part. I feel I've grown into the role."
In that role, Vivo Amore travels and speaks to school and civic groups about the importance of heritage. She is raising her children, 10-year-old Michael and 2-year-old Destina, while working with King Juan Carlos of Spain to determine whether there is a link between the royal families.
She hopes to begin marketing Italian products in this country and is preparing her children to continue the family line.
"I used to be just like everybody else. By chance, by destiny, this became my life," Vivo Amore said. "There will be no stopping now."