La Nostra Costa, Santa Cruz North Coast

La Nostra CostaIvano Franco Comelli‘s La Nostra Costa (our coast) sticks an Italian flag in the coast north of Santa Cruz.  Ivano Comelli is “un figlio della costa (son of the coast), born and raised on a brussel sprouts rancio.”

Ivano’s family lived on the Coast Road from 1937 to 1953 amongst other ranceri and amici della costa. “Italians who lived on or near the Coast Road would often say that they lived su per la costa, up the coast.” The family home was located on The Gulch Ranch, Il Golce.

“Our single-story batten and board-house had only about 1,200 square feet of actual living space and was separated from the Coast Road by a small patch of lawn, which in turn was surrounded by three sides by a hedge of tall juniper plants. These thick, woody plants shielded the house, somewhat, from the dusty wind, but did little to mitigate the constant noise that was generated by passing vehicles. There were far fewer vehicles on the road in those days; however, it still had a significant amount of traffic.”

Southbound cement trucks traveling the Coast Road to Santa Cruz from Davenport’s Portland Cement Plant would “descend into the gulch and climb a steep grade on the other side. Our house was located right at the top of the grade where the trucks completed their climb. Many times a truck going by was so noisy that our single wall house literally shook on its foundation. Mercifully, when the highway was rebuilt in the latter part of the 1950s, this particular portion of the gulch was mostly filled with rock and sand. The present roadway has a slight dip, but no longer does it have that steep descent.”

La Nostra Costa provides old photos and tells stories of daily life along the coast ranches and in old Davenport. Some things change, some things remain the same: access to beaches bordered by privately-owned land, nudism and sex on the beach while being spied upon from above by boys on the bluff, automobile accidents on the Coast Road, good food and Localism.

During World War II, being immigrants without U.S. Citizenship, these Italians were not allowed west of the Coast Road. “The entire coast from the Oregon border to just below Santa Barbara was declared off-limits to enemy aliens effective February 24, 1942.”

La Nostra Costa may be found at Bookshop Santa Cruz and via a few other venues.  Ivano also maintains a blog.

7 thoughts on “La Nostra Costa, Santa Cruz North Coast

  1. The Italian village of Santa Cruz have distinct origins. In the – A Day On The Bay – History of the Santa Cruz Italian Fiishing Colony, this work documented this one colony as the Pacific-America example of global chain migration from the village of Riva Trigoso. I encourage you to identify the village of origin to explain the transplantation of the ag-economy from the coastal area of Lucca. If you need assistance, I would contribute the knowldege framework for push-pull analysisto report the findings. The Santa Cruz area had four Italian villages with discinct economies: the Wharf & Capitola for the Riva Trigoso people, the Coast Roaders with sprouts and ‘chokes mostly from Lucca in the 1920s — who followed the Swiss – Italians. Did the Fruiliani have another ag-economy such as cattle. Then the Italian Gardens were from Piedmonte. The Bonny Doon community was hill people from near Genova (such as Valbrevenna). Again, I am glad to see you are having fun and hope you may expand the story to show the connections that open local windows to learning world geography.

  2. Thank you so much, Ivano! To keep the post true, I’ve deleted the offending sentence, “Many of the Italianos along this stretch of coast came to America, before World War II, from the northeastern region of Friuli.”

    Take Care,

  3. Hi Anneliese and Riccardo:: I don’t think I ever asserted in my book that the transfer of the ag-economy to the Santa Cruz’s North Coast came from the Friuli Region. In fact, I stated that the majority of “Ranceri” (Italian Coastal Ranchers) were from the Tuscany Region of Italy (LNC: Page 64.). The Friulian “Rancere” was in the minority, which (as I cite in the book) sometimes caused friction between the “Furlans” and the “Toscani” LNC: P.139.). Thanks Riccardo for your inquiry. If interested “La Nostra Costa” (Our Coast) is now available in e-book format via

  4. Ciao Riccardo! I wrote, “Many of the Italianos along this stretch of coast came to America, before World War II, from the northeastern region of Friuli.”

    “Many” not all. My citation is the book reviewed above, written by a Friulian, Ivano Comelli.

    I’ll mention to Ivano to come over here and set it all straight, as I think he also wrote that there were many Friulians, but not everyone who farmed the coast lands was Friulian.

  5. Ciao! What is this statement that the Coast Roaders cam from Friuli???

    I believe this is an error. The villages of origin are along the coast of Lucca where they once produced the sprouts and artichokes. Please explain your citation! I knew all these people. The transfer of ag-economy is definitely from the Lucchesia coast.

  6. Thanks for posting a review of my book, “La Nostra Costa” on your beautiful website. As you know the Coast Road is full of historical events.
    I cover a few in the book. Those who are familier with the Coast Road today may find the events I desscribe useful when travelling the “New” Coast Road. Some of my readers have commented that the book is kind of a “historical” travel log to a time all but forgotten. Thanks again and ‘sempre avanti.’ ivano franco comelli

  7. Considering how much East Coast Italians dominate the media arts, it was refreshing to read about West Coast Italians.

    Grazie. Ho piaciuto questo articolo tanto tanto.

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