a virtual walk around town
Once you have identified your ancestor's home town, you can check a few things using the internet. The Italian White Pages, "Pagine Bianche," allows you to search for telephone listings for persons in the town with the same last name as your ancestor. Don't be surprised if you find someone with the same first name, too. There is a custom of using the same first names repeatedly within the same family.
Then you can visit the Italian Yellow Pages, Pagine Gialle," to check for any businesses operated by someone with the same last name as your ancestor. This might also raise a coincidence or two. My book describes a relative of mine in Italy who is a professional guitarist, which seems to be an echo of the musical talents of my father and grandfather, who were excellent amateur guitarists. I know a family who were shocked to find a listing the Yellow Pages of their ancestral home in Italy for a graphic artist who shared their last name. Several members of the same family were well-known artists in the United States.
You can also try a search engine with the name of the town and your ancestor's last name. You might find a mayor or other prominent person. If there is a photograph on line, check it for any resemblance. When I met my first relative in Italy, I was struck by his resemblance to my father.
Each town in Italy has its own web site. You can search "Comune di" ("Town of" or "City of") followed by the name of the town in order to reach it. You will find pictures, information on population and local industries, and in some cases a listing of common last names in town.
The internet can let you take your first walk around your ancestor's home town.