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Couple shares love of island with daughter named Sanibel

By Staff | Jul 14, 2010

Sanibel Silenzi pauses to smell a flower in the garden at BIG Arts last week. The 6-year-old from Bradenton was visiting her island namesake for just the second time.

For the first time in her life, in late June, Sanibel visited Sanibel. Then last week, she traveled to her namesake island once again.

Confused? Don’t be.

Sanibel Silenzi, you see, is an energetic 6-year-old girl who lives in Bradenton, Fla. Both she and her older sister, Savannah, were named by their parents after places that are near and dear to their hearts.

However, only a short while ago, Sanibel had never visited Sanibel before.

That makes sense now, right?

The Silenzi family — Trina, Eric, Sanibel and Savannah — pose for a portrait on the front porch of Rutland House.

"We honeymooned here on the island," explained Eric Silenzi. "We had heard how pretty it was, and we didn’t want to travel too far."

Eric and wife, Trina, who were wed in 2000, grew up together in the Bradenton area and met through mutual friends from Manatee High School. After they planned to be married, the couple were searching for a romantic getaway spot they could drive to. A former professional acquaintance of Eric’s owned a condominium on Sanibel, and offered them the use of it as a wedding present.

"The island has always meant so much to us," Trina added.

When the couple welcomed their first daughter, they decided to name her after the city where Eric proposed to Trina: Savannah, Ga.

"It’s also the name of Jimmy Buffett’s oldest daughter," noted Eric.

Asked if she had ever visited Savannah before, their 14-year-old smiled and nodded. "I love Savannah because it has so many old and historic biuildings," she said.

But when the Silenzi family was preparing for their second child, they originally had planned to select a name by a more conventional method. However, in the months leading up to Sanibel’s birth, they still hadn’t settled on a name.

On the day that Trina was taken to the hospital after she went into labor, Eric had stopped en route to be by his wife’s side at their local library. Pulling a few baby name books off the shelf and scribbling down a top 10 list of suggested names, he finally arrived at the hospital.

"I wrote down the names on a dry erase board in her room," said Eric, explaining that as family, friends and even hospital staff members offered their opinions on his suggested list, names would either receive check marks next to them — for positive votes — or would be erased altogether.

Yet even as Trina was minutes away from delivery, the couple still hadn’t made a final decision.

Then, almost simultaneously, the name "Sanibel" was uttered.

"It’s such a beautiful name, and such a beautiful island," Trina added, smiling.

Without rhyme or reason, however, it took the family more than six years to make their way back to Sanibel. Last month, the Silenzi’s spent a day on the island, visiting Lighthouse Beach, enjoying lunch at The Island Cow and doing a little bit of shopping.

"I liked shopping the best," said Sanibel. "We bought some shells — a big shell and a pink shell — and I got a lot of things with my name on it."

Last week, the foursome toured the Sanibel Historical Museum & Village and planned to make stops at the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, CROW’s Healing Winds Visitor Education Center and the Sanibel Recreation Center. They also said that they’ll be back on the island again more frequently in the future.

That’s because Sanibel loves Sanibel.