Reflections – 11 days in Castelfranco

Blog #7 – Wednesday 5 July 2017

Although we left there on Sunday, it’s great to reflect on the busy and exciting time we had in Castelfranco.

Recording interviews

I recorded two interviews with people who lived on market gardens on Valetta Road, Kidman Park. One interview was with Irene Zampin and the other, with Remo Berno and Diana Berno. It was different to set up interviews in Italy and think about the kinds of questions to capture the memories of the interviewees growing up on the market gardens and their family connections to the Veneto community on Frogmore, Grange, Findon and Valetta Roads.

Irene Zampin, Caselle, 23 June 2017

Irene was 15 when she returned with her parents to live in Riese. She recalled walking to school at St Joseph’s in Captain Cook Avenue at Flinders Park and visits from her uncle Silvano and Auntie Millie and their big family and other people community who lived close by their home on the corner of Valetta and Findon Roads. She spent a year or so learning Italian in Riese – in a primary school class and with a private tutor. Irene reflected on the challenges of adjusting to life in Italy.


Remo described living on Valetta Road in the large house with his family and his uncle Alberto and zia Elvira and his cousins Johnny and Marisa. He gave very detailed memories

Remo & Diana Berno , Valla’,  27 June 2017

about the market garden and social events held in the Berno shed, and the numbers of young Italian men who stayed at the farm in the 1950s. Diana added her memories and showed she had a great memory considering she was 10 when her family returned to Riese.

Encounters and meetings

Quirino Bortolato, member of the Trevisani nel Mondo, was our conduit to research and meetings in Riese. Quirino has been to Adelaide three times and says a piece of his heart belongs there! We are so grateful to Quirino for his assistance. He arranged for us to go to the parish archives at Riese and the archivist there will send information on the Berno and Zampin families prior to the emigration of family members in the late 1920s. Quirino organised a meeting with the sindaco, Matteo Guidolin.

Madeleine & Quirino, Monument to emigrants, Riese, 30 June 2017

Matteo was very interested in the project and agreed to contact the mayors of other areas from where the veneti emigrated in the late 1920s and introduce the project. Matteo will organise a link to the Veneto market gardeners website from the Riese commune website. He may visit Adelaide in 2018 and would be interested to meet descendants from the Riese area. Quirino took Alex and me to see the monument to the emigrants of Riese – a strong acknowledgement of their lives. We also accompanied Quirino to a meeting with Gian Pietro Favaro, former mayor of Riese from 1977 to 1985, A Veneto Councillor and Italian Republic Senator. He was interested in the project because of the people from Riese who emigrated to Adelaide.

Library membership in the Province of Treviso

Alex and I spent time in the libraries at Riese and Castelfranco. I am now a signed up member of the network of libraries in the Province of Treviso! I even have a card! I ordered some archival documents from 1926-1928 and had to become a member to access the dusty brittle records. I’ll need to find more specific categories of documents next time we are in Castelfranco to make more use of my library membership.

Exhilaration at the Venice Biennale

We spent a day at the Biennale – and need four more at least! It was thrilling, inspiring and confronting.

A trip along the Brenta

Another day we drove along the Brenta River and got as close to the Venice lagoon as we could. In the car, instead of a boat trip as we did not like the look of the tour boat! We had a lovely meander looking at villages, one of the Villas, changes in the river and witnessed a spectacular summer storm while we had lunch at Dolo.

Our social life

We attended a jazz concert at Fasol Menin prosecco cantina at Valdobbiadene owned by relatives of the Mattiazzo family. It was a wonderful experience – a well known percussion player, Ray Manzillo, and five supporting musicians. In Castelfranco we found a different bar almost every night to enjoy an Aperol spritz. We do have a favourite bar now!

Now we are in Prato for the Australasian Centre of Italian Studies conference. More of that next blog…

Highlights of two weeks in June

Italy blog # 6 – Sunday 25 June 2017


Chioggia, monument to market gardeners

Two weeks ago we were in Chioggia, a city built in the 11th century or before – on water and fishing. It’s a really busy port with ships, working fishing boats of all sizes and pleasure craft, about an hour’s ferry ride to Venice. We witnessed a procession for the feast of the patron saint with religious and civic leaders in full regalia. We hired bikes on the island of Pellestrina and lunched in a trattoria under ancient oaks. Cycling in sparkling sunshine felt like being in a film: the lagoon on one side and richly coloured old houses on the other, or maybe shipyards or grassy spaces alongside canals. (See photos below)



 The Quintana at Foligno, a large city about 5 kms from Spello, is a community event held twice a year. Ten horsemen from each section of the city compete in a medieval competition in four rounds using a lance to catch metal rings. We watched a spectacular procession of horsemen and other people dressed in medieval costumes.

Not one but two Infiorata celebrations! We unexpectedly witnessed preparations for the flower carpets in Cannara, a small quiet village near Spello. The Infiorata in Spello has become famous as we learned in the narrow streets where we breathed as one with the surging crowd! The Infiorata celebrates the feast of Corpus Domini and on Saturday night in both villages, groups of all ages, including pre-schoolers, worked in teams placing flowers, dried seeds and other vegetable material on designs which had been drawn on paper or directly onto the streets.

In Spello nearly two kms of flower carpets were spread through steep narrow cobbled streets. Even after midnight we walked beside kneeling groups creating beautiful images. Sunday morning at Spello we joined the throng waiting for the procession accompanied by the village band. We walked past completed designs that had been entered in competitions. In Cannara, a smaller version. Later Sunday, kids on bikes were skidding through the carpets. Monday morning … everything had been cleaned up. The fleeting experiences of life! (See below for photos)


Travel agent, Foligno



Back in Castelfranco

On Friday Alex and I had haircuts. Not just by anyone but by Roberto, who with Guilia, his wife, lived in Adelaide for a year about ten years ago! Roberto is a friend of Alex’s hairdresser. After an extensive search up and down a long street, we located the salon. Giulia has relatives in Adelaide – the Figuera families, one of whom lives on Valetta Road.

I’ve recorded my first oral history interview in Italy. Irene Zampin provided great information about the family market garden, the Veneto community in the area and growing up in Adelaide. Her parents were market gardeners on the corner of Valetta and Findon Roads for about 20 years until 1967 when Irene was 15. The family, minus the eldest daughter who had married in Adelaide, returned to Riese.

Here until next Saturday, we have a few appointments including a visit to the parish archives, a meeting with the Mayor of Riese and another interview. And also preparation for the next conference, first week of July.

Cycling on Pellestrina Island, near Chioggia


   The Infiorata – two longer carpets at Cannara, and top right, at Spello. You can see the detail of the design which was gradually filled in with different coloured petals as indicated on the paper pattern on the ground.



Ravenna: mosaics, ideas and bikes

Part of ceiling, St Vitale

Italy blog # 5 – Sunday 11  June 2017

Ravenna hosted two concurrent conferences from 5th to 9th June: the 4th International Federation for Public History conference and the 1st Italian Association for Public History conference. Over 500 people attended from many different countries and particularly from Italy who presented mostly in Italian: professors, researchers, archivists and students both undergraduates and PhD candidates. There were not many Australians  but unusually, three of us were involved in the panel of which I was a member!

The conference was really fascinating – a big program and in nearly every session there were speakers whose second (or third!) language was English. The days began at 8.30 am and the last session finished at 6 pm.

I was quite pleased with my presentation. The three or four questions posed to the three panel members were about the political context of oral history and in my case, migration. I was also asked a question about interviewing people who had returned to live in the Veneto. I was able to say that I have lined up one interview for 23 June in the Veneto!

An Italian researcher working on a project in Berlin approached me after the session. She is researching the veneti who were conscripted to live and work in the Agro Pontina the swampy marshes near Rome, and also Libya during the Fascist years. She is interviewing people who experienced those years and will contact me about my project and see if there is any cross references with families from the Veneto who emigrated to Australia and people in her project.

Alex and I made a few visits to see the mosaics at the UNESCO sites. We were fortunate that the Ravenna Festival was on and we attended two concerts in one of the main basilicas. Listening to the Miserere of Allegri and being able to gaze up at the ceiling of mosaics was sublime. We also attended a session of ‘Students for Dante’ – a daily performance by Conservatorium and school students inspired by different verses of Dante – it was inspiring.

And it seems that most citizens of Ravenna own bikes. No one wears helmets, and old and young cycle the streets. Parents carry their small children in customised seats front or back. One day I saw a mother with a toddler in front and older child at the back!

Yesterday we arrived in Chioggia, a very busy fishing port at the southern end of the Venice lagoon. It’s got canals and old buildings on the water and huge numbers of boats – both fishing and for leisure. But it does not have the tourists. Alex loves it! We’re here till Tuesday and go south to Cannara in Umbria, a small village near Spello.

Conference panel: Graham Smith, UK, James Worner, Aust, & Tanya Evans, chair, Aust.
Cyclist and artist, Gustav Klimt, just one of several poets featured on a wall in Ravenna