A mystery in Italy, solved in Lockleys

Thank you to Raoul Pietrobon for contributing this blog about the links between his mother and a paesana (a woman from the same village) – in Salvarosa, near
Castelfranco Veneto  in the province of Treviso.

Maria Ballestrin (nee Dotto) was born in 1914 in the village of Salvarosa (now a Frazione of Castelfranco Veneto), just 49 kilometres from Venice. The culture of the village was friendly, and every family had a nickname, or a sopranome, that was used more often than their surname amongst the villagers. The Dotto family sopranome was Ortolani, linking them to the vegetable gardens they maintained.

Rita Amabile Pietrobon nee Favarotto – 1958 with Dotto family home in background, Salvarosa.

My mother, Rita Amabile Favarotto, comes from the same village of Salvarosa and lived across the narrow Via Scuole from the Dotto family. Their house wrapped around one corner of a wide T-junction which prior to the 1960s, saw very little vehicle traffic. This junction was used as a small piazza, shared by the surrounding families and nostalgically called la bea venesia (translated as the beautiful Venice). Children from the nearby primary school regularly played in the open space and older people would stop and talk or tell stories. Occasionally a herd of animals would pass through on the way to nearby farms as the area was heavy with agriculture of the times – cows for milk, pigs for meat, maize, tobacco and grapes.

Ernesta Gazzola in Favarotto family’s courtyard with granddaughter, Paola. -Dotto house in background – 1968.

My grandmother Ernesta Gazzola, married into the Favarotto family in 1932, and got to know Maria Dotto (who was of a similar age) shortly before she married and left for Australia. Ernesta became a good friend of Maria’s mother and siblings, as well as the adjoining neighbours of the Dotto family.


Vito Pietrobon, my father, was also from Salvarosa and emigrated to Adelaide, South Australia, in 1953, sponsored by an older cousin who had come earlier. Along with his eight siblings, Vito had heard many stories while growing up, about the wonderful people and land of opportunity in Adelaide. Gildo Pietrobon (his father) had temporarily come to work in Adelaide in 1927, aboard the ‘Re D’Italia.’ Gildo had come to earn his fortune, leaving his pregnant wife and child in Italy for four years. This was a recognised practice of the time in Italy, when farming the land was not providing enough income and he wanted to purchase the land his family was working on in Salvarosa.

Vito Pietrobon’s first car, a Ford Zephyr Six, Adelaide, 1957.

Vito had similar ideas of a better life and was able to save money for a car which was vital for his work as a cement and concrete worker. He established himself in the north-eastern suburbs of Magill and Campbelltown, where many Veneti were located.


In 1959 when my mother, Rita Amabile Favarotto (Mabie), emigrated and joined my father in Adelaide, Ernesta wrote a long letter to Maria, asking her to look out for Mabie should she need help. When she did arrive in Adelaide, Mabie wanted to see familiar faces and people to help orient herself in the different landscape. Having a car in Italy at that time was still a rarity for some migrants but she was glad Vito’s work, hard though it was, afforded them this ease of transport. Although she had never met Maria before then, she felt immediately comfortable in her presence. Having grown up with Maria’s family in close proximity, she recognised her mannerisms, expressions and way of speaking.

In the coming years, Mabie looked upon Maria as a ‘mother figure’ and would often ask for advice on why recipes weren’t working, where to find certain food items and about life in Australia. She even preferred and used Maria’s recipes for crostoli and frittole (fried sweet biscuits and dumplings) over those of her mother, much to Ernesta’s chagrin.

Baptism of Angelo Pietrobon, Fr Luke Roberts, godparents, Narciso and Maria Ballestrin, 1969.


Vito’s business grew, and so did the family with three boys soon keeping Mabie busy – Raoul (1960), Michael (1965) and Angelo (1969).



In 1971, Ernesta came to Adelaide to visit her family and was happy to be re-united with Maria as well. In the many trips to visit one another, they updated on what was occurring in Salvarosa with details that written letters couldn’t capture. It was during one of these trips that Maria and Narciso Ballestrin recounted how they met.

Home Mass, home of Amabile and Vito Pietrobon, winter 1977. Back: Tulio Busato, Narciso Ballestrin, Vito Pietrobon. Middle row: Fr Vittorio Basso, (cousin to the Pietrobon family), Maria Ballestrin nee Dotto, Elidia Pietrobon nee De Savi, Silvia Busato, Peter (Piero) Pietrobon, Steven Pietrobon, Michael Pietrobon, Mabie Pietrobon nee Favarotto. Front: Teresina Busato nee Pietrobon, Sonia Pietrobon, Helen Busato, Angelo Pietrobon, Ray Pietrobon.

When Narciso was a single man, he had met a farmer who had an unmarried daughter and the family lived in Salvarosa. He visited a couple of times to get to know them and become acquainted with the woman. The houses in the area were built sharing common walls and driveways, and little fencing. The familiarity of everyone meant the neighbours were often visiting each other in the evenings to share stories. This is how Narcisio came to know the neighbour’s daughter, Maria Dotto. He quickly realised he preferred her company and turned his attentions to her. Once he became serious with Maria, he stopped visiting the original family – and the courtship with the daughter next door ended.

At this point of the story, Ernesta laughed and cried out aloud ‘No wonder!’ All this time (38 years, by then) she had wondered why the two neighbouring families bore ill feelings and had stopped being as friendly with one another. Now she understood that Narciso’s decision to court someone else had caused a rift which soured the relationship between those two families. Ernesta thought it very funny that she only could find the answer to the mystery, not in the close-knit community of bea venesia, but in the Veneto area between Frogmore and Findon Roads, 15,000 kilometres away! Maria and Narciso were market gardeners in that area and part of the community of Veneti who lived and worked there.

Birthday party – Angelo Pietrobon with his nonna, Ernesta, Maria Ballestrin nee Dotto – godmother, at head of table, Vito Pietrobon in foreground, Adelaide, October 1971.

My family kept in close association with the Ballestrin family. Narciso and Maria were godparents (or santoli) to my brother Angelo and I was fortunate enough to have them attend my wedding in 1987. Vito and Mabie continued to see them, sharing time in paesani weddings, holy feast days (or sagre) and social events at the Veneto Club.




Mabie’s bedside table with photo of Maria Ballestrin nee Dotto, inserted in the frame of the photo of  her parents.

Mabie has now moved to a Bene nursing home where she enjoys the company of other people who can’t remain independent. We occasionally change the photos on her walls to spark conversations and give her a different perspective. One photo frame she won’t change sits on her bedside table, showing an image of her parents in Castelfranco Veneto and a cut-out of Maria (Dotto) Ballestrin.


Raoul Pietrobon
25 September 2022.

Photos supplied by Raoul.






Remembering Lino Tonellato

This blog is a tribute to the life of Lino Serafino Tonellato who died on 4th September 2022, aged nearly 96 years. The information has been taken from the oral history interview I recorded with him in 2010.* Lino’s wife Rosanna, and daughter, Terri Judd, have also contributed to the blog.
This is a story of the continuity of a migrant family in Australia.

Lino Tonellato was not quite 12 months old when his father migrated to Australia in 1927. Secondo had left behind his wife Elisabetta and four children, Luigi, Rosina, Albert and Lino. A fifth child, Orlando, was born after Secondo had migrated. In June 1935 Elisabetta and the children arrived in Port Pirie and joined Secondo in the market garden area that the Veneto called Lockleys.

Tonellato family, Adelaide, c1945. Back: Luigi, Orlando, Rosina, Lino, Albert. Front: Secondo, Assunta, Elisabetta. Photo supplied by the family.

Two years after the family was reunited in Adelaide, Assunta, Secondo’s niece, came into their family as a much loved sixth daughter and sister.


The family settles in Adelaide
In his interview Lino spoke of the reason that his father had migrated from Caselle di Altivole in the province of Treviso – to have a better life for his wife and family without poverty. He remembered what his father did when he arrived in Adelaide in 1927:

Well, he said … he saved up some money when he worked up on the Mallee country and then he came down on the farm, and he saved up some money and he planted tomatoes, and he got us out here. That’s how he got to pay the passage over [for the family in 1935].

Secondo had worked hard and solved the problem of accommodating his large family by purchasing a train carriage that had been used by members of the Royal family in a visit to South Australia in 1927.

The Tonellato family in front of the vagòn 1935 – Lockleys. Photo provided by Assunta Giovannini nee Tonellato.

Lino recalled the delight of discovering where the family was going to live:

But when we came down here and we had seen where we were going to live, we thought we were Father Christmas (laughs). Yeah, a train carriage. (or vagón)

I still remember, it was all nice shiny and real polish, high polish, and it was not hot and not cold, always the same temperature in there, with no air-conditioning, it was always the same temperature because the wall was three layers of like cork … There were six bedrooms and two, one each end of the carriage big enough to put the tables and chairs and everything, you know … Dad put the bathroom and the kitchen there, he made one room for the kitchen and one room for the bathroom. Oh, he had everything. We had hot water in them days (laughs).

Moving the vagón
Lino remembered that his father had explained the challenge of transporting the railway carriage to Lockleys:

Well, it took them all day from early morning to night-time, because they had to have the police and shift the electric poles. It was that long they couldn’t get it around the corner in them days from Islington, all the way from Islington to down Lockleys, but they couldn’t get around the corner on the Grange Road there. They were stuck there for about five hours trying to get the post out to get it across (laughs)… And they had a special trailer there, he had to hire for it because it was over a chain long (over 20 metres) you see, it was pretty long …

onellato family, Lockleys 1935. L-R: Nano, Elisabetta, Albert, Lui, Rosina, Secondo, Lino.
Tonellato family, Lockleys 1935 in front of the vagón. L-R: Orlando, Elisabetta, Albert, Lui, Rosina, Secondo, Lino. Photo supplied by the family.

Work in the family market gardens
Lino left school when he was about thirteen and a half and went to work in the market garden with his father. He spoke about what the range of vegetables the family grew on the market garden including tomatoes:

… we used to plant tomatoes, the young ones, in June and July, because in them days housewives wouldn’t buy tomatoes in winter, they wouldn’t buy tomatoes …They only wanted them in the hot weather, yeah, (laughs) but now they sell them twelve months of the year, yeah.

When I asked Lino what the area looked like when he started working there and he told me about the large numbers of family market gardens in the area:

It was all little, little market gardens, all done by hand, and you’d see people working an acre of land. it was all done by hand, and they still made a better living than what they would anywhere in the world I suppose, I don’t know.

Lino reflected on the way that the Veneto market gardeners adapted the practices of working the land that they had known in the Veneto region:

The whole area was all market garden, you know. Well, I suppose they had to get a living somewhere, you know. When they come here, they couldn’t understand much, speak much English, didn’t know what to do, so they had to start off something because over there they only had little gardens too, and where we come from, they used to plant once a year because you’d get the snow that high, every year, I still remember the snow there.

Some memories of the war years
Lino also had some memories of living on the market gardens during the war years:

Well, I was called up … When you come of age, eighteen, you go for the examination, and they say, “What do you do?” “I’m a market gardener”. I said, “We’ve got contract with the Army, cabbages, caulis, and potatoes”. We had a contract for the Army at Keswick, and then they go, “Oh.” They looked that up, we were there, then we had the contract to plant stuff for the Army, so “No, we don’t need you, you go home and feed the Army”.

Lino Tonellato & Rosanna Accatino, wedding, 16 December 1950.Photo supplied by the family.

Marriage to Rosanna
Lino and Rosanna married in December 1950 and had two children, Therese Marie born in 1952  and Steven who was born in 1960. Sadly, Steven died in 1986.

Towards the end of the interview, I asked Lino if he would like to add to what he had said and his first thought was to speak about his marriage to Rosanna.

Well, when I met my wife, that was the best day of my life, you know. The first time I seen her was, I was twenty-two I think, no twenty, then she disappeared for a couple of years and then I met her again, so it went on.  Well, December, it will be sixty years.

Tonellato family – Lino & Rosanna with Terri & Steven, 1963. Photo supplied by the family.

Working life and family with Rosanna at Two Wells
Following a tractor accident, Lino was unable to continue working in the market gardens. In 1957, Lino and Rosanna bought land at Two Wells and established a poultry farm which they ran for 35 years. Terri said that her father was very clever and resourceful and invented pieces of machinery that improved feeding and watering and general conditions for the chickens.

Lino and Rosanna moved to Adelaide in 1980 and in retirement, Lino took up hobbies such as working with leadlight and was interested in creative work. Lino and Roseanna enjoyed travelling around Australia with Lino’s brother and sister-in-law, Albert and Mary Tonellato, in caravans. They were always very involved with their family as loving parents, grandparents and great-grandparents and close to their wider families.

Lino with Rae Ballantyne and Barrie West, points to a photo in the Veneto market gardeners’ exhibition panels at the launch of the website, May 2014. Photo by Michael Campbell.

Lino was interested in the Veneto market gardeners’ project and attended several events with Rosanna and Terri and family over the past 11 years.

Lino Tonellato, website launch, 2014. Photo by Michael Campbell.


Rosanna and Terri cherish Lino’s optimism and resilience, his placid nature and his sense of humour. They remember him as a man who was curious, a problem-solver and inventor who was gentle, kind and loving. All the family will treasure his memory forever.

Rosanna and Lino Tonellato with their grandchildren, partners and great-grandchildren, Adelaide, 2019. Photo supplied by the family.

Lino and Rosanna’s grandson, Andrew Judd, delivered the eulogy at his funeral which you can read the eulogy. (It will be available in a later version of this post.)

*You can listen to the interview (nearly one hour) with Lino Tonellato 872/10, recorded on 16 July 2010 here:

Madeleine Regan
11 September 2022





The habit of growing vegetables

It’s nearly spring in Adelaide and already there are signs of new life with blossoms, and gardens are becoming colourful again with all kinds of flowering plants.

Pansies, Brooklyn Park, August 2022.

Some people I know are beginning to think of their summer vegetables and what they might plant. A couple of enthusiastic gardeners have already dug over their soil once, have welcomed the recent rains and are getting ready for the next steps. Sometime in September, they’ll start their seedlings – tomatoes, capsicum, eggplants, basil, corn and lettuces – which they’ll harvest in the summer months.

Even when the first generation of the Veneto market gardens retired and sold their land, most retained a backyard large enough for a decent vegetable garden. They continued the contadino tradition of using their property to grow vegetables and fruit trees. Some of the people interviewed for the Veneto market gardeners’ oral history project spoke about their parents and their habit of growing vegetables.

For example, Norma Camozzato nee Ballestrin,  remembers that her father, Giuseppe Ballestrin, maintained a vegetable garden using the same methods that he had used previously on a larger scale. She compares Giuseppe’s approach to preparing the ground with her own practices which she infers do not reflect the methods of the market gardeners in the first generation:

Giuseppe Ballestrin – 50th Wedding Anniversary, 1984. Photo supplied by Joanne Camozzato.

In the back garden. Dad had a beautiful garden. I mean, he treated that back garden as a market garden. He’d dig the earth two or three times before you planted anything in that. He’d put the manure in and dig it in, not like us and just plant things here and expect them to grow. No, he really looked after that.
(Norma Camozzato nee Ballestrin OH 872/37, 21 September 2016, 26).

Silvano and Amelia Zampin sold their land in Findon in about 1974 or 1975 and retained enough land for a vegetable garden. One of their daughters, Virginia, remembered the transition for her father:

Silvano (Gerry) Zampin, Findon, late 1970s. Photo supplied by the family.

They had a block, he [Dad] retained a block on the side of the house so he could just potter around if he wanted to plant a few vegies or tomatoes. He had one nice big one [glasshouse] there. And he used to like getting into that and going around and yeah, that’s just what he wanted, and he had a few lemon trees and all fruit trees around.
(Virginia Rodato nee Zampin OH 872/43, 15 March 2017, p. 24.)



Another of Virginia’s sisters, Sandra, recalled that her father grew enough vegetables in retirement to deliver to the family:

Silvano and Amelia Zampin’s Golden Wedding Anniversary, 1981, with their daughters. Photo supplied by the family.

Dad still kept a few beans and tomatoes and stuff to keep himself busy and he’d bring us all around a handful of beans, you know, just to see how we were going and keep us with fresh veggies.
(Sandra Semola nee Zampin, OH 872/44, 27 April 2017, 26).


Diana Panazzolo nee Santin recalled that her father, Romildo Santin had a busy retirement after he and her mother, retired from the market gardens:

Dad used to come here and do all the gardening, his at home, as well. The blocks weren’t overly big so he had a little vegetable patch around the fish pond but … we used to call him the handyman of Kidman Park because everyone used to come to him to fix things, a washing machine, a dryer, or the car wasn’t going or something’s wrong in the house. He was that sort of person.
Diana Panazzolo nee Santin, OH 872/27 13 September 2013, p. 26).

Dino Piovesan, Seaton, 2021. Photo by Alex Bennett.

Another person interviewed for the project , Dino Piovesan, remembered growing tomatoes after he finished working the family market gardens at Bolivar:
I had a row of tomatoes right down by the backyard, at the back fence and the fences in those days, you could easily look over the fence and chat to your neighbour and one time I was down the back there, and the guy came up to me said: ‘Those tomatoes of yours, they look like gum trees.’
Well, I knew that if you wanted a good crop of tomatoes, you had to fertilise them and you had to put mulch around them and then you would be successful.
And I can distinctly remember this guy saying: “They look like gum trees.”
And they were a healthy crop of tomatoes that I had here.
(Dino Piovesan, OH 872/17, 23 September, p 60).

A selection of a day’s picking – carciofi at the Marchioro farm, Bolivar, 5 September 2019. Photo by Eleonora Marchioro.

Johnny and Eleonora Marchioro continue to grow carciofi (artichokes) at Bolivar, and their season is very close now. People find it difficult to wait to taste these vegetables which are available in late winter/early spring for a few precious weeks.

See a previous blog on this website for a description of the artichoke season at the Marchioro farm -and a recipe for making stuffed artichokes: https://venetimarketgardeners1927.net/artichoke-season/s

The first-generation Veneto market gardeners and their sons and daughters were proud of their identity as market gardeners in their community and most continued to work a garden and grow their own produce after retirement. And today I’m sure that we all know people who are getting their gardens ready for the 2022/2023 summer vegetable crop in Adelaide.


Madeleine Regan
28 August 2022




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