The Piovesan family migration story – Part 2

Angelo Piovesan continues the story of his family’s early years in Adelaide. He describes the way that the family adapted to home in the suburb known as Findon in 1954.

The photo above shows Mario and Vittoria Piovesan celebrating Mario’s 90th birthday.  Mario and Vittoria are surrounded by their sons and spouses,  grandchildren and their partners, at the Veneto Club, 2004.

1954 – the move to a new home and area
Dad had continued to take on as much work as he could in the early days. This enabled my parents to buy a block of land a kilometre or so further up Grange Road at 1 Richard Street, Flinders Park, now known as Findon.

Baracca, Piovesan home, Frogmore Road, 1950-1954.

Building materials such as bricks, concrete and reinforcing bars were still very scarce after WW2 and there was an SA Government limit placed on the size of new homes. Dad managed to get hold of enough materials to build the family home with the help of many fellow Veneti who had already constructed Zia Rosalia’s house – completed in 1952.

Piovesan home, 1 Richard Street, Findon.

Our new home was largely completed just before the 1954 earthquake which left a permanent crack in the front passage wall. We moved from Kidman Park in July 1954, when I was 4½yrs old.  It took some years to complete details such as painting, flooring and paving but it was a big improvement on, and more comfortable than the old baracca at Kidman Park!

Our backyard abundance
We were lucky to have a big backyard which was like most other Veneto families. The garden soon filled with fruit trees, vines, several chook pens with egg laying hens and chickens for our meat supply. The roosters provided many a roast lunch or dinner and Mum castrated some into caponi or capons – which were boiled for broth and eating. Mum became so good at this that she was in great demand by other Veneto families wanting to do the same with their large rooster flocks! We also had rabbits raised for eating and a very large vegetable patch.

Mario Piovesan’s vegetable garden, c 2004. Photo by Mark Piovesan.

Our abundant supply of fresh fruit ranged from plums, early and late Elberta peaches, early and late apricots, figs, oranges, mandarins and lemons. Peaches and apricots in particular were shared with our new neighbours and lasted all year round, thanks to Mum’s preserving skills by utilising an ever-increasing number of Vacola jars.

John Piovesan, back garden at Findon, 1967.
Renzo and Angelo Piovesan, back garden at Findon, c 1960.
Piovesan family Mario. Vittoria, Renzo, Angelo holding John on his baptism day, 1964.


As with all families in those days, home improvements gradually developed as hard-earned savings permitted. A large new double garage was built, including a cellar which Renz and I dug with pick and shovel when we were 12 and 13 years old in incredibly hard clay soil. This was followed by an expansive new concrete driveway and a sleepout to accommodate the arrival of young Johnny in 1964, plus a rear verandah.



The transition from Frogmore Road
The move to Flinders Park forced us all out of our comfort zone – but particularly for both Mum and Dad once again. We had moved away from the support of the close-knit Italian community at Kidman Park and the interpreting skills of my cousins. I could not speak English when I started school in 1955 at St Joseph’s on Captain Cook Avenue, Flinders Park and spent the first few months sitting very quietly and taking it all in!  There were other Veneto children in my class – including Silvano Ballestrin, Ray Tonellato and Adrian Tonellato, Robert Berno, Silvano Favero, Jimmy Martini, Guido Feltrin and Robert Riebiolge.

I was lucky to have my cousin Edda there. She had other Veneto classmates from Frogmore Road – Sandra Santin, Linda Tonellato, Noemi Zalunardo, Teresina Zampin and Delfina Ballestrin.

My father’s social life
During the early years, Dad regularly worked six days a week and often seven days but he made sure he kept either Friday or Saturday nights free for playing cards. On his occasional Sunday off, Dad would play either borella or bocce and have a drink with friends at one of the lanes at the homes of Leandro Bortoletto, the Santin’s or Romano Dametto – all three were close to where we had originally lived.

Dad loved playing cards on either Friday or Saturday nights in private homes on a rotating roster. These were very noisy affairs particularly if there were two tables playing with eight or more players present. There was much yelling and table thumping – later topped off with supper of home-made salami and cheese around midnight, followed by coffees with Grappa. These sessions went into the early hours of the morning. You never slept well on those nights and you’d dread getting up for breakfast the next morning because the smell of cigarette smoke was strong even before you opened the kitchen door!

Albert Tonellato, Confirmation sponsor, Angelo Piovesan, Adelaide, 1962.


Amongst the attendees on those nights were long-standing friends from the Kidman Park and Lockleys market gardening families – Albert and Luigi Tonellato, Vittorio Marchioro, Angelo Innocente, and Narcisio Ballestrin. In 1974 all this was replaced by the opening of the Veneto Club where they enjoyed playing cards on Wednesday and Friday nights, as well as bocce tournaments and more card games on Sundays!


My parents’ first return visit to Italy
It was not until mid-1973 that Dad and Mum took their first ever holiday and went overseas for three months – 23 years after arriving in Australia. Until this trip back to Italy to visit family, both Mum and Dad had harboured the idea of one day returning to Italy. However, with both sets of parents deceased and, after discovering that their home towns and the country had changed so much during their absence, they were very happy to return to Adelaide. Then they finally decided to become Australian citizens.

After their overseas break, Dad started to cut back his workload on weekends and enjoyed life a lot more. He loved bocce with a passion and was very competitive. He represented the Veneto Club and his State in club and interstate bocce competitions. His trophies filled the top of the kitchen cupboard.

The Veneto Club opens in Adelaide

Cover of publication about the first 25 years of the Veneto Club in Adelaide. The image shows an aerial view of the property at Beverley. Photo by Madeleine Regan.

The formal opening of the Veneto Club on 24th May 1974 was the culmination of a dream for all Veneti in Adelaide and particularly for those from the Western suburbs who had initiated the spark for its formation. It gave the men folk somewhere to meet and also gave their long-neglected women partners their own venue in which to meet socially on a more regular basis and in greater numbers. Prior to this, their social interactions were largely confined to home visits, chance meetings whilst shopping, chats after Mass on Sundays, the odd church function and occasional weddings.


The members of the Women’s Committee were extremely important to the early success of the Veneto Club. The women’s generous contributions made it possible for the Club to cater for the income-producing Saturday evening private functions, Sunday evening meals and dance evenings for members and their partners.

Veneto Club Women’s Social Committee and group – National Bocce Chapmpionships held at the Veneto Club, 1978. Vittoria Piovesan, first left in the middle middle row.

The network of Veneto market gardener families
When I look back on my early childhood days, I fondly remember the strong sense of community amongst those early market gardening families and their relatives. Our family like others, followed in their footsteps during that post WW2 wave of migration.

I remember the families getting together to help each other out during times of need with all the labour-intensive activities, be that cutting seed potatoes for planting, assisting with weeding and banking potatoes during winter, digging / hand collecting potatoes – before excavators were introduced from the mid-60s. People also had to bag potatoes and load the bags onto trucks before bins were introduced.

I remember spending days during my school holidays visiting my Tonellato godparents on Findon Road and helping to pick tomatoes, cucumbers and beans in the glasshouses. I recall going to poultry farms to collect chicken manure for the glasshouses and a few early morning visits to the East End Market.

The working lives of migrants
Working alongside our elders (both male and female) certainly taught us at a very young age about hard work. It also gave us an appreciation of the very long hours they all worked and how much harder all that work was before the introduction of mechanisation when digging was done by pitch forks or horse-drawn ploughs.

Mario Piovesan in his vegetable garden, Findon, c 2004. Photo by Mark Piovesan.

I have the utmost respect for all those early contadino (peasant farmer) families who worked the land in Italy, the likes of my parents’ generation and those before them. As youngsters they harvested wheat crops using a scythe. They carried and stored wheat and corn harvests into their granaries by hand. They suffered deprivations during their war experiences before some migrated to Australia. Those experiences stood them all in good stead for their later work in their chosen new land and their strong work ethic quickly earned them the respect of their neighbouring Australian families. Some families had had similar experiences in the generations before them, just as subsequent waves of migrants from other countries have done recently.

Doing a hard day’s work and knowing that you had helped to feed a nation must have given them all a great sense of satisfaction in their retirement!


Angelo Piovesan
4 June 2023.

Photos not attributed were supplied by Angelo and Renzo Piovesan.

The Piovesan family migration story

This blog, written by Angelo Piovesan, is the first of two parts that outline the history of his family’s migration from the Veneto to Adelaide after the Second W0rld War.

Having followed the Veneto Market Gardeners blog very closely for years and having read the many other family stories, I am very conscious that nearly everyone of them comes with a common background story. They are usually about a family fleeing poverty and hunger in Italy and finishing up in a baracca (or shed) for a home when they arrived here in South Australia.

I hope my family’s story provides a slightly different view to your stories and helps revive some more of your own family’s precious memories of migration.

My father’s family
My father Mario was born in Ponzano Veneto on 9/06/1914, a small town approx. 5 kms N/NW from the centre of Treviso, which itself is approximately 30 km N of Venice.

Approximate location of Ponzano, a village of 12,500 in 2023.

Dad was the youngest of six surviving children and four out of the five males emigrated – three to Adelaide (Angelo in 1927, Attilio in 1937 and Mario eventually in 1950 – all to the Findon / Kidman Park area) and the other, zio Leone, eventually to Caracas in Venezuela in 1949. The eldest son, Beppi, who married in 1927 was the only one to remain in the old family home, raising his own family of five children and looked after his parents. Nonno died on the morning of 5th August 1934, just after zia Rosalia had left their home for Adelaide to reunite with Angelo after their proxy wedding! Dad’s sister Amelia lived at home until she married in April 1947 but died unexpectedly in July 1951, leaving zio Beppi and his family to raise her young children aged one and three years old.

Zio Beppi Piovesan, four of his children, nonna, and Zia Nina holding Zia Amelia’s young son Angelo, Ponzano Veento, c 1954.

My mother’s family
My mother, Vittoria Teso, was born a few kilometres away on the outskirts of San Pelaio (sometimes spelt Pelagio) on 31/07/1922.  She was the third eldest of six surviving children (5 girls and a boy) from ten full term pregnancies.  Her mother died the day before Mum’s 11th birthday and less than a week after giving birth to her last child (also named Angelo) – who went on to live for only 11 months. The three eldest girls, including Mum, helped raise the four younger children, but very soon there were only three remaining. Mum was the only one in her family to emigrate.

Teso family home -San Pelaio, 1975.

My father’s life 1929 – 1946
When Dad was about 15 years old, he and zio Leone had left home to work in a carrozzeria (a car repair shop) in Milan. After Dad had later completed his Italian compulsory Military Service at the end of 1935, both zio Leone (with his young family) and Dad had gone to Ethiopia in 1935 and 1936 respectively to find work. There, Dad was eventually required to re-enlist in the army with the outbreak of fighting in the Second World War in Africa.  He was then taken as a prisoner of war (PoW) by the English in 1941. Zio Leone and family, on the other hand, were taken as civilian PoWs and sent to separate camps. Aunty and her young children were repatriated to Italy some 12 months later on a vessel arranged by the Red Cross.

Whilst a PoW in Africa, Dad’s experience with machinery enabled him to volunteer and be assigned for about two and a half years to a prisoner working group with about 5 wheat heading machines, under the command of a Maltese Lieutenant. Their job was to tour the length and breadth of Ethiopia and Kenya reaping/stripping wheat because their menfolk were all off fighting the war with the English.

Dad then volunteered to be sent to London to work in the British Naval warehouses along the Thames for the remainder of WW2. The boat trip to England lasted approx. 40 days around the Horn of Africa. They were in such poor health when they arrived in London, that they were fed and rested for nearly a month before being put to work on the wharves. As prisoners of war in England, they were very well cared for and often had days off on weekends to go to watch the soccer! The soldier PoWs were returned to Africa after the end of WW2 and Dad was eventually discharged from the Italian army there on 29/04/1946.

My parents meet and marry
My parents met after my Dad returned to Italy. He obviously impressed her and thus began a very brief courtship before the lack of regular work in the area forced Dad to move once again – this time to Belgium. He went with his eldest nephew Sante (13 years younger) to work in a Steel Foundry with many other Italians in the small town of Tubize – approx. 30 km from Brussels.

Vittoria Teso’s proxy marriage, San Pelaio, 1948.

Whilst in Belgium, Dad kept writing to Mum and they were eventually married by proxy in September 1948. Mum joined Dad in Belgium where they lived and worked for over a year and Mum became fluent in French, thanks to lessons from the landlady.

Vittoria nee Teso and Mario Piovesan with their landlady, Tubize, Belgium, 1949.
Mario Piovesan and Vittoria Teso, Belgium, 1949.

Migrating to Australia
Although they applied to migrate to Australia and Argentina, their Australian application was the first to be approved and they returned to Ponzano to complete their travel documents. They boarded the Sebastiano Caboto in Genova on 28/12/49, bound for Australia in 3rd class with segregated men’s and women’s quarters below deck. Mum was eight months pregnant and spent most of the trip below deck, suffering from sea-sickness!

After disembarking in Melbourne on 29/01/1950, zio Attilio met them and they flew to Parafield Aerodrome – as Adelaide Airport did not exist then.

Angelo Piovesan, on Marena Zalunardo’s land, Kidman Park, 1950.

Despite being in the middle of summer, Mum wore an overcoat on the flight to disguise the fact that she was nine months pregnant. The three of them were picked up from Parafield by truck and taken to Kidman Park. Zio Attilio had previously purchased a small fibro-clad transportable home or a baracca for them. It was located on Eugenio ‘Marena’ Zalunardo’s land on Grange Road. I was born on 2/02/1950 a few days after my parents arrived and was named after my zio Angelo, who had died in March 1949. Mum gave birth to me in Quambi Hospital on South Terrace (now St Andrews Hospital) where she was very fortunate to find a doctor who spoke French!

Early years in Adelaide

Mum remembered the sweltering +40°C heat and having to fan me so I could sleep, living in what seemed to be furnace. She looked out onto a barren paddock and thinking to herself, “What have I done?”  She had come from a beautiful three-storey, solid, stone home to this!

Vittoria Piovesan and Angelo, Kidman Park, 1950.

After several months, the baracca was shifted from Marena’s land to zio Attilio’s own land, West of Frogmore Rd on what is now 19 Hoskin Ave, Kidman Park. It was placed right next to the Western boundary with zia Rosalia Piovesan’s land which was on Frogmore Road. In those days, the balance of the land around us was not used for growing vegetables but for cattle grazing.

There was no plumbing connected to the house, apart from the rainwater tank supply, and the waste water from the house kitchen sink ran out into a bucket under the kitchen window, from which the cattle drank. The primitive bathing and copper / laundry facilities were located in a shed next to the house. The shed also housed a work bench and at times the large box in which the young chickens were raised.

When the cattle rubbed their backs on the corners of the house, they would shake the poor house so much that Mum feared it would fall off its timber support posts about a foot off the ground.  There was an approx. 1m x 1m slab of concrete outside the front door and the land around the house was all covered in three-cornered jacks, so when Mum wanted to confine me to the house – she would simply take my shoes away!

When zio Attilio walked down from his house on Frogmore Rd to work his land and saw me standing outside the front door, he would say: to mare vaccha te ha porta via le scarpe da novo!  (“Your cow of a mother has taken your shoes away again!”)  I remember him as a fluent user of coarse language and he taught me to swear at a very young age!

Mum had to walk up the track to Frogmore Road some 200 metres away to place the billy can for the milk vendor’s delivery by horse and cart, and then again to collect it – dodging the snakes on her way! Mum told us that when they cleared the bushes along the track, there were so many snakes that climbed over the bulldozer and the driver was forced to abandon his vehicle!

First family car, Edda Piovesan, Renzo and Angelo Piovesan, zia Rosalia’s house, Frogmore Road, c 1956.


As a four-year old, I remember walking across our chook yard and my foot fell into a rat’s burrow, and a rat which seemed about 6-8 inches long jumped out and ran across the chook yard!


Connections with other Veneto families
Our nearest neighbours were the Schievenin family who lived in another house next to ours on zio Attilio’s land. The Piovesan and Santin families lived no more than 200m away, whilst the Tonellato families lived a bit further up Frogmore Road. We lived there for just over four years during which time very strong bonds were formed with the Tonellato and the Santin families – who already had established long standing friendships with zia Rosalia and zio Attilio’s families. These strong bonds also extended to the many other Italian families scattered around the area on Frogmore, Valetta, River Road (now Findon) and Grange Road – including the Rebuli, Zalunardo and Ballestrin families – all of whom were from the province of Treviso in the Veneto region.

Behind the Santin’s house on Frogmore Road was the bowling / bocce alley where Dad and friends often played bocce there on a Sunday afternoon.

Sunday afternoon bocce group, Santin market garden, 1962. Photo by Oscar Mattiazzo.

Their other option was to play borella just across the paddock at Leandro Bortoletto’s home (see below).

Zio Attilio bought a small parcel of land after he sold his original land holding which had been substantial. He sold it to the SA Housing Trust just before we arrived in 1950. The homes built there on Grange Road became some of the earliest SA Housing Trust homes to be constructed in the Western suburbs at Kidman Park. At that stage was right on the fringe of the metropolitan area.

This land sale and the resultant housing expansion would eventually put enormous pressure on some of the remaining market gardeners to relocate their operations to Bolivar from 1959.

Antonio & Angela & Beniamino Bortoletto with Leandro, Maria and baby Edda Bortoletto, Santin house, left background, 1955. Photo, courtesy Edda Panozzo nee Bortoletto.

When the Schievenin family departed, zio Attilio’s house was rented by Leandro and Maria Bortoletto and their young family. Leandro had  worked with zio Attilio in his Mica mine in central Australia. Leandro added a borella lane to his place where I earned some pocket money as a youngster on Sunday afternoons – returning the balls to the bowlers and re-setting the three pins!  I had to hide behind a shelter whilst they were throwing/ tossing their wooden balls (which would hit the pins on the full!), to make sure a stray ball did not hit me on the head and kill me!

Leandro Bortoletto later became one of a small group of Veneti responsible for coming up with the idea of forming our Veneto Club in the early 1970s.


Angelo Piovesan
21 May 2023

All photos except for the images of the bocce group and the Bortoletto group were provided by Angelo.


A proxy marriage 1930

In this blog, the story of Adele (Lina) Bordin and Gelindo Rossetto is an example of a proxy marriage. In the formality of proxy marriage, the bride was partnered by a male relative who stood in a Church ceremony for her husband who lived in another country.

In the case of Lina and Gelindo, who married in 1930, Gelindo’s father represented the groom in the wedding ceremony in Belluno in the province of Treviso. Gelindo had migrated to Adelaide in 1927 and was working on a market garden at Lockleys next to the River Torrens when the proxy marriage took place in the middle of 1930.

The following information has been taken from a book compiled and written by Lina’s daughter-in-la, Marietta Rossetto nee Paparella, “Rain in these Shoes: Anecdotal memoirs of Adelina Rossetto,” and published in 1995.

Lina had been born in Biadene in 1904 and Gelindo was born in 1895 in Bigolino – a distance of about 12 kilometres between the two villages. The couple had first met in Venice where they were both working: Lina had become a housemaid for a wealthy family at the age of 12 years.

Rosseto family, Bigolino, c 1920. Gelindo is at the back, last on the right with the Alpino hat. Photo courtesy Maria Rosa Tormena.

Gelindo had worked as a tax collector. Lina returned to live with her grandmother in Biadene and they were able to meet once a week until Gelindo left for Australia with two of his brothers and a brother-in-law who lived in Bigolino.


Lina recalled the challenge when Gelindo left:

The sadness I felt at parting is possibly the worst ache a heart can suffer.

Three years after arriving in Adelaide, Gelindo decided that it was the right time to marry Lina. Gelindo’s father represented the groom in the wedding ceremony in Biadene. Lina recalls this arrangement in her memoir:

It was with a despondent enthusiasm that I prepared for my strange wedding with no husband. I was to marry my husband by proxy, by taking the hand of my father-in-law! The world can only imagine the trembling feelings of doubt and fear experienced by a young girl entering such a union. Village morality frowned on travel for unmarried girls so I had to submit to this loveless ritual in order to eventually be with Gelindo in Australia.

After the wedding
Following the tradition of the day, Lina left her village after the wedding and went to live with her husband’s family, the Rossetto family in Bigolino. She stayed there for five months until she made the long voyage to Port Pirie where she disembarked on 22 November 1930. Lina recalled that she felt very accepted by the Rossetto family “protected and nurtured in the purest. Most honourable sense.” When it was time to say goodbye, “I hugged both my families tightly, each person separately, and each hug was a tender farewell; a gentle cutting of the cord which linked me to the land of my birth.”

Rossetto family after the arrival of Lina: Angelo, Gelindo, Lina, Carmela nee Buffon, Anna, Domenico, Adeodato. Adelaide, 1930. Photo, courtesy Lena Moscheni nee Rossetto.

The first years in Adelaide
Lina was shocked when she arrived in Adelaide:
From the beginning life was hard. We first went to live in a small house in Lockleys. It was a hovel, bare and empty – with no gas, no firewood, no electricity and no floor. There was a single, dirty mattress on the ground and a rusty, tin bathtub. I felt so miserable when I first saw it and could not help but think of our little house in Biadene with the soft curtains, the woollen rugs and the polished tile floors.

But I had ten pounds in my pocket and a lot of optimism. We used the money to buy some furnishings for our new home. We went to a second-hand store and found two wrought iron saucepans, a table and two chairs. I set to work cleaning the little hut, scrubbing and scrubbing so that I could place what we had bought in a cheerful setting. I was determined to make a home for us.

Our little hut was part of a small vegetable farm we had managed to afford [to lease]. Gelindo would start early each morning and till and hoe till the last light of day. I would work side by side with him. We shared the enthusiasm of newlyweds who embraced the adventure in spite of an unyielding reality.

Lina explained the difficult years of the Depression:
Life on the little farm at Lockleys stretched into a test of endurance. We gathered the crops each week  and  took them to the market but found there were very few buyers … We sold very little, gave to the needy and used the rest, when it had wasted, on our compost heap. It was heartbreaking. Thankfully, Gelindo’s brothers gave us money which helped to pay our bills and [we would] fetch water from the communal well.

The arrival of children
Lina and Gelindo’s first child, Romeo was born in 1931, Lena was born in 1932 and Aldo, in 1934.

Gelindo and Lina with Romeo, Lockleys, c 1931. Photo, courtesy Lena Moscheni nee Rossetto.
Rossetto family – Lina and Gelindo Rossetto with three of their children – Aldo, Romeo, Lena, Adelaide, c 1937.
Photo , courtesy Lena Moscheni nee Rossetto.


Romeo died at the age of eight years from meningitis and three other babies died at birth or before they were six months. Lina expressed her sadness and grief over the deaths of her four children – Night after night I reached out wanting to draw my lost children back to me.




Aldo’s 21st birthday, Lina and Gelindo’s 25th wedding anniversary. Aldo, Gelindo, Silvano, Lena, Lina. Adelaide, 1955. Photo, courtesy Lena Moscheni nee Rossetto.


In 1943, Lina and Gelindo experienced the joy of welcoming their last child.

I felt renewed hope with the birth of Silvano … I gave myself anima and courage. I had Elena, Aldo and Silvano, I had a lot to live for – I had a family.



Madeleine Regan
7 May 2023

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