Reminiscing/Memories of two West-Enders

From the 1920s to the 1960s many boarding houses sprang up in the West End of Adelaide to accommodate large numbers of newly arrived migrants from countries all over Europe. Some were only for sleeping arrangements and laundry but others offered full board which included 3 daily meals.

There were many families running small to large boarding houses and they also employed lots of locals to help. Following is a list of some of these families who ran boarding houses.

On the corner of Currie and North Streets the boarding house owned by Raymond Tranquillo Balestrin included his father Federico and his four daughters when they arrived from Italy in 1927.

Federico Balestrin

In Waymouth Street some of the boarding houses were run by Clorinda and Angelo Cescato, Elena and Luigi Stocco (who also had 3 bocce courts), Mrs Agnese Urbani and Mrs Paoletto.

Clorinda and Angelo Cescato.
Elena Stocco.








Giovanni and Lino Pietrobon also had a boarding house in Waymouth Street.

Emilio (Boccia), Giovanni & Lino Pietrobon.

Other boarding houses in the West End

  • In North Street there was Nelli Guidolin, known to all as Nelli Crotti, and later Mrs Saccoia.

    Giuseppina (Pina) Caon
  • In Grattan Street there was Giuseppe Nussio known as Beppi Scarparo.
  • On West Terrace there was Mrs Castagna.
  • The Conti Family was in Hindley Street.
  • In Currie Street there were the Del Tedescos and on the corner of North and Currie Streets, the Mattiazzos had boarders.
  • Lina Rossetto also had a few boarders in Crowther Street
  • In Franklin Street Giuseppina (Pina) Caon’s establishment was behind her husband Giacinto (Jack) Caon’s butcher shop.



The Cescato garden next to the boarding house. Photo supplied by Maria Rosa Tormena

In the next-door garden block of the Cescato boarding house Angelo and Clorinda dug out an air raid shelter during World War 2. Then they covered the top with the soil they had excavated and grew all sorts of vegetables (and peanuts) on it for the boarding house. You name it and they had it. Chickens too, naturally!!

Some of the children in the boarding house families had to help before and after school with chores, including cleaning, sweeping and washing floors, making boarders’ lunches, preparing and waiting on tables, washing up etc.

Guido, Clorinda, Nives and Angelo Cescato, outside the boarding house.
Linda Cescato on a rocker made for her by Piemonte.








Some hostesses secured jobs for their men whether daily, weekly, monthly or life time – either locally or in the bush! When some of these men met these ladies again later in life they told them they attributed their successes to them and how eternally grateful they were.

Some long-time boarders became life-long friends. Some made toys, rocking horses and walkers for the infant/child of the family. One in particular was Giuseppe DeBandi, known to one and all exclusively as Piemonte.

Social life around the boarding houses
A Spanish contingent invited the hostess’s teenage nieces to impromptu Flamenco afternoons and they also taught the girls how to dance.

On Sundays Federico Balestrin would organise get togethers where his son-in-law Dario Pisani would play his piano accordion for singalongs and dancing.

During summer evenings the boarders and friends would meet out of the front of the houses and passed the time together.

The boarders were always treated as family and were even advised on family matters with some of them having family overseas. Some were accompanied to medical and other professional appointments to help with the translating and understanding.

The whole of the West End was very much a close-knit family with everyone living side by side – Aboriginals, Italians, Greeks, Jugoslavs, Hungarians, Australians, Maltese, Spanish, Scandinavians, Syrians, Lebanese, Balts to name a few. Racism did not exist here!


Linda De Marchi nee Cescato
Nives Caon nee Cescato
7 March 2021

Photos supplied by Linda and Nives except for the one from Maria Rosa Tormena.



Boarding houses and the Veneti in Adelaide

This is the first of two blogs about Italian boarding houses in Adelaide.

There is a long tradition of newly arrived Italian migrants finding their first accommodation in boarding houses owned by Italian families. This was the case in Australia and other countries such as America, Canada, Argentina and Brazil where Italians emigrated during the 19th century.

In Melbourne in 1890s, Carlton was known as an area of boarding houses for Italians who, at the time, were mostly single men. In Lismore in northern New South Wales the numbers of Italian men grew through chain migration and boarding houses were the solution to accommodation problems after their arrival. In Port Pirie where many Molfettese lived, boarding houses were established as early as 1909.

Adelaide boarding houses for Italians in the 1920s-1930s

In a chapter of a book about veneti in Australia, Des O’Connor wrote about the boarding houses run by Italians in the west end of Adelaide from the 1920s. He explained that they were an important place for new migrants who were mostly single men to find their feet when they arrived. The boarding houses offered board and lodgings at a reasonable price and also had a family kind of atmosphere where people could speak Italian, eat Italian food, exchange news and in the first weeks find out about how to make a living in Australia.

In the late 1920s when the Veneto pioneer market gardeners arrived in Adelaide, unemployment had started to rise because of the Depression. Giovanni Amadio from the province of Ascoli Piceno in the Marche region arrived by himself in 1927 leaving behind his wife and child who joined him in 1932. After arriving in Adelaide, he stayed in a boarding house at 57 North Terrace. He recalled in his memoir that he lived with 47 other Italians and they were all unemployed.

Through the records of the National Archives of Australia, we know that many pioneers stayed in boarding houses in the west end of the city. Several of the Veneto men gave addresses in either Hindley Street or Currie Street. Lina Rismondo nee Marchioro was born in 1927 in a boarding house in Hindley Street. Her parents moved a few times when they found cheaper accommodation in other boarding houses before they went to their market garden on Frogmore Road.

In 1929, owners of three Italian boarding houses were named by the Adelaide City Council. Elizabeth Bazzica had a boarding house at 228 Hindley Street and Lorenzo Albino Dalla Valle and his wife Antonia Reato, both from Sovramonte, Belluno owned a boarding house and a grocery store at 264 Hindley Street. They catered especially for people who worked in the mines at Broken Hill where they had lived for some time. The third boarding house was at 213 Currie Street owned by Raymond Balestrin. Seven Veneto pioneer market gardeners gave that address in their landing papers between September 1927 and January 1928: Antonio, Isidoro and Giuseppe Ballestrin, Angelo Piovesan, Giovanni Santin, Secondo Tonellato and Silvano Zampin.

Landing document for Isidoro Ballestrin. Note the address he records for his intended residence – 213 Currie Street. (NAA: D4880, ITALIAN/Ballestrin I.)

Networks formed in the boarding  houses

I believe it was through the networks in the boarding houses that the Veneto market gardeners met each other and spread the word that there was land could be leased to grow vegetables in the Lockleys area near the River Torrens. Not all the veneti knew each other before they came to Adelaide. But they would have come in contact with different veneti when they lived in the same boarding house or in another one close by in the west end of the city. By the end of the 1930s, there were eleven different market gardens in the Lockleys area run by veneti.


Information for this blog gathered from:

  • Joe Amadio, An Immigrant’s Story (1997)
  • Loretta Baldassar and Ros Pesman – From Paesani to Global Citizens: Veneto Migrants in Australia (2005)
  • Desmond O’Connor – “No Need to be Afraid”: Italian Settlers in South Australia between 1839 and the Second World War (1996)
  • Desmond O’Connor – “Club e Associazioni dei Veneti nel South Australia” in Segafreddo & O’Brien (eds.) Veneti d’Australia (2005).

For information in National Archives of Australia (NAA) records – you can look up the names of individuals and find digitised files for the Veneto market gardeners: Click here to access NAA.

Madeleine Regan
21 February 2021


Bocce and the Veneti

Bocce has a long history – it was practised in Roman and Greek cultures and some historians say it even dates back to 5000 BC when cave paintings in Egypt show boys playing a similar game. Over time stone, coconuts and metal have been used as bocce balls. It seems that it has been a sport mainly for men.

Gubbio, Umbria, Italy – 28th May 2013 : Older generation Italian men playing bocce ball as they have done for many generations.

Bocce games had been part of the recreation of Veneto men who lived in the boarding houses in the west end of the city from at least the 1930s. I have heard some of the older generation speak of the bocce court at the back of Mrs Stocco’s boarding house in Waymouth Street where men gathered to play and socialise. Most men living in the boarding houses were single and bocce was an opportunity to share leisure time with other veneti.

Some people interviewed for the Veneto market gardeners oral history project remember that their fathers used to play bocce on Sundays at the home of a Veneto man who lived at Rosewater. In the 1930s and 1940s, some market gardeners rode bikes there sometimes donkeying their sons the eight kilometre trip.

Portland, Oregon, USA – September 1, 2011: A man rolls a bocce ball during a game in a downtown Portland park.

Bruno Piovesan recalled that the social lives of the Veneto market gardeners were limited especially during the war years but there was time for bocce:

They used to get together of a Sunday afternoon and I suppose they used to just play bowls if they could find a spot.  I remember we used to go down to Rosewater, my father used to go down Rosewater.  But in those years you only had so many gallons of fuel, you were restricted with your fuel because of the wartime and that, and you had to be careful where you drove a truck because if they saw you driving a truck without the purpose of going in the garden industry I think they could have fined you or something.  And they used to take a chance and go to Rosewater, they had these bocce courts and that, and as kids we used to go there and just play with all the other kids and their parents at the time, and that was Sunday afternoon fun. 

(Bruno Piovesan, Interview, OH 872/ 4 October 2008, page 10)

Assunta Giovannini nee Tonellato remembers the bocce courts behind the Sbrissa house on Findon Road: “The men used to congregate there on Sundays or weekends or whenever to play bocce.” ( Interview, OH 872/6 9 October 2014, page 30)

A person measures the distance to decide who’s the winner of a bocce match.

In the 1950s “The Southern Cross”, the Catholic weekly paper, had a special section for the Italian community, L’Angolo degli Italiani. There were articles about different matters and the dates and times of Italian masses were announced as well as social events. On the 11 June 1954, a bocce competition was advertised for 20 June which was to be held on the four Sbrissa bocce courts. Contestants had to register with the President, Eugenio (Marena) Zalunardo or with the Secretary, Signor Corradini. Prizes were offered and the cost of entry was five shillings. Amadio and Aida Valentin nee Recchi also had a bocce court alongside their house on Valetta Road for a time.

Pausing during a bocce game at the Santins’ – Oscar Mattiazzo , ?, Romildo Santin, c 1968. (Courtesy, Christine Rebellato nee Mattiazzo)

Diana Panazzolo nee Santin remembers that lots of men played bocce every Sunday afternoon on the court at the back of the Santin packing shed on Frogmore Road. (OH 872/27 13 September 2013 p 10)

What did the women do when the men played bocce? It was often a time when women visited each other’s houses and enjoyed company on a Sunday afternoon. Several narrators recall visiting, spending time knitting and sharing conversation and coffee with other women and children from different families played together.

Group of Veneta women, Frogmore Road, 1946. (Photo by Lina Rismondo nee Marchioro)

Madeleine Regan
7 February 2021