Narciso Ballestrin and Maria Dotto family

This guest blog, written by Silvano Ballestrin, provides an overview of the Ballestrin family and their settlement in Adelaide from 1927 when brothers, Antonio and Isidoro, arrived with their cousin, Giuseppe. Silvano also recalls the custom of filò. The next blog will be part 2 of the Ballestrin family story.

Our father, Narcisio Vittorio Ballestrin, was born on 30 July 1913 in Vallà, Provincia Treviso, Italy. Our mother, Maria Maddalena Dotto, on 10 Jun 1914 in Salvarosa, Provincia Treviso. Both Narcisio, (pronounced as Narciso) and Maria spent only 3 and 5 years respectively at primary school. Neither had any formal schooling beyond that.

Santa Agata Guidolin and Francesco Ballestrin, parents of Isidoro, Antonio, Ermenegildo, Narcisio, Luigia

In Italy, Dad worked mainly on the family farm until he went to work in France for 4-5 weeks at age 18. He came back to the farm until he was 21, before he served in the military for about 33 months. Towards the end of his tenure he got sick and had to convalesce for 4 months in hospital. After being discharged from the army he went back to work at home for about 18 months. During this time he said “Andavo a fiò” which means “I would go visiting” and this is how he met and courted Maria Dotto, our mother.

Sante Dotto and Lucia Tessaro, parents of Maria Maddalena Dotto

Fiò is the Veneto pronunciation of the word filò. The word filò originally meant to go visiting a family either as an individual or as a family after dinner and gather around animals for warmth in the stables of farmhouses. This helped to save wood for cooking and heating water for washing clothes. The word probably derives from the Latin, filatum, which is the activity of spinning of wool that the women undertook to pass the time. The men often repaired farming implements, furniture or made wooden toys for the children. Filò is the library or talking books of the illiterate peasants who handed down their culture through the spoken word. A tradition that’s gradually diminished over time.

Mum and Dad were married in 1938 and he left for Australia soon after the wedding. His older brother Isidoro (Doro) sponsored him. From time to time Narciso mentioned that when his brothers Doro and Antonio (Toni) and cousin Giuseppe (Bepi) decided to leave Italy, they originally sought to migrate to America but there was something not quite right with one of Doro’s eyes, which was true. His migration visa was subsequently rejected and so they sailed for Australia instead.  A blessing in disguise for the Ballestrins.

Norina Ballestrin’s First Communion, c 1960

Of the Ballestrin clan from Vallà, Doro, a friendly and generous man, was a major influence in the Lockleys Findon area. He spoke English fluently and often translated for his brothers or their families. According to his son Frank, he spent some time in the bush among Australians and so he learnt English relatively quickly. Toni was very generous but seemed to be a bit grumpy. Gildo (Ermenegildo) was a gentle kind man. Yiyetta (Luigia) was lovely. Tohn (Giuseppe or Bepi) was a fairly quiet man. Our father Narcisio can best be described as cheeky and irreverent which is how he described his own father Checco (Francesco). All of the Ballestrins had a strong work ethic which they passed on to their children. Most of us can still remember how to tie that double knot one handed on the glasshouse wires.

We would often go to Fiò and visit all of our relatives and friends and they visited us as well. Once or twice a week, usually after dinner, we heard our parents talking to each other, saying something like: “Andemmo a fiò? (Shall we go visiting?) Va ben, andove demo? (All right. Where shall we go?) A ben, andemmo da Yiyo Toneato. (Oh well, let’s go to Luigi Tonellato).” We wouldn’t take cakes, biscuits or wine but always dressed in neat clean clothes. The hosts always provided coffee and biscuits, sometimes wine as well. The unwritten rule for we children was never to ask or take a biscuit or pieces of cake off the table unless it was first offered to us. While the parents chatted away, we children played. We visited all of our relatives regularly as they all conveniently lived within a 3-4 km radius. If the intended family wasn’t home then we went to another family nearby.

Egidio (Jim) and Maria Ballestrin, c 1939

Jim recalled the family walked from our Valetta Rd home to friends and relatives’ places after dinner during the evening fiò. For example, from Valetta Road our family walked 2.5kms to the Marchioro’s at the end of White Ave, stay for 2-3 hours and walk back again later that night. A 5km all round walk. Having spoken to a few of our cousins, they all knew what the word fiò meant. We remembered visiting all of our uncles, aunties, and other relatives on a regular basis. Plus families Dotto, Piovesan, Tonellato, Santin, Candiotto, Innocente, De Marchi, Compostella, Pietrobon, Possamai, Martini, Berno, Lamberti, Recchi, and many others. There were friends from the Veneto, Trieste, Napoli, and other regions of Italy. Our parents were very sociable.

Ballestrin family 1983. Back: Silvano, Norina, Egidio Front: Lina, Narciso, Maria





Silvano Ballestrin
28 June 2020

With help from Egidio Ballestrin (brother), Frank Ballestrin (cousin), Lina Campagnaro nee Ballestrin (sister), Norina Savio nee Ballestrin (sister), Isabella Ballestrin (granddaughter) , Kelli Ballestrin (daughter), Dolfina Leonardi nee Ballestrin (cousin), Severino Dotto (cousin in Italy), Madeleine Regan, Christine Rebellato nee Mattiazzo,  Angelo Ballestrin (cousin), Angelo Piovesan (friend), Aurora Ballestrin nee Stella (my wife for being so patient).

Questa volta non è stato possibile tradurre il blog in italiano.

Vittorio & Angelina Marchioro & family

In 1984 Vittorio Marchioro and Angelina Marchioro recorded oral history interviews for the Migrant Oral History Project in Adelaide They are the only pioneers in the Veneto market gardener community whose voices have been preserved for the future. Their interviews are in the State Library of South Australia.

Vittorio & Angelina Marchioro, Frogmore Road mid-1940s

Vittorio was born 23 December 1906 in Malo in the province of Vicenza, 110 kilometres north west of Venice. In 1927 when he was 21, he migrated to Australia, sponsored by his brother Francesco who had arrived a year earlier with his wife and baby. Vittorio tried to find work but times were difficult for most people in Australia and if you were a migrant who did not speak English, it was even more challenging because of the widespread unemployment during the Depression. He had a few jobs including some concrete work with his brother’s brother-in-law and he worked in Rushworth in north-east Victoria cutting wood for which he received very little pay.

In 1934, Vittorio leased land with his brother and sister-in-law, Margherita on Frogmore Road near other Veneto men who were establishing market gardens. Vittorio and Margherita grew cabbages, cauliflower, potatoes, trombone and tomatoes while Francesco worked in the city with his brother-in-law. Vittorio said:

I … buy one horse, a plough, I got a little shed … to sleep in and [we had] 12 acres.

Angelina & Vittorio Marchioro, wedding photo, Adelaide c 1939

In 1937 when he was more established, Vittorio decided it was time to marry and he wrote to his sister in Malo and asked if she knew a young woman who might want to marry and live in Australia. Angelina (born 7 April 1914 in another unrelated Marchioro family), agreed with the idea. She married Vittorio by proxy in August 1937. In her interview Angelina recalls that within two days of arriving, she was working on the market garden taking down glasshouses at the end of January on a day of 37 degrees!

Vittorio and Angelina had two sons: Johnny was born in 1940 and Romano in 1942.

Marchioro family, Frogmore Road c 1947

In 1948 the family moved from Frogmore Road to White Avenue, Lockleys, on the other side of the river and started a market garden where Vittorio and Angelina worked together until 1968. Johnny also assisted them until he married Eleonora Ottanelli in 1965 and they began to work their own market garden at Bolivar. Romano married Mirjana Stojanovic earlier in 1965. After a work accident his father-in-law invited Romano to work with him at the Barbeque Inn in Hindley Street in the city.

Vittorio, Angelina, Romano, Mirjana, Eleonora, Johnny, c 1964

Although they worked hard, Vittorio and Angelina recalled the social life in the Veneto community of market gardeners in their interviews:

… a friend [had] a big truck, he picked up 15 people sitting in the truck [laughs]… Every first day of the year [we went] to Saint Kilda in a big truck, all the families and the children went to Saint Kilda, the beach. Every year for a long, long time …

Angelina & Angelina Marchioro (sisters-in-law), Bolivar 1976

It was important for Vittorio and Angelina to keep in touch with their relatives in Malo and Monte di Malo, and they visited four times. The first time was in 1961 and they stayed six months. Some relatives including Vittorio’s sister and nephew also visited Adelaide in the 1970s.

After they sold their property at Lockleys, Vittorio and Angelina worked with Johnny and Eleonora at Bolivar two days a week for 20 years.

Johnny & Vittorio, Bolivar c 1975






Vittorio died in 1992, and Angelina in 2002.
Romano died on 20 March 2020.

The Marchioro families in Adelaide and in the province of Vicenza continue to keep close contact.

You can listen to interviews with Johnny and Romano on the Marchioro webpage.

Madeleine Regan
14 June 2020

La famiglia di Vittorio & Angelina Marchioro

Nel 1984 Vittorio e Angelina Marchioro hanno registrato la storia orale delle interviste per il Progetto per la storia social per il museo storico nel Adelaide. Loro sono i soli pionieri del Veneto nella comunità degli agricoltori che le voci sono state conservate per il futuro. Le loro interviste sono nella biblioteca statale del Sud Australia.

Vittorio & Angelina Marchioro, Frogmore Road mid-1940s

Vittorio è nato il 23 dicembere 1906 in Malo nella provincia di Vicenza circa 75 chilometri nor-ovest di Venezia. Nel 1927 quando aveva 21 anni, è stato sponsorizzato dal fratello Francesco che arrivò in Adelaide un anno prima di lui con sua moglie e la sua bambina.

Vittorio provò a cercare lavoro pero i tempi erano difficili per tutti. Se eri un immigrante che non sapeva parlare l’inglese, era più difficile trovare lavoro durante la depressione. Lui è stato fortunato ad avere parecchi lavori includendo lavoro col cemento con suo cognato e lavorare anche a Rushworth nord-est Victoria tagliando legno per pochi soldi.

Nel 1934 Vittorio affittò terreno con suo fratello e sua cognata, Margherita in Frogmore Road vicino dove altri veneti vivevano e lavoravano. Vittorio e Margherita coltivaravano cavoli, cavofiori, patate, zucca e pomodori mentre Francesco lavorava in città con suo cognato. Vittorio ricorda:

… ho comprato un cavallo, un aratro, una piccola capannone per dormire e avevamo 12 acri …

Angelina & Vittorio Marchioro, wedding photo, Adelaide c 1939

Nel 1937 quando si era sistemato lui decise che era tempo che si sposasse così scrisse a sua sorella e chiese se conosceva una giovane che volesse sposarsi e venire a vivere in Australia. Angelina Marchioro (nata il 7 aprile 1914) si mise d’accordo e sposò Vittorio in procura nel agosto 1937. Nella sua intervista Angelina ricorda che in due giorni di tempo dal suo arrivo lei aiutò Vittorio a smontare le serre alla fine di gennaio 1938 – e faceva 37 gradi!

Vittorio ed Angelina hanno avuto due figli maschi: Johnny è nato nel 1940 e Romano nel 1942.

Marchioro family, Frogmore Road c 1947

Nel 1948 la famiglia si trasferì da Frogmore Road a White Avenue Lockleys dall’altra parte del fiume. Cominciarono un market garden dove la coppia lavorarono insieme fino al 1968. Johnny lavorò con i suoi genitori fino a quando si è sposato con Eleonora Ottanelli nel agosto del 1965. La giovane coppia iniziò la loro attività nel terreno a Bolivar nord di Adelaide. Romano sposò Mirjana Stojanovic nel 1965 anche. Dopo che Romano ebbe un incidente al lavoro, il suocero lo invitò a lavorare con lui al Barbeque Inn in città di Adelaide.

Vittorio, Angelina, Romano, Mirjana, Eleonora, Johnny, c 1964

Sebbene lavorarono duro, nelle loro interviste, Vittorio e Angelina si ricordano della vita sociale nella comunità veneti degli agricoltori:

… un amico aveva un camion e prendeva circa 15 persone [risatina] … ogni anno, il primo di gennaio andavamo a Saint Kilda. Tutte le famiglie con i loro figli andavano alla spiaggia. Ogni anno per un lungo tempo …

Marchioro cognate, Bolivar 1976

Era importante per Vittorio ed Angelina di restare in contatto con i loro parenti a Malo e Monte di Malo. Sono andati in Italia quattro volte a visitarli. La prima volta era nel 1961 e rimasero sei mesi. Altri parenti di Vittorio e Angelina sono venuti a fare loro visita in Adelaide.

Dopo aver finito di lavorare a Lockleys, Vittorio e Angelina lavorarono con Johnny e Eleonora a Bolivar due giorni alla settimana per circa 20 anni.

Johnny & Vittorio, Bolivar c 1975

Vittorio morì nel 1992 ed Angelina nel 2002.
Romano è morto il 20 marzo 2020.

Le famiglie Marchioro di Adelaide e della provincia di Vicenza continuano a mantenere stretti collegamenti.


Puoi ascoltare le interviste con Johnny e Romano sulla pagina web di Marchioro.

Grazie a Graziella Ledda per l’assistenza con la traduzione.

Madeleine Regan
14 June 2020.

A different Veneto story

This time, something a little different …
Guest writer, Francesco (Fran) Bonato  and I were in contact before I spent time researching in the Veneto region in 2018.  He writes about his family who are Veneto migrants – but not market gardeners.

Fran has been an architect for 40 years and founded the practice, Tectvs.*

From furniture to architecture

Attilio Clementino Bonato landed in Perth, Australia, in the summer of 1956. The son of a subsistence farmer, he was one of 10 siblings. And like many Italian migrants, he followed an older and a younger brother to Australia. Another brother and sister later; she eventually returned to Italy.

Tino, as he was known to his friends in Australia, was born on 3 September 1931, in Fossalta di Trebaseleghe about 25 kms north-west of Venice in the province of Padua in the Veneto. His ancestral origins were Sud-Tyrol, his father born in Borso del Grappa just above Bassano del Grappa at the foot of Monte Grappa. They moved down onto the plains following WWI when the Italians, more particularly the Alpini (his father was an Alpino), fought the Austrians.

Bridge at Bassano del Grappa

Famously portrayed in Hemingway’s 1929 novel, A Farewell to Arms, halting the Austrian advance at Ponte Vecchio bridging the Brenta at Bassano del Grappa. The bridge is famous for a range of reasons, not least of which having been designed by Palladio in 1569 and another as one of the Veneto’s oldest surviving bars; Bar Nardini circa 1779.

But Tino’s story is not so common. Although like many from the Veneto, well in fact all of Italy, he came to Australia seeking that better life. He did not arrive here and work as a labourer or farmer (as his two brothers were then doing just out of Perth); he came to Australia as a furniture maker. And this too was no coincidence having met Bill Clark in Venice circa 1954, while Bill was on his ‘grand tour’. During his time in Venice they met in the workshop where Tino was working at that time. You see, Bill Clark was also a furniture maker.

Two years later, Tino arrived at the doorstep of Bill’s family home in Lockleys unannounced. A Saturday night, his wife answered the door and he handed her the business card Bill had given him in Venice two years earlier; he didn’t speak English nor she Italian. Bill recalled him immediately; in those days you remembered to whom you gave your business cards. They put him up in their lean-to and started work Monday morning. They found him a rental and two years later my mother, Ornella Marcon, arrived from the same home town, Fossalta. I was born a year later.

Famiglia Bonato, Nella, Fran, Gary, Tino, Athelstone, c 1967

And so begins the story of my father’s influence, on me and my younger brother; we are both architects and practice together, along with a long-time school friend.

The relationship I had with my father in those early years had a lot to do with helping him make furniture; as soon as I was tall enough to see into the back of a drum sander he had me on the other side catching panels as they came out. Unlike many kids my age, who would be off to school and club sport of a Saturday morning, I could be found with my father at Bill’s factory, Carlton Manufacturing in Salisbury, performing some necessary task.

Tino’s earliest surviving piece of furniture made at Carlton Manufacturing c 1965 (currently being restored)

Eventually, this relationship went from student to collaborator and to making furniture together. I completed my architectural degree at the University of Adelaide in 1982 and founded Tectvs in 1989.  And this subsequently led to the ritorni or return visits.

Although my father passed away in 2007, I continue these ritorni to Italy, particularly the Veneto. They are more professional than personal, albeit having enabled all of the wider family to stay connected and make new and dear friends. They now too travel to Australia.

Francesco Bonato
2 June 2020

*Tectvs has worked across a range of  local, national and international projects.


A causa della situazione di Covid-19, non e’ stato possibile tradurre il blog in Italiano.