Veneto market gardener gathering

On Saturday 16 January 2021, a group of about 40 people met in the Mater Christi hall at Seaton. They were relatives and friends of the Veneto market gardener families. The pioneers established their market gardens in the1930s in the area they used to call ‘Lockleys’ near the River Torrens now known as Kidman Park and Flinders Park.

This was the first gathering we had held since the Corona-19 pandemic. Representatives of eight pioneer families were present and enjoyed the slideshow of 250 photos of people in the Veneto market gardener community. Families have given permission to use the photos and you can view them in the Gallery section under each of the Pioneer families on the website.

Johnny Tormena, Maria Tormena, Aida Innocente

It was lovely to see so many people of different ages. The eldest guest was Johnny Tormena aged 93 years and the youngest was 12-year-old, Clara Belperio who came with her 14-year-old sister, Madeline. They accompanied their grandparents, Lina and Lui Campagnaro. Madeline and Clara are great-granddaughters of Narciso and Maria Ballestrin. They were able to learn a little about the history of the community of the Veneto market gardeners and they also met up with Ballestrin relatives. Laura and Belinda Piovesan, daughters of Bruno and Graziella, were also present and spoke to me about their interest in family history. It was good to welcome Alessia Basso from the Next Gen group of the Veneto Club and members of Trevisani nel Mondo.

Aida Valentin nee Recchi, Assunta Giovannini nee Tonellato, Mary Piovesan, Connie Legovich nee Marchioro. Second row: Graziella Piovesan, Maria Ballestrin, Louis and Fay Ballestrin. In background, Kelli Ballestrin, Madeline & Clara Belperio

The focus of the formal part of the afternoon was the Veneto market gardeners’ website – what can be found on its family pages and how the website can be maintained in the future.

A special feature of the website is the opportunity to listen to the interviews recorded with members of the community who remembered life on the market gardens from the 1940s to the 1980s. Linda Zamperin nee Tonellato told the gathering that when one of her grandchildren said that she could remember what her nonno, Albert Tonellato looked like but was not able to remember his voice. Linda took her granddaughter to the computer and played the recording of the interview with Albert which had been recorded in 2008.

Diana Tonellato, Linda Zamperin nee Tonellato, Jimmy Ballestrin

In his interview, Albert remembers what it was like in Italy before the family was reunited with his father, Secondo, in Adelaide in 1935. He also gives details of life on Frogmore Road, the market gardens, family life and holidays. If you listen to Albert’s interview, you could also hear the recording with Mary made on the same day in 2008. In addition, on the Tonellato family page, you’ll find interviews recorded with Lino Tonellato and Adrian Tonellato and Assunta Giovannini nee Tonellato. Sandra Conci nee Santin also shares information about her Tonellato grandparents in her interview which you’ll find on the Santin family page.

At the gathering, the participants assisted with identifying people in photographs. Christine Rebellato nee Mattiazzo had found some photos recently in her father’s collection and it was fun to listen to the many voices who joined in the processes of detecting who were the people in the photos.

Angelo Piovesan also presented to the gathering. He spoke about his appreciation of the website and what he has learned about the Veneto community of market gardeners through reading transcripts of interviews and blogs about different families. He explained that it has become like an archive of the history of the community and that it was important to maintain it into the future.

Front: Luisa Beltrame nee Ottanelli, Eleonora Marchioro nee Ottanelli Back: Belinda Piovesan, Angelo Piovesan, Laura Piovesan

As usual the catering was wonderful! Thank you to everyone who brought food. Thanks also to the people who assisted with the arrangements, Anna Mechis, Marie Sloan and Kay Lochiel.

Madeleine Regan, Christine Rebellato nee Mattiazzo, Anna Baronian nee Carniello, Aida Innocente



Variety makes the range of blogs more interesting and it would be great if more people could contribute blogs. This year you can expect to read a range of different blogs – about Veneto families – and I know that two people who will write about the customs of making wine and making salami. Please contact me if you would like to write a blog in 2021.

Madeleine Regan
All photos: courtesy Alex Bennett
24 January 2021



End of the year

We are at the end of what has been a challenging year for everyone … here in Adelaide, Melbourne, in the Veneto region, France, Canada and other places where people read the blog – and throughout the world. The experience of the Covid-19 virus has affected our lives in so many ways and I know that it has been particularly difficult for people in Europe, Canada and America where relatives of the pioneer Veneto market gardeners live. I hope that the vaccine will reduce the impact of the virus in 2021 and that life might be a little easier.

Thank you to the following guests who have contributed blogs and provided different family stories in 2020:

    • Irene Zampin
    • Christine Rebellato nee Mattiazzo
    • Aida Innocente
    • Fran Bonato
    • Silvano Ballestrin
    • Anna Baronian nee Carniello
    • Cathy Crenna nee Fischbach
    • Angelo Piovesan.
Angelo Innocente, standing with his arms out after being introduced by Bruno Piovesan at the exhibition of the Veneto market gardeners, Findon, August 2011 – courtesy, Linda Lacey

It has been great that people have written blogs from their homes in Adelaide, Melbourne, Caselle di Altivole and Belleville Ontario. The blogs have been an important way of communicating different aspects of the history of the Veneto market gardener community and people connected to that group. Adding the eulogies of people who have died has also been another means of learning about the lives of individuals and their family experience of migration and settlement before and after the Second World War.

Map of Adelaide’s western suburbs c 1930s – courtesy, City of Charles Sturt. (Approximate area of pioneer Veneto market gardeners outlined in red)

This year a number of members of the community in Adelaide have died and I extend condolences to the families.

2021 is nearly here!
There is a gathering for the Veneto market gardener community families planned for Saturday 16th January. It will be held at Mater Christi hall from 2:00 to 4:00 pm. Please let others know about the occasion – it is always an enjoyable opportunity for people to catch up with each other. The photos of previous events show the groups who have attended.

I will be finishing my PhD studies in the next few months. It’s been a long process but I have been fortunate to have had the time to research the history of the Veneto market gardeners – from the pioneers who arrived in the late 1920s to the 1.5 generation who arrived as children and the second and third generations born in Adelaide. I have also appreciated the willingness of all the 58 people who agreed to be interviewed since 2008. When I first started the interviews, I had no idea where the project would lead me – and certainly I never thought I would begin a PhD.

Vegetables from the Marchioro market garden at Bolivar, 2011 – courtesy, Linda Lacey






Thank you for assistance
Thank you also to Michael Campbell who manages the website and keeps the design looking sharp. I am also very grateful to Graziella Ledda who helps with the Italian translations. And to Irene Zampin and Johnny Rebuli, I extend thanks for contributing to translations.

Ideas for 2021
I am very happy to discuss new concepts for the blog and  the website. If you have some ideas, please contact me – I’d love to hear from you.


With best wishes for 2021!

Madeleine Regan
28 December 2020


Christmas crib – presepio

In Italy the nativity crib is called a presepio (presepe, plural) which represents the story of the birth of Jesus. The presepio is a three-dimensional scene of the stable with figurines that include Mary, Joseph, shepherds, people from everyday life and the three wise men. The size of the nativity scene can vary and may include buildings and features that create an entire village and rural landscape.

Nativity scene – Michael Campbell

The presepe are usually displayed in Italian homes and churches from 8th December, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, to 6th January, the feast of the Epiphany, when the wise men were added to the scene. Presepe are often displayed in piazzas, shops and other public areas. The figures can vary in scale from miniature to life size and in many families, preparations for the presepio begin a long time before it is displayed. In some villages, the local council holds competitions for the best presepio.

Memories of creating a presepio in Bigolino
Johnny Tormena, who was born in 1927, in Bigolino remembers the excitement of preparing the presepio as a child. He collected small amounts of money from selling clean bones to the rag and bone man in the village and used the proceed to buy figures during the year. Small shops in Bigolino sold the little statues and he started with just three: Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus. Johnny set up the presepio in a corner of the kitchen and collected moss in the fields to make it look like grass and he used stalks of hay in the manger and made paths with fine gravel.

Presepio – Spello, 2007 (Alex Bennett)

During the year, he asked family members to save shoe boxes which he cut up to make houses and castles and he found coloured paper and into the shapes he created, he placed candles that illuminated the colours. It was a considerable project for a young boy to create the presepio.


When the Tormena family migrated to Australia in 1939, the figurines were included in the luggage and Johnny constructed the presepio for many years in Adelaide.

The Griguol family from Meduna di Livenza – memories of presepio
In 1996, Rose Noble published a book about her grandparents, their lives in Meduna di Livenza in the province of Treviso in the Veneto region and their migration to South Australia. It was based on the memories of some older relatives. The book is called, “Polenta in Australia: The Story of Giuseppe and Rosa Griguol and their Family.”

Giuseppe married Rosa Samogin in 1925. They had six children, Maria, Antonio, Lina, Lea, Mario and Silvano. In March 1939, Giuseppe arrived in Adelaide and worked in the Riverland area. Rosa with five of their children joined him in March 1949. Rosa died suddenly in 1950, shortly before Antonio arrived. Giuseppe died in 1969.

In one chapter, Rose described life in Italy and highlighted the importance of the presepio in the Griguol family. She began by saying how the preparation for it was thrilling and contributed to the anticipation of Christmas in the Griguol household where 17 members of the extended family lived:

Presepio – Spello 2007 (Alex Bennett)

… Preparations started weeks beforehand … The presepio took up a large area of the room. It was Toni [Antonio] who played a major part in its creation. He brought in barrels of dirt to make the ground and the rolling hills. Cotton wool was used for snow, sheep skin for the sheep, cardboard cut-outs for the figures and stable, and moss was used for the grass. It was an entertainment in itself to go afield with baskets to collect the moss from under the trees. A river and lake were represented by slabs of glass. A bridge was built. Candles were lit around the presepio. One Christmas, snail shells were filled with oil and lit. The stable was aglow …

(Rose Noble, “Polenta in Australia: The Story of Giuseppe and Rosa Griguol and their Family,” 1996, page 96).

Nativity crib (Michael Campbell)

With all good wishes for Christmas. Buon Natale.

Madeleine Regan
13 December 2020