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

Return visits to Italy – 1950s, 1960s

This blog focuses on the stories of some of the first-generation market gardeners and relatives who returned to Italy for visits in the 1950s and 1960s. The sons and daughters gave details of return visits in their oral history interviews. The following stories begin in 1953 and finish in 1969.

Tormena family
Johnny Tormena was 11 years old when he arrived in Adelaide with his parents, Severina and Galliano in 1940. Severina was a member of the large Rossetto family and eight of her siblings who had migrated to Adelaide before the war. Gelindo and Giovanna had become market gardeners.

Rossetto family, Bigolino, 1927. Back: Gelindo, Adeodato, Angelo, Eugenio, Giuseppe. Front: Giovanna, Severina, Antonietta, Bigolino c1927. (Domenico had already migrated to Adelaide).

Johnny’s mother made a visit to her home village of Bigolino for practical reasons in 1953:

It was in 1953, Mum went back to Italy in 1953 because we had left the house in Italy rented and we had no intention of going back to live and it was just a problem anyway. So, Mum went over there to sell the house.

Johnny had a deep love of Italy and describes the circumstances that led him to visit  in 1955:

I had never seen Venice and I wanted to go back and see Venice, and I took on extra jobs, I was doing dressing windows for different boutiques around down at Glenelg. I was dressing the windows once a month, the Gas Company, once a month. I was doing ushering at the Piccadilly Cinema three nights a week, all to get money first of all to pay off the mortgage on the house and then saving to go overseas which I did in — January 8th 1956, I got on the ‘Orion’ and off to Italy, got off in Naples.

Aerial view of Bigolino, date unknown. Photo, courtesy Johnny Tormena.

It was fantastic [to go back to Bigolino] because I met … three or four that I became good friends with, that I used to go to school together when, you know Grade 3, 4 and 5 over there. And we became good friends. And while I was there — the three friends that we were very thick with each other there, one migrated to Peru, one migrated and he was working in Frankfurt Germany, the other one became a chauffeur for a countess that lived in Milan. And they were, they had their holidays like Ferragosto,[1] as they call it over there. And I was there from Australia so there was Australian, German, a Peruvian [laughs] and a Milanese. [laughs] They used to call us the four musketeers.

(Johnny Tormena, OH 872/18, 25  May, 2012, pp 58 46, 47).

Vittorio and Angelina Marchioro
Vittorio and Angelina Marchioro were interviewed for a project on migration in South Australia 1984. In their interview they reflected on their visits to Italy. They returned for the first time in 1961 and stayed six months. They returned three more times and stayed with their relatives in Malo and Monte di Malo in the province of Vicenza.

(Vittorio Marchioro, (OH 12, 13 March, 1984, p 16).

Silvano & Amelia Zampin, Angelina & Vittorio Marchioro, Adelaide c 1950.

Silvano and Amelia nee Shaw Zampin
Silvano and Amelia Zampin went to Italy in 1961. It was the first time Silvano had returned since he migrated to Adelaide in 1928. Silvano and Amelia were the parents of nine children. Six daughters have been interviewed for this project and recalled the wonderful experience that their parents had while they were in Italy. They stayed in Riese Pio X and also travelled as tourists. Christine Zampin remembered details of the trip her parents made:

Silvano’s mother and Amelia, Riese Pio X, 1961. Photo, courtesy, Zampin family.

I remember they went on the boat over there … Yeah, six months they went. They went everywhere. First of all, they went to London. They’d already organised to buy a car there, and bought a Simca. And then they travelled in London and England and then they went across the Channel over into Europe and they travelled through Europe to Italy and all through Italy with that little Simca.

In the end they brought it back home … I think they stayed with her mother-in-law, my nonna. They stayed in that house for quite some time. I think she got on quite well with them.

(Christine Zampin, OH 872/42, 26 February, 20117, p 27).

Secondo Tonellato and niece, Assunta, visit Caselle di Altivole, 1962

Angelina Tonellato and Secondo Tonellato, in front of the Tonellato home, Caselle di Altivole, 1962. Photo, courtesy, Assunta Giovannini nee Tonellato.


In 1962, Secondo Tonellato made his return visit to his home village and reunited with his sister, Angelina, for the first time in 35 years. He travelled to Italy with his niece, Assunta, whose mother had died shortly after her birth. Assunta was raised by her uncle Secondo and auntie, Elisabetta. Assunta met her aunt, Angelina, the only member of her mother’s generation who remained in Caselle di Altivole. Two uncles and an aunt had migrated to Canada and Secondo and Assunta’s mother had left for Australia in 1927 and 1935 respectively.



Albert and Mary Tonellato nee Zoanetti
When they were in Italy in 1968 for six months, Albert and Mary Tonellato visited their home villages. Albert, the son of Secondo  and Elisabetta had lived in Caselle di Altivole with his family until he was 10 years when he travelled with his mother and four siblings to Adelaide, joining his father there.

Mary’s father had migrated to Adelaide in 1927, and Mary and her mother followed in 1931 when Mary was seven years old. Mary had relatives in Zuclo in the province of Trento in the region of Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol in the far north of Italy.

They bought a car , and in addition to seeing relatives, they travelled extensively in Italy and Europe. Albert remembered that they covered 29,000 kilometres.

Mary, Giosue & Metilde Zoanetti, Zuclo, c 1927. Photo, courtesy, Mary Tonellato nee Zoanetti.

Mary described a poignant scene when she and Albert went to Zuclo. Mary said that she felt very moved to return to her origins and the relatives that she had known as a young child:

I can remember the piazza, because I remember when we left all the women got together, I remember that, all the women got together in the little piazza to say goodbye to us and they were all crying and saying, “Where are you going?  Where there is all animals.”  [laughs)
(Mary Tonellato nee Zoanetti, OH 872/3, 3 October, p 26). 2008,


Maria Ballestrin nee Andreazzo returns to Vallà after 34 years
Frankie Ballestrin made his first visit to Italy with his mother, Maria,  and nephew in 1969.  Frankie’s mother whose husband, Isidoro, had died in in 1965, had not returned for 34 years. Frankie remembered the visit vividly:

When we went to Italy the first time I was excited about going … But when we got off at Venice I said to Mum, “Gee, what made you leave a place like this?”  And she said, “Well, in those days there was no food, there was no nothing.”  Because in Italy they got bombed out, they really got bombed out, like hell.  It was real terrible.

View of Venice from a plane. 20220116161429venice-airports.jpg

And yes, well, Mum hadn’t seen her younger sister – she was only seven or eight when she left …  and when she met her at the airport it was a sight to behold, you know.  I’d never seen anything like that before … My auntie jumped the barrier.  [laughter]

(Frankie Ballestrin, OH 8727, 12 December 2008, p 35).

There are more stories of the first visits to Italy made by people in the first generation described in the oral history interviews with their sons and daughters for this project. The common theme is the excitement of the return to home villages and the significance of spending time with relatives from whom they had been separated for decades.

[1] Ferragosto, a feast day celebrated in Italy, marks the summer holiday period in mid-August across Italy.

Madeleine Regan
23 April 2023

Preserving family customs

Buona Pasqua! Happy Easter from Adelaide!

Following Linda Zamperin nee Tonellato’s lovely blog about her family’s tradition of cooking baccalà and polenta at Easter time, this one is about preserving family customs in the Veneto market gardener community at Lockleys.

Members of the Narciso and Maria Ballestrin family, Compostella, Marchioro and Zampin families, Morialta Falls, Adelaide, early 1950s. Photo supplied by the Zampin family.

The first-generation women and men continued to prepare food and make wine that had been customs in their family households in the Veneto region. Most of the Veneto families grew much of the food they consumed at the table and made their own wine. In the early years women used produce from their market gardens and domestic vegetable plots and orchards, milked cows to make cheese and butter, and they raised chickens.

Veneto men with pig carcasses. Santin shed, Frogmore Road, mid 1960s. Photo courtesy of Santin family.


Later, other customs were introduced that signified that the market gardeners had a stronger financial base and could afford to buy a pig to make salami every year. Some families made arrangements with other households for more expensive annual activities such as killing a pig to make salami or buying (and sometimes picking) grapes in bulk to make and bottle wine.



Jimmy Ballestrin remembers that the customs were very important for his parents.  When he was interviewed by Eleonora Marchioro in June 2011, he recalled that he was going to make salami with his brother and sister the following week:

In those days especially, they all liked to have their glass of wine, and wine wasn’t that easy to come by here in Adelaide, the type of wine they were used to drinking, and also the type of foods that they were used to eating … weren’t readily available. I think it was very important because … you know, there’s always something of home … they liked to keep the lifestyle of their Italian lifestyle,and might I say, perhaps improved on the Italian lifestyle that they had because of the poverty over there

(Jimmy Ballestrin, OH 872/15, 6 June 2011, p5).

Ballestrin family: Narciso, LIna, Maria, Jimmy. Front: Silvano, Norina. Flinders Park, c 1959.
Photo, courtesy Lina Campagnaro nee Ballestrin.


Angelina and Vittorio Marchioro with baby, Romano, and Johnny, Frogmore Road, c 1943. Photo, courtesy Johnny Marchioro.

Johnny Marchioro remembered his parents’ energy for the seasonal tasks that preserved traditions from Italy:

I think they used to go to Reynella and get their grapes for the wine.  He made a cement tank and when the wine season was – back in would have been April, May – used to get it and we used to squash it, jump in the barrel and squash it by foot, and they’d make our own wine.  Yes, that was like a seasonal thing … you’d make your own tomato sauce and the wine time came you’d make your wine, and wintertime you’d make your own salami, too, for the family.

(Johnny Marchioro, OH 872/1, 21 August 2008, p24).

Families who continue annual food customs such as making tomato sauce and cooking traditional dishes at Easter and Christmas acknowledge that these rituals connect them to their parents and the traditions of their Veneto ancestors.

Peter Rebellato and father-in-law, Oscar Mattiazzo, de-boning stock fish for baccalà, West Lakes, Adelaide, 2009.
Photo by Christine Rebellato nee Mattiazzo.

Christine Rebellato nee Mattiazzo explained in the blog she wrote on the Veneto market gardeners’ website in April 2020, the significance of Easter customs for her family:

Over the years Easter time has been a time for our family to be together to enjoy each other’s company, a time to keep our traditions, a time to enjoy food with a focus on keeping our loved ones alive.


Making wine at home

Angelo Innocente, testing wine, Lockleys, 2010. Photo by Madeleine Regan.


Making wine was a usual autumn activity in many families. It was important for people like Angelo Innocente to make wine every year. Angelo continued this tradition until he was 89 years of age.



Roma Bordignon nee Zampin remembered the ritual of making the wine in her family and this tradition was something that the local policeman appreciated:

We used to get into the big bucket or whatever it was, and we’d go with our feet andwe’d dance the Tarantella. (laughter] … And [Dad would] say, “Come on girls. Hurry up! We’ve got to make this wine.” So, we’d dance faster.

And the Lockleys policeman at the time, he used to come up to see Gerry, as they called Dad. And he’d say, “How are you going Gerry? Have you made the wine yet?” And he’d say, “Yeah. Would you like a taste?” So, he’d sit down and drink it. He only come up to see him for a drink.

(Roma Bordignon nee Zampin, OH 872/41, 3 February 2017, p 17)

Amelia nee Shaw and Silvano (Gerry) Zampin and their family, Adelaide, c 1954. Photo supplied by the Zampin family.

Preserving the Veneto dialect
The preservation of dialect has been an important aspect in some families and it is particularly noticeable in the context of food customs. Many second generation, and in some cases, third-generation veneti have retained Veneto and/or Italian words and phrases to describe traditional foods and dishes. For example, interviewees described different food dishes made in their families including: polenta e baccalà (polenta and stockfish), risi e bisi (rice and peas), carciofi (artichokes) and crostoli (a sweet deep-fried pastry dusted with icing sugar). Some families continue to make these foods today.

People who were interviewed for the project spoke proudly about the ways they maintain a strong connection to the legacy of their Veneto ancestors through preserving customs.

Madeleine Regan
9 April 2023



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