Feb 17, 2023 · 1:26 pm
There’s so much I love about this photograph taken in the Brisbane backyard of Granny Maddalena and Nonno Vitale’s house… everyone under the Hills hoist, Granny bending over giggling, the woman’s arm around her. Nonno Anni looking over to see what they’re laughing at, Nanna Francesca always ready for the camera, holding the young boy who doesn’t look so keen to be in the photo.
I love too the pawpaw tree and monstera plant behind them, the Queenslander on stumps and corrugated-iron stove area jutting from the kitchen above, where I can picture Granny standing stirring her minestrone. Even that the photo is a bit blurry with too much foreground is endearing, as is Nonno Vitale bending a little to make sure he’s in the picture (though he did have a bad back after years of cane-cutting and labouring jobs!)
Most of all, I love how when friends or family came to visit, (on those rare occasions that everyone wasn’t working!) they’d all put on their good clothes, get out the good coffee cups and make sure a photo was taken to mark the occasion. As many of you will know, for migrant families who had to say goodbye – sometimes forever – to family and friends on the other side of the world, creating extended family among those around you was especially important, whether you were related or not, and there’s something so lovely in that. Zoë x
Dec 23, 2019 · 4:16 pm
Thinking of all those volunteering and working over this time when many get to take a break. It still amazes me how my grandparents opened their milk bar and fruit shop 7 days a week from early morning ‘til late at night with only two days a year off – for 20 years straight! And then ‘scaled back’ to 5 days a week for the following years.
Nonno Anni worked for 36 years before his first holiday and Nanna Francesca wasn’t far behind. It makes me feel blessed and so grateful to write for a living, something I dreamed of from when I was 7 and found out the stories that I loved writing could actually be a job.
Thank you for your lovely comments and messages throughout the year. It is always wonderful to hear from you. Fingers crossed I have some book news I can share with you in 2020! In the meantime, whether you are working, volunteering or taking time out over this time, please stay safe and all the very best for the coming year. Tante belle cose! Zoë xx
Filed under inspiration + history
Tagged as Australian history, Australian landscape, Australian migrants, family stories, Italian family history, Italian family life, Italian migrants, Italian-Australian, migrant families, migrant life, migrant stories, migrants, milk bar, Nonni, working during holidays, working over Christmas
Dec 24, 2018 · 10:54 am
Christmas Eve, 1970s, Nonno Anni shouting, ‘Everyone get ready!’, Nanna Francesca already with tears in her eyes, family crowding onto the plastic runner over the carpet in my grandparents’ narrow hallway, the clunky, black, Bakelite corded phone ringing with that booked international call to relatives faraway in Italy. A few precious, expensive minutes to talk at a time when overseas holidays weren’t so common or affordable and relatives far away were sometimes never able to be seen again.
Wishing you much happiness at this time whether near or far, however large or small your day may be, hope the coming year is wonderful! Thank you for all your messages and support over this past year, it really means a lot to hear from you. Zoë xx
(Top left, lane outside Fossa house 1970s, and below, town hall Xmas tree Brisbane same time.)
Filed under inspiration + history, italy
Tagged as booking international calls 1970s, Christmas 1970s, Christmas Eve, Christmas far from family, Christmas for migrants, Christmas from afar, Italian Australian Christmas, migrant families, migrant family stories, the Christmas phonecall
Apr 19, 2018 · 10:38 am
Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar continues each weeknight on ABC Nightlife – thank you to all who’ve sent messages upon discovering the book – lovely to hear from you!
By chance, I came across this photograph when looking for something else for the next book and realised it might be the only one to show the family unit of Maddalena and Vitale and their two sons Elia (left) and Annibale/Joe (right) taken not long after they were reunited in Australia.
Financial hardship, separate migration, the Depression and WW2 forced Vitale and Maddalena apart for all but about three of their first 26 years of marriage, the boys without their father, and then Maddalena and Annibale apart for a decade after he migrated at 15. So lovely to see them reunited here. They remained close for the rest of their lives in Australia with Maddalena and Vitale even living with Annibale and his family for many years.
Nov 9, 2017 · 11:07 am
Coming up this street in Fossa always feels like being ‘almost home’ whether returning from nearby L’Aquila or a long flight from Australia. For just around the next corner is my family’s house and while it has centuries of history, to me it also has that comforting feel like coming to stay at your grandparents’ house.
In recent years, this street was renamed via dei Beati for two saints born here, Bernardino in 1420 and Cesidio, 1873. But for me, this is also where Granny Maddalena stood not far from the church door you can see and watched her son, Annibale, then 15, walk away from her as he carried just one port to start his journey to Australia. It changed the course of our family history from then on, but his keeping a part of Fossa in his heart to one day share with us showed me that in a way it was part of us too. (For which, after resisting it a long time, I’m now very grateful!)
May 17, 2017 · 11:00 am
This is one of the first photographs I chose that I hoped would make the cover of Mezza Italiana (it’s on the back). Taken in the 1960s, it was dinner for my uncle’s birthday and one of the rare times the family got to eat together since one of my grandparents were usually doing a shift at their milk bar.
I love how the young, fair-haired friend (second from left) looks happy to be at the dinner table eating spaghetti among three generations of an Italian family (reminds me a bit of how Roger was when he first came to eat at my grandparents’ house). And of course that is my Dad in the front right corner, being his usual larrikin self!