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The stories of those who left and often came back: in the meantime, let's start with the stories of Settimio and Gino.


Settimio Presciutti and Switzerland

(edited by Loredana Presciutti)

" Settimio Presciutti was born in 1924  And  wife  in 1951  Annunziata Bomboletti  three years younger,  born in 1927. Both coming from peasant families, they moved to Umbertide in the Corvatto area (after the sports field along the  strada tiberina) where my father had built a small house.

Porter for the masons first, he takes the elementary school certificate  thanks to the “ Maestrone” Lamberto Beatini and participates in the street competition (he does not win it, recommendations already existed at the time). He then decides to buy a three-wheeler to transport breach and anything else for construction. However, he was defrauded in the purchase by the seller, signed the bills of exchange, got into debt and was forced to emigrate to Switzerland in 1960,  alone, leaving me and my mother to earn it  to live  he worked by the hour in various homes.


Photo: Settimio a Ruti in Switzerland

In Ruti in the canton of Zurich, he is employed as a worker in blast furnaces, plants used in the steel industry to produce cast iron starting from ferrous material where temperatures of 1200 ° C were used. Working in this environment without protection, he inhaled fine dust whose accumulation led to respiratory problems that forced him, even after returning home for several months to expectorate.  black from the residue it had accumulated.

Photo: Documents of Septimius and Annunziata 

After about 8 months, unable to live alone, he also asks his wife  find a job, otherwise he would have returned to Italy. And so my mother also left in February 1961, leaving me with dear friends who lived next to their apartment, who treated me like a daughter and whom I continued to call uncles until their death.

My mother worked at Maschinenfabrik, a company that produced textile machines and he worked there until 1964 when they both left Switzerland to return to Italy.

A document of the “Direktion der Polizei Fremdenpolizei” of  May 20, 1964, found folded inside the passports, reminds us of the situation of our emigrants. It is a " Residence permit for family members ", with the details written in German and then in Italian and Spanish:

From your application for an employment permit, or insurance for the issuance of a residence permit, it appears that there are family members with you who obviously intend to reside in the Canton of Zurich as well. We expressly draw your attention to the directives valid for the whole of Switzerland, according to which family members of foreign workers can only be allowed to stay without gainful activity with the head of the household after the latter has spent three years in Switzerland without interruption. Before that date, family members can stay here only temporarily, for visiting reasons. We have provisionally granted or secured a residence permit to take up employment in the Canton of Zurich. In doing so, we have assumed that your family members will leave Switzerland within three months of accounting for your entry. You therefore have the right to decide whether, under these conditions, you would prefer to give up taking up employment and staying in the Canton of Zurich. "


Photo: Settimio and Annunziata  to Rudi in Switzerland

Settimio Presciutti e la Svizzera

Thanks to these sacrifices, my father finished the house he had begun to build as soon as he got married on several occasions during his vacation.

I believe the greatest pain for my parents  was to leave me in Italy; my mother always told me about the sorrow she felt when, returning for short periods of vacation, I called her "aunt" . "


Photo: Settimio at work in front of the new house at "Corvatto"


- Family archive Presciutti

- Photo:   fam. Presciutti

Gino Monsignori, the southern seas e  Switzerland


(edited by Miriam Monsignori)

"My father, Gino Monsignori, in the summer of 1954 is an ambitious young man of just 22 who wants nothing more than to create a future of greater well-being and growth than the conditions, albeit dignified, given the war and the large family, which he lived until then.

He had tried to create his future in Italy, applying to join the Guardia di Finanza (rejected because he was too young, he had not yet turned 18), in the Railway, but since then if you did not have the "right knowledge" (obviously not those related to competence ...) it was not easy to enter the "good places" and the residual jobs that were found were seasonal and did not give enough economic satisfactions that could create the foundations of that future to which he aspired so much.

So, this enterprising young man, one morning in August 1954, takes the train of the old FCU (which then worked well or badly) and went to Perugia to the Provincial Labor and Maximum Occupation Office (established in 1948 and until 1996 which then also acted as emigration centers, based in the most suitable locations for expatriation and repatriation of workers), to ask if there were places in the world where they could go to work. 

They replied that yes, there would be a country that is looking for labor, it is a bit far away and is called Australia. Well, he answers, takes the question and takes it home. 

In 1951 an agreement was signed between Italy and Australia by which the two Governments undertook to assist the permanent emigration of suitable persons from Italy to Australia.

He talks about it with a friend, Enzo Grottelli, who also comes from an even larger and more needy family who asks him to fill out an application for him too.

In November they are both called to go to Milan to carry out all the medical examinations necessary to verify eligibility to emigrate to that country, because Australia does not want sick but healthy and strong people to enter its soil to carry out the activities for which it requires personnel.

They stay in Milan for three days where they undergo medical examinations by Australian doctors supported by Italian staff, and where their profiles are also examined and their people checked.

Gino Monsignori, i mari australi e la Svizzera

At the end of the three days, paid by the Australian Consulate, they are sent back home telling them that the suitable ones would be notified by letter with the date and place of departure.

The letter arrives and sets the departure for Australia for the month of February 1955 from the port of Genoa.

Gino and Enzo embark together from the port of Genoa, the journey lasts over a month during which they have the opportunity to learn some notions of the English language through the teaching of staff made available by the Australian government.

On the outward journey, the ship passed through Port SAID passing through the SUEZ CHANNEL, beyond which it reached the RED SEA, stopping in ADEN, a city of YEMEN at the other outlet of the CHANNEL, where it was refueled and then left again for the 'INDIAN OCEAN and, after another 10 days at sea, touched the coasts of a new stage of the journey, COLOMBO, in SRI LANKA, south of INDIA. A few hours of rest and they left for FREMANTLE, the first port of Australia, where they arrived after another 14 days on the OCEAN without seeing land. A day and a night of rest and, off to Melbourne, another five days of travel and they finally arrived at their destination.

In Melbourne they got off and were escorted out of the city to what we now call shelters. There they were really welcoming, it was a neighborhood made up of many wooden houses where a maximum of two people stayed and in which Gino and Enzo stayed about three days after which they told them that there was work in Tasmania and if they wanted they could try to go there.

They accepted and again took back a ship and in about six hours they reached the wild island Tasmania today, let alone then. 

After docking at Porth Arthur and reaching the capital Hobarth they were accompanied to the interior of the island where they were building a hydroelectric power station. There they explained to them that the work consisted of creating artificial passages to divert the waters in favor of the power plant.

Gino recalls a landscape rich in waters, rivers and very tall trees, so high that to see the sun he had to raise his eyes to the sky where weak rays of sun filtered through the thick vegetation.

Gino's outward journey 


There, too, they made the houses available to them for a maximum of two people, then they had the canteen to eat and they also gave them blocks with which they could return the money for the trip as they were paid by the companies.

The work was not bad but there were only a month left because beyond that there was nothing, they were isolated and life was just work and even if they were there to earn it was not good, they were still twenty years old.


Gino, the first on the right, with two friends in Australia


So Gino and Enzo returned to Melbourne and from there they went to Queensland, to Ingham, a beautiful town where there was a need for staff to cut sugar cane. Very strenuous work, remember that you have never sweated so much in your life! 

He did it for three seasons, he worked at a piece rate and earned a lot, to understand: what in Italy he earned in a month with an average job Gino managed to earn in a day!

Gino gave all that money back to his family who was building a new house, in part they contributed to this and in part to other needs. At a certain point, however, he felt the lack, not of home, but of his country, Italy, where he had lived, of our culture that when one has the opportunity to see other countries one realizes even more how special it is. , and that's what you miss, nothing more.

This is why Gino decided to return to Italy, while his dear friend Enzo wanted to stay there, where he married an Australian lady, has two children and a farm of over 50 hectares where he grows sugar cane. 

He came back to see Gino twice, the last about 6 years ago, they stayed in touch and there is no Christmas, Easter, birthdays when the phone rings early in the morning and at home we all say “this is Enzo! Answer dad ”, if the phone is slow to ring in those days it is a big concern.

Frames from the documentary on Italian emigrants in Ingham in Australia made by Maio Torrisi: " Gentleman of the flashing blade ". Work area of Gino Monsignori and Enzo Grottelli

My father says that the return trip in 1958 was beautiful, he came home, he had more money in his pocket and it was a kind of cruise. This time he was alone, Enzo as I said wanted to stay there, the only element of sadness.

He wanted to change his route, left Sydney with the ship Castel Felice ( read here  the story of the ship ) of the Sitmar company passing through Java, Sumatra (Jelon island !!!!) and up to Singapore crossing the Suez Canal again to dock this time in the port of Naples.

sitmar monsignori 1958.jpeg

From the return trip Gino brought back this parchment which appears to be the evolution of the ex-votos of many overseas emigrants, no longer thanks to God and the wish for a safe journey, but an "institutional" attestation to the ancient sea divinity of the journey in oceans.


Upon returning from Australia, in the summer of 1959, my father stopped by the family to help her with the work in the countryside in Campaola where my grandparents had agricultural land to cultivate and the forest from which they drew family sustenance.

But after having had that experience on the other side of the planet, it is easy to understand how Campaola, a town in the mountains that divide Umbertide from Gubbio, was narrow due to its wide views.

So at the beginning of 1960 this time he took a train and, first he headed to France and then to Switzerland where there was a large group of people from Umberto I including his brother-in-law, Floridi Evelino.

He immediately went to the German canton in the Zurich area and there he began looking for a job and a place to live.

He stopped in Rümlang, a small town in the Canton of Zurich in the Dielsdorf district where there was a beautiful productive fabric, with many more or less large factories. In one of these he immediately found work, a job that he continued throughout the period he remained in Switzerland.  


The factory where Gino worked

The story continues with a curious anecdote: since he had won some money at the Totocalcio (Italian habit), he had managed to rent a room near the workplace he had just found. It was a small room that was located above a butcher's shop, equipped with all comforts and above all it was only his and he did not have to share it with anyone. 

Every now and then he came home, for the Christmas holidays, in the summer for the holidays. The journeys were an odyssey, trains full of compatriots generally coming from the south who brought typical products from their countries of origin, from oranges from Sicily to salami and chillies from Calabria and oil from Puglia. My father told me that once during the journey to Switzerland, one of the wagons began to drip olive juice from the passenger suitcases placed high on the luggage racks!

Train journeys were always very crowded and chaotic, people crammed standing along the corridors with the famous cardboard suitcases piled in the intercommunicating passage between two carriages. 

This happened up to Chiasso, a city on the border with Switzerland. Noise was the watershed: people were identified there, the necessary carriages were added to seat all passengers. Everyone had to have their seats until they reached their travel destination.

On one of these return trips my father Gino met Adriana, my mother whom he then married in September 1963. He decided to take her with him to Switzerland where he had a good job and a good accommodation.


At this point the room was a bit small, so he looked for an accommodation more suited to his new status as a "married man". He found a large apartment to share with another couple with shared kitchen use. The roommates were from Puglia. Some time after the beginning of the cohabitation, my father, speaking with the owner of the apartment, realized however that he was the one to pay most of the rent and so the cohabitation was interrupted. 

My parents, given the experience, worked to find an apartment just for them. However, it was not easy to get a decent rented house because the Swiss were very suspicious of foreigners and had to be referenced.

My father's reference was a gentleman who worked in the Zurich city hall who acted as guarantor for this young couple who thus managed to obtain a small apartment, a room, a kitchen and a bathroom in Rümlang.

My mother, after a first period of acclimatization and arrangement of the house, had decided that she too wanted to look for a job and so first with my father on Saturday morning and then alone she went in search of a job asking in the numerous factories in the country. He found one in a rather large factory where he was not very comfortable.

So she left that occupation and soon after she found a job in a small Jewish factory that made pantyhose where she was in charge of what we would now call "quality control".

She really liked the work, the environment made up of many young Italian girls from all regions, from north to south, from Veneto, Friuli, Puglia rather than Sicily.

It was a wonderful time for Gino and Adriana, they always tell me that they saw a lot of money, they had a nice house, jobs they liked and they were integrating into the rigid Swiss environment both with language and habits.

Then one beautiful day in March of '66 my mother realized she was expecting a baby and from there my father immediately wanted to move house and for this he made use of that person again.  he worked in the municipality which acted as guarantor for a bank-owned apartment with two bedrooms in a new building. 

I arrived in November '66 two days after the Florence flood.

My grandmother Caterina who came to see her granddaughter did not know until the end if she would be able to pass by train in that Italy divided in two by the flooded Arno in Florence that prevented the passage of trains.

My father was waiting for his mother-in-law in Milan to accompany her to a country that seemed so far from the reality from which she came, even the climate, the cold and the abundant snow at that time. 

My grandmother always told me that in the morning when she went out to the streets of Rümlang to do the shopping, everyone greeted her, they were obsequious (remember that one day during a snowstorm her umbrella slipped away and a gentleman who passed bring it back).

She didn't understand their language because they spoke German, they were kind and courteous, according to her, because they mistook her for Swiss because of her fair complexion and light brown hair.

The same thing happened to my mother Adriana, blonde blue eyes, her easy integration also passed from here ...


Then when I was born, everything was more difficult, also because I did not eat and consequently I did not grow, I had problems with milk so Gino and Adriana took me back to Italy to my maternal grandmother who kept me until my parents decided they could not stay there with me away and that is the spring of 1968.

My father remembers that when he went to the Zurich station to contact the manager who would be responsible for organizing the transport of the furniture from their home to Umbertide by train, the latter, after having gone to see where they lived to understand the expedition to be made. She said:

"You Italians are all the same, when to start feeling good going home ...".


- Presciutti Loredana

- Monsignors Miriam

- Presciutti Family Archive

- Archives of the Monsignori family


Help us remember

Edmondo de Amicis

... " Piled there like horses
On the cold prow bitten by the winds,
They migrate to inhospitable and distant lands;
Tattered and emaciated,
They cross the seas to look for bread.


(1882) "The Emigrants"

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