Wednesday, 13 February 2013

In the Footsteps of Lorenzo - Italy 2

 My Italian Adventure.

My plan for Italy is to spend 10 days traversing the country east to west beginning in my great Grandfathers home village (or my best guess of his home village). He's been a tricky bloke to nail down. There are multiple clues in death certificates and oral stories but no documents. No birth certificate, no baptism registration. There is a recent global family of origin family tree put together by Antonio Perin in which Lorenzo Perin appears under his original family name. This is evidence of his existence and confirms that he did live in the district where I will begin my journey.

In 1880, between February and April, Lorenzo and Catterina and two children made the journey from their kitchen to Marseilles overland. What transport they used I'm not sure, but it would have been an arduous trip for a family carrying their worldly possessions and little money. Over 300 Italians from their district made this journey around the same time, so perhaps they were travelling with company. Their ultimate destination was Barcelona, their embarkation point for paradise.

They may have travelled by horse and cart as would all journeys in the mid 19th Century but part of the journey may have been by rail. Between 1860 and 1880, after the unification of Italy, there was an explosion of rail networks across Northern Italy. It would, in fact, have been possible to undertake almost the entire journey by rail in 1880.

For a peasant family that would have been unheard of, unimaginable ten years earlier. Could they have afforded such travel? What would it have cost? How often did these services operate and did they connect? I don't have answers to these questions but I intend to gain some insight into the modern experience of this journey as I attempt to retrace their steps using the local rail network.
Italian Rail Network 1861

I will buy tickets at local stations for trains with no booking system using my halting "Italian for Travellers". I will plan each next step as I go, checking that my assumed itinerary is the one that locals confirm may have been the route of my ancestors.

At this stage I will begin near Conegliano in Veneto and follow a route which will take me via Treviso, Padua, Verona, Brescia, Bergamo, Milan, Novara, Torina, Cuneo, Ventimigia the cross the border to Nice and finally Marseilles, the second city of France. Interestingly Nice, France's third city, was most recently part of Piedmont, Italy until it was annexed by France in 1860.

Each stage is short and will give give me time to walk the streets of these mostly minor and middle sized towns at the end of each day before returning next morning to pick up my next train.I have allowed about seven days for this. You can get a fast train and complete the journey in one day but I imagine Lorenzo and his comrades may have spent close to a month on this leg of their trip. I want the local experience.

Italian Rail Network 1870
At this stage I am not planning to take the boat from Marseilles to Barcelona as they did. Nor am I planning to take the sea and ocean voyage across the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal and across the Indian Ocean.

I have a friend who did do a similar journey down the Rhine (he's of German descent) following the same route as a passenger on a container vessel.

My sea experience will come on my next adventure. I am planning to visit Papua New Guinea to stand on the beach where the 300 Italians were delivered to begin a disastrous six months in their imagined, but devastatingly disappointing, paradise in the Pacific.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I missed this post the other week - the trip looks great and I hope you uncover everything you set out to uncover.