Great experience at the Swiss Italian Festa

by Candida and Ronald Willemse

swissitalianThe yearly Swiss Italian Festa in Australia was opened on Saturday the 10th of October in Hepburn Springs. Unfortunately we were there only for the first 3 days.

We arrived on Friday evening and were warmly welcomed by Rob McDonald, president, and Jenny and Eddie Beecham, the coordinators of the organisation committee. There was an exhibition of paintings dedicated to the local landscape. The award ceremony was judged by Clare Gervasoni, curator of the Art and Historical Collections at the University of Ballaratat and author of many publications regarding Swiss-Italian immigrations. We then visited the 150 year old restaurant “the Old Macaroni Factory” where Signora Maria introduced us proudly to the Lucini family history (her ancestors were from Intra on the Lago Maggiore).

The previous editions were usually kept in autumn (April), but it has certainly been a good idea to move it to spring (October). The weather was cold at night, but bright and sunny during the day, in particular the opening parade was a big success and was followed by an impressive number of cheerful people. Among the groups in the parade particularly interesting was the association of the Swiss-Australian life-saving dogs. After the official opening ceremony various groups of local schoolchildren came on stage to sing both English and Italian songs, with a bilingual presentation done by Italian language students. The Swiss were represented by singers and dancers of Swiss German groups based in Melbourne. During the afternoon we had the opportunity to meet many interesting persons with links to Switzerland: various people asked about Luigi Jorio, Piergiorgio Baroni, Pietro Bianchi and others, they remembered them with sympathy and sent their greetings.

On Sunday morning, after the Holy Mass, there was a concert with some great Australian choirs singing in Daylesford Town Hall, each had included a song in Italian, in particular the Friuliani group in traditional costumes singing in their language was appreciated. In Daylesford we met with the brothers Sonogan, Henry (civil engineer) and Ray (horse farmer), descendants from Giovanni Sonognini who emigrated to Australia in 1853. They came to Ticino last year. Also Ellen Lawson and Karen Arnott (both descending from Tranquillo Patà) were there. The afternoon was spent at the Cricket Willow Farm and the Swiss Lavandula farm, where we met the friendly descendants of the Tinetti family from Biasca. The house of the Lavandula farm is still kept in the original style like a Ticinese stone house with big fire place and a wine cellar.

It is a pity that we could not stay any longer, missing the opportunity to meet other families with roots in Ticino, like the Lafranchis, who plan to meet next Saturday, during the Giornata Ticinese with risotto at the grotto. Anyway, it has been a great experience, strongly recommended to those who are interested in the history of the Ticinesi coming to Australia 150 years ago, dreaming to find gold.

Lavandula Farm


Dogs in parade


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