Mattei: A visit to Cevio

From Barb Mullen, Australia

A number of Alessandro’s descendants have traveled to Cevio to explore their family roots.

Probably the first to do so was Kit Monighetti in August 1930. She kept a diary of her travels and she said, in part:

“After breakfast next morning our cousin (Ulysses Mattei) arrived & we had a nice walk rain holding off saw the old home of uncle Morelli one of the first places built in Cevio several hundreds of years old then on to grandpa’s home which was errected the figures cut in the stone over the door 1638 You will wonder as I used to how these place could stand so many years but they are all made of solid stone & the walls 2 ft sometimes more think it is a 14 roomed two story house steps & stairs over it built right into the mountain so steep that Kath (Kit’s daughter) could not take a snap of it but took one from it of the beautiful valley below it seemed to be right at the end of the valley that extended several miles down but we were fortunate enough to get some Post Cards.”


Kathleen Monighetti’s landscape photo of Cevio, including the family home, marked with a white x.


Pietro Mattei, Alessandro’s older brother had left Cevio the year before Alessandro, in 1854. There were a total of 10 Mattei’s from 5 different households who came to Australia, most of whom came out in 1854. The eldest, was 44, the youngest 16. Alessandro himself was 17 when he made the journey.

Other related families to the Mattei’s were Dolcini’s, Morelli’s, Moretti’s, Respini’s, Re’s and Sartori’s. The numbers from these families totaled 56. In fact there was hardly any family that the Mattei’s didn’t have a relationship with.

Life in a small village in those days was like that. Everyone knew everyone else.

Left behind were the women, the children and the men too old to leave. It was devastating. How would they manage without men to do the heavy work?

Always in the back of everyone’s mind was the thought that the adventurers would return with gold and all problems would disappear.


One brave woman at the age of 35, decided to make the journey to Australia. Giovanna Maria Filippini, daughter of Giovanni Battista, was on the Agen Heinrich with Alessandro.

It was very unusual for a woman to walk out of the valley. Undoubtedly she thought that she might find opportunities in Australia unavailable in the narrow world of Cevio.

It was a man’s world in many ways in the 1850’s, in Cevio as well as here in Australia. The biggest difference was that it was possible to forge your own way in the new world. The social strictures of small village life did not exist in the same way on the goldfields.

Even so Giovanna’s letters home betray the sad homesickness she felt.

Cheda, Giorgio: ‘L’Emigrazione Ticinese in Australia’ Vol 2. Armando Dado’ Editore, 1976

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.