Cultural Institute, founded in 1979, is an office of the Italian Ministry of
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There are countless books
and subjects on the
migration of Italians to Australia and the America's, but very few on
Scotland and of those the vast majority are either out of print or very
hard to get hold of. Some excellent books do exist, and it is from these
that I have borrowed photographs and other such material.
internet usually a reliable source of information, for this topic
produced very poor results to begin with.
Consequently much of the material in this
project comes to you from word of mouth alone.
So where and how did it all start?
If you're familiar with the
then you'll know that most of today's Scotsitalians can trace their roots back
to the early 1850's.
This section skims over the 'how they got here'
and 'what they did when they were here', rather it seeks to set in motion
an understanding of how they have developed since those early days.
The first settlers of note were mostly Statue Sellers (figurinai),
many who had come up from London and were originally from Picinisco in the
Frosinone region. Their principal aim was to escape the
crippling economy and disastrous agricultural condition of their homeland
and generate enough income to support their families. Many of these carved
out careers in the arts and were accomplished barbers and hairdressers.
Indeed in 1928 a college of Italian hairdressers opened up in Glasgow.
In the spectacularly
preserved hilltop town of Coreglia Antelminelli (near Barga) there is I
believe the one and only
Museum of Statuettes and Migration. Many of the first journeys taken
by the pioneers is documented with tales, artefacts and even some
statuettes from as early as the 1600's.
The majority of Italians soon diversified, selling ice
cream, initially on the streets, later from
Interesting as most came from peasant farmer backgrounds and had no catering
experience. It was not uncommon for them to work seven days 14 hours a day.
It would take some years before they even made enough money even to visit
Italy again. Most money was sent back to Italy then or funded other family
members or villagers to come over.
Once the cafe's were fully operational, it was expected that
all the family members contribute. This included long, anti-social hours
which as a result led to very little contact with people from out-with the
Italian community. Though schooling was deemed important, once secondary
school had been completed, the children went directly into the family
business. The family was all encompassing.
Much of the money was sent back to Italy either for the
older generation left behind or to buy property.
As businesses expanded so the need for new employees began
to grow. The head of the business would commonly recruit young Italian's,
often from his home village. These Italians in turn would eventually own
their own businesses in time.
In the households Italian was spoken, Italian food was the
staple diet often with all the family dining together. Religious festivals
were vehemently observed.
During the early part of the 20th century, Italians were
expected to marry only Italians and it wasn't until the 1950's that there
was a distinct shift in this thinking. Indeed, many of the older settlers
hoped to return to Italy to retire one day and viewed Scotland in a
As friendships from fellow settlers grew (through card games
and religious occasions), a tight Italian business network soon emerged. In
1935, the Casa D'Italia opened in Glasgow, a grand home from
home for many Italians (this has since closed down in 1989). Glasgow
today has the third largest contingent of people from Italian extraction in
the UK after London and Manchester.
Cafes first major obstacle was the
Temperance Movement of the early 1900's whereupon Italian shopkeepers were
highlighted for the unruly behaviour that happened within the businesses
(often as a result of being the only place open after the pubs closed) and
of course for trading on Sundays. This was also where the young met to sing,
dance and spend their pocket money, often with disregard to their parents
consent! Xenophobic attacks and criticism in the press for lowering the
moral tone was not uncommon. However solid legal argument and the
creation of the Temperance Refreshment Traders Defence Association (consisting entirely of Italians) went in some way to
eroding this mentality. Read
the full web article
A large percentage of Italians in Scotland during the 30's
were registered Fascist Party members. This appears to have been a response
from a call from Mussolini, whose party's influence stretched to those
communities outside Italy. This led to obvious tensions and with the
outbreak of World War II many Italian Cafe's
were vandalised and its owners persecuted.
With anti-Catholic sentiment also evident, the speed and the intensity of
the violence that the
Italians were subjected to shocked many. After all,
for nearly half a decade they had lived side by side in total peace. Some of
the family members born in the UK even fought for Britain. It
wasn't long after that adult males were interned.
'The business life in the (Italian) community was based
on trust, family loyalty and personal knowledge, which were the essential
factors for economic success in a strange land.'
T.M. Devine The Scottish Nation
Many of these businesses somehow managed to continue
trading, relying on the wives, children and the elderly members of the
family. Though many had to be rebuilt from scratch following the end of the
war. My great-aunt and her sister in law ran their shop for the duration of
the War. This despite the fact that their husbands were interned and the
husbands brother and family had escaped to Italy. In addition at one point
the business was taken over by the army for use as a hospital.
For Scotsitalian growing up in the post-war period, this
was an extremely trying time as taunts and abuse were commonplace. Perhaps
as a direct result from this there has been very little immigration from
Italy to Scotland since. This may also have to do with the fact that Italy
now has a vibrant economy of its own, which at one point in 1999 had
overtaken the GDP of the UK itself, known it economic circles as 'Il
Sorpasso", though I suspect this is no longer the case since
Italy's venture into Euro-Land. This of a scholarly disposition can check
this out for yourself:
UK FACTBOOK /
There were of course a large number that remained and
feeling a greater to need to assimilate it did not take long for many
misconceptions to dissolve.
With this understanding and an increase in further education
more Scotsitalians were attending university and breaking into professional
jobs and breaking out of their traditional roles in the family business.
Despite this progressive assimilation, the
Scotsitalian household retained a backbone of Italian food, customs and
traditions. Superstitions were also well held,
confusing to me as my mother always insisted that the number 13 was lucky!
What remains evident however is that the Italian identity
does not appear to have been diluted, rather it compliments many of the
traits personified by living as a Scot, or perhaps I should say,
Scotsitalian. Indeed, Scotsitalian filmmaker Sergio Casci identifies
the Scotsitalians as a 'third' being representing the fusion of both
backgrounds ultimately leading to the creation of a different
characteristic. Never really feeling Scottish in Scotland or for that matter
Italian in Italy.
This theme is continued by the very same Sergio Casci, striking an interesting chord in the
this was America
for biannual publication Italia
and Italydiscussing his views growing up as a Scotsitalian.
Mary Contini, of Valvona & Crolla in
Edinburgh in a recent
states 'I am a Scot. I am a Scotsitalian. But essentially I am a Scot.'
Also consider Anthony Minghella (of
Scotsitalian parentage incidentally) when asked in a recent
if he felt English or Italian replied:
"I was born
and raised on the Isle of Wight, an isolated area with few foreigners. My
parents were Italian emigrants and therefore we were considered rather exotic.
My parents talked about inglesi, as if they were talking about foreigners. But
when I go to Italy, which I try to do as much as I can, I feel very English. I
had an English education. English friends and my Italian is not very good. For a
writer it is a good thing not to be too assimilated. I feel most at home in
America, because everybody there is from another country."
However, the main theme
of the last few points is what does it feel like to be a Scotsitalian.
I myself never really
felt a 100% Scottish in Scotland or for that matter 100% Italian in
with two passports does have its advantages.
Happened to Auld Glesga?features the following verse as it recounts
theold days of the city. I believe this poem was written Adam McNaughton.
"Where is the Tally's that I knew so well?
That wee corner shoppie where they used to sell,
Hot peas, a McCallum, ice cream in a poke,
You knew they were Tallys the minute the spoke.
as Scots Italians make their mark on British culture"
A recent poll conducted
by Diet supplement specialist group
determined the most influential British Italians. No fewer than six
Scotsitalians were listed in the top ten. Amongst them were Nicola
Benedetti, Armando Iannucci, Sir Charles Forte, Tom Conti, Anthony
Minghella with Sharleen Spiteri of Texas leading the list. Alicia Keys
also warranted a mention.
Valvona and Crolla, Francesca Contini and author Joe Pieri were
interviewed for the piece.
links with the old country have been preserved as its never
been easier or more affordable to visit. Indeed in a town
like Barga, links are so strong that if you were to find
yourself asking directions, chances are the reply you'll
hear may be along the lines of 'nae bother hen, just take
a wee left at the lights.'
Many Scotsitalians have
returned to live in this area (Barga in particular) and now
with regular air links they've also brought their friends
and extended family and have settled here whether to work or
retire. One such person is the inimitable Michele Biagi,
raconteur, translator, sometime actor, general good guy and
estate agent of
who is originally from Saltcoats.
This picture is courtesy of
Barganews and features
Michele acting as interpreter for a RAI 3 in an interview
involving Barga's Mayor Bruno Sereni (whose father spent
much of his working life in Scotland) and one of Scotland's
most influential artists of the present day John Bellany who
now lives in the area.
claims to now be the 'Most Scottish Town' in
Italy. There is even a permanent
section which features a photographic exhibition "Sull'amicizia
Bargo - Scozzese" opened by Lord Provost of Edinburgh, the
Rt. Hon. Lesley Hinds. This Barga-Scottish link is
reciprocated here as word has reached me that the good
people of Saltcoats have recently named a road, Barga
Gardens in the Persimmon Homes Development in Dykesmains
after the town.
Week has now become a yearly event in Barga culminating in
the Fish and Chip festival. This year in 2006, Paolo Nutini
the Scotsitalian singer songwriter is expected to play at
town that could lay claim to being the most Scottish town in
located 850 metres above sea level in the Val Comino in ther
Lazio region near Cassino, whose many sons and daughters
also escaped famine, poverty and the prospect of opportunity
to come to Scotland. Whilst the general pattern was for
migrants from the Barga area to work in Fish and Chip shops,
people from Picinisco were more likely to work in the Ice
Cream trade. Despite many settling in the West coast of
Scotland, many from Picinisco ventured to other parts of the
UK too including Manchester, especially the
area, London, Cardiff and
not forget about
the small town in Northern Italy, which many considered to
have been the final resting place for the Scots guards of
France following Battle of Pavia in 1525, specifically the
Gayre Clan (tartan opposite). The Lost Clan as it is locally
referred to has left a lasting legacy on the town,
they rested here following the defeat of the French and
consoled the grieving widows whose husbands had died in the
nearby battle. Today the local dialect still contains
hundreds of Scots or Gaelic words, and many of the townsfolk
appear to have a Highland look about them. The local museum
even houses a relic of Tartan material worn there around the
18thcentury. Recently one local appeared fully clad
in kilt and complete with bagpipes in Italy's version of the
reality TV programme,
The call for a Scottish Italian Tartan.
been contacted in the past regarding the availability of a Scotsitalian
Tartan and to be honest I didn't know myself and was kind of curious to find
what was out there.
I did a bit of
digging and it seems to be a slightly grey area of
sorts, though I managed to source out the following press reports:
1. A recent article appeared in the
Herald in September 2004.
Mr. Lemetti of Camelon hopes to register the Italian National Tartan and has the full
endorsement of the Italian Government. The Italian National Tartan is now available to buy online. I have regular contributor
Russell to thank for bringing this site to my attention.
Italia is the only source for the new Italian
National Tartan - ties from £12.00, scarves from £15, Gents Kilts
(made to measure) from £195.00.
Tartan contains colours that embody elements of the National and Praetorian
Guard, the Tricolore, the Roman Empire and of course, the Azzurri football team.
are other tartans registered at the
Tartan World Registry that have an Italian history to them. These are the 'Dr
Confessore' tartan and the 'Prince Charles Edward Stewart'
(Bonnie Prince Charlie) tartan - the latter being born in Rome.
I understand that there is one that is
currently awaiting registration in the Scottish Tartans World Register and
has been given the term Scotsitalian Tartan. It is coloured green,
white and red representing Italy of course - all on a blue background
representing Scotland. I believe that this was developed by Paul Davidson,
and Italian-born Tony Cirignaco. Mr. Cirignaco comments "Because the
tartan Italians make up such a large part of the Scots community we felt it
was about time they had a tartan of their own." The tartan is
currently produced by
Crystal. Mr Cirignaco who manages the
Bridge Hotel adds "Italians have been in Scotland for so long,
and the idea is so simple, that I can’t understand why nobody has thought
of it before. It is a way of marrying the two cultures."
(The full article appears in the
of November 6th 2000.)
For more information on the Scotsitalian
Tony Cirignaco, The Manager, Bothwell Bridge
Hotel, 39 Main Street, Bothwell, G71 8EU. Scotland
(UK). Telephone No: 01698 852246.
Fax No: 01698
854686. E-mail: email@example.com
The following observations of an Italian family
are taken from an American perspective (courtesy of Scottish ex-pat Al Rizza)
with more than some similarities for Italians living in Scotland.
There is some sort of religious statue in the
hallway, living room and front porch.
The living room is filled with old Bombonieri with puffy fancy bows and stale Almonds.
A portrait of the Pope and Padre Pio hangs in
the dining room.
God forbid if anyone ever attempted to eat,
Ragu, Bertolli, a frozen TV dinner, or anything else in a jar,
box or can; that's "Porcheria".
Complaints our parents have about takeout
*Fast food - too much grease - "Porcheria"
*Oriental Cuisine - God knows what they put into it
*Pizza Hut, Domino's - I can make da same pizza for $ 2.00 - you pay $25.00!
Turkey is served on Thanksgiving, AFTER the
gnocchi and lasagna. Later on we have Barbaque with da Bistecka.
Sunday Dinner is at 1:00pm after church
The meal goes something like this...
Table is set with everyday dishes, (unless Zio
Luigi is visiting from Italy... then we take out the dishes in the velvet
suitcase). Doesn't matter if they don't match...they're clean.
All the utensils go on the right side of the plate and the napkin goes on the
left. (Nonno's Fork has been widened to spear more pasta).
Put a clean kitchen towel at Nonno's plate because they won't use
Home-made wine in recycled wine bottles with a twist top; and bottles of Tap
water in recycled plastic water bottles with the label worn off, are on the
table. (Unless Zio Luigi is visiting from Italy....then we use the crystal
Carafe with the dust in the engraved sections)
* First course, Antipasto...change plates
* Next, Macaroni (Nonna calls all pasta Macaroni)...change plate
* After that, Roasted Meats, Roasted Potatoes, and Overcooked Vegetables.
and change the plates * then and only then, (never at the beginning of the meal)
would you eat the salad (homemade oil and vinegar dressing only (last years
wine).. change plates
*Next, Fruit, Nuts land Lupini (on paper napkins because you ran out of dishes
*Coffee Espresso with Sambuca and Hard Cookies (from the last time Nonna went to
a Bridal Shower) with the stale almonds and freezer burn, to dip in the coffee.
After dinner the kids go
play...the men go to lie down, (or have a game of "Briscloa"). They
sleep so soundly you could perform brain surgery on them without anaesthesia.
Cousin Carmela performs a goofy hair-do on the youngest unsuspecting member of
the family. The older women clean the kitchen and gossip about "il
figlio de Maria" or someone that's dying.
Kids getting screamed at by Mum or Nonna -with half the sentence was English,
the other half Italian.
Italian mothers never threw a baseball in their life, but they can nail you in
the head with a shoe thrown from the kitchen while you're in the living room.
A particular bizarre phenomenon, many
Scotsitalian's will have experience of this mangled language where English
words are often Italianised in conversation. As far as I know
there isn't a name for this language so I'll call it Italglese.
Examples of such
words such are:
To videotape, from the English verb To Tape.
From the Englishword Busy, especially used
in the workplace.
From the English verb To Shave.
To become Engaged.
weird one is Kettola which I once heard to describe a kettle
(back then there was no direct translation though I believe the word
is now 'Bollitore').
Peter Muccini, a frequent
contributor to this site reveals his own experiences:
The older generation of
Scotsitalians developed a sort of Creole language by adapting certain English
words. One such word was pambrocco which I used in an essay at
Glasgow University in 1947. My tutor, Enrico Cocozza (one of the famous
Scotsitalians in this websites' list), told me it did not exist and the correct
term was prestitore su pegno which is Italian for ‘pawnbroker’. These neologisms included mencia as in mencia e
patate (mince and tatties), pocco (as in unpocco di patate,
a poke of chips) checca (cake), broscia (brush) and trampi
(yobs or uncouth persons). My favourite is sfoccheggiare, a verb that
describes Billy Connolly’s frequent use of the four-lettered word beginning with
F and ending in K. Thus: sfoccheggiava come un matto (‘he was effing and
blinding like a madman’ or ‘he was swearing like a trooper’).
A similar phenomenon exists where I live in
south-west London. The Italians here are mainly from around Naples, Ischia and
Calabria. One gave me his address as Salacocca Road which, on consulting the A-Z
guide, turned out to be Selkirk Road. Other Italian-sounding places in the
London region are Anaorta (Hanworth), Anzelo (Hounslow) and Emelemsi (Hemel
Hempstead). Michele Sasso who runs a motor repair business and specialises in
Ferrari and Porsches has his own vocabulary which, to my amazement, is
understood by his British customers. Michele’s language features the Neapolitan
practice of truncating words by knocking off the last syllable. Thus ‘a game of
snooker’ becomes ‘a game of snook’. Michele’s business is called M&S Autos but
when he answers the phone he says ‘Emanessot’. Michele has also Neapolitanised
the English for vehicle components so that sciocasso is his version for