Monday, 19 October 2015

The Italians of South Wales or the Italians in the Rain

First of all with this blog let me thank all those people who have encouraged me with my blogging, you know who you are.  I don’t think I am a natural blogger, I only started it because some of my Twitter followers suggested it and I never cease to be amazed that people read my inane rantings but I am more than thankful that you do.

One barrier that I encounter in relation to blogging is finding a topic that I think people will be interested in and that is the case with the topic for this blog, but on reviewing my past blog I did notice that I had promised to recount my ongoing relationship with Italy.  This together with @edanaming who comes from an Italian family herself asking me about it has finally prompted me to commit my experiences to print. As my relationship with Italy covers some 40 years I have a lot to say I’ll split this blog in to two so not as to bore you too much, first I will tell you about the Welsh Italians and then I will tell you about my relationship with them.

You don’t need to have followed me for long on Twitter or read many of my blogs to know that I am a product of the South Wales Valleys. Now you may or may not know anything about the South Wales valleys or the people who live in them but you may be surprised that we are a pretty varied bunch. Prior to the industrial revolution the valleys of South Wales were one of the most sparsely populated areas of the United Kingdom so when coal mining and iron production developed in the area people had to move in to work those industries.  While some moved in from elsewhere in Wales, particularly the rural, agricultural West, others moved from further afield.  
My own surname is testament to the Irish contingent of this immigration but growing up in the valleys in 60s and 70s I was surrounded by immigrant families with their roots in Poland, Spain and of course Italy.  The Italians were an integral of any valley community at the time as illustrated by the character Bella Lasagne in Fire Man Sam. 

Every valleys community had their Italian café serving frothy coffee (cappuccino type concoctions made with Nescafe instant coffee), steamed pies (a strange South Wales delicacy),”singles” (cigarettes sold individually for the cash strapped) and of course that Italian staple, ice cream.
If you are interested in reading further about the Welsh Italians there is a good book out on the subject called “Lime, Lemon and Sarsaparilla” .

Another interesting fact that you probably don’t know about the Welsh Italian community is that the vast majority are from in and around one town Bardi in the Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy.  Over the years I have visited Bardi many times and it is an amazing place, a valleys town itself located in deepest rural Italy and where on market day on a Thursday in the main piazza you will hear Italian being spoken with a distinctive South Wales accent and where when I meet people there and I tell them I am from Merthyr the first thing they will say is “So you know the Viazzanis and the Fulgonis” which of course I do.

Another useful link if you want to know more about the Welsh Italians is The Amici Val Ceno
Anyway, I digress, to be continued ….

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