HerStory Archive

FLOREANI, Italia

Also known as: Flo, Ita

Born: 1916

Died: 21/09/2012

Special Achievements:

On 18 March 1940 Italia Floreani boarded the last but one passenger boat Romola to leave Italy after war was declared in Europe the previous year.  With her 18-month-old daughter Gianna, one trunk and two suitcases, they set sail from Genoa for a new life on the other side of the world.  It was a 6-week treacherous voyage through mine-ridden waters and by the time they reached Australia, Italy had entered the war as a German ally, and Italia and Gianna had to register as ‘aliens’ at the local police station.  At this time she could not speak a word of English.  She joined her husband in Adelaide where he had found work at his cousin’s terrazzo business.  Within the next 5 years they had two more children, Gabriella and Enzo.  But it was not a happy partnership --- Gabriel’s heavy drinking and subsequent violent mood swings meant that Italia had little emotional or financial support throughout their marriage.  She had to work on many occasions to keep the family going and from an early age Gianna took responsibility for the younger children.

However in 1947 Italia found herself at the beginning of another long journey to a new life.  Like many other Italian migrants at this time, Gabriel had bought a share in a mica mine in the Harts Ranges in Central Australia.  He went on ahead to set up camp while Italia followed later with the three children, taking the three-day journey by the old Ghan steam train.  In Alice Springs they stayed at Mrs Garutti’s home (now the site of Melanka Lodge) for the first few days and then Italia had to leave her two girls at the convent school before setting off with the baby on the full day’s drive by truck to the mining area 140 km away.  Her home for three years was a tent, within a camp of eight single men for whom she cooked.  In the main she was the only white female.  During this time she had her fourth child, Aldo, who slept in a wooden box whilst a baby.

In 1950 the family returned to Alice Springs for another three years, living with Mrs Dalla Valle for a few months and then renting a shed on the east side bank of the Todd River, opposite the Pioneer Picture Theatre.  Gabriel’s drinking bouts and violent behaviour continued.  Often the children slept down the creek or the nuns at the convent put them up.  Italia supported the family by working at the Stuart Arms Hotel firstly in the kitchen and then the laundry.

Returning to Adelaide Italia finally left her husband in 1955, eventually moving back to Alice Springs where in April 1960 she was presented with one of the towns first commission homes on Eastside.  She retired in Adelaide.


Resources

  • Image - Italia Floreani

    from NPWHF Italia FLOREANI file


  • Image - Floreani family portrait, 1947

    from NPWHF Italia FLOREANI file


  • Image - Italia being presented with the first Alice Springs Housing Commission home

    from NPWHF Italia FLOREANI file