Italian Emigration

The huge part emigration played in Italian history and culture

by Ron Gauld | June 2019

We own Casa Fontana B&B, a property in Italy in the small Tuscan medieval hilltown of Barga, just north of Lucca. We have lived there now for 16 years and get guests from all over the world. Many come to Italy to "find their roots", and we soon realised what a huge part emigration played in Italian history and culture. There are now large concentrations of Italian emigrant families in many countries. Between 1875 and 1928 emigration from Italy reached its peak with about 17 million emigrants abroad, with he period of most intense emigration in the 1880s. There are associations of emigrants in many major cities around the world.

Our own town of Barga holds a "Festa degli Emigranti" every year to welcome back members of this diaspora.

Many from Barga, in the Province of Lucca, emigrated over the past 150 years to Scotland where they built successful businesses, mainly in restaurants, fish and chip shops and ice cream parlours. Almost every family in Barga has some family connection in Scotland.

Many also emigrated to the US where there are communities in Washington DC, New York, San Francisco, Chicago and many other cities.

Festa degli Emigranti, Barga

Our Comune makes efforts to encourage interaction with the emigrants; as well as the Festa degli Emigranti, the Anagrafe (Register office) will assist with genealogical research and provide copies of birth, marriage and death certificates. The Comune welcomes weddings in Barga (to couples with or without local family connections). Brexit has added more to this mix with those seeking to obtain Italian passports to maintain their links with Europe.

Festa degli EmigrantiFesta degli Emigranti, Barga

The result is that every year we get more visitors to Barga in search of their Italian roots which brings an interesting cosmopolitan feeling to the city.