ss orcadesIn April of 1960, we took a trip overseas for 6 months, most of that time being spent in Italy. The paternal side of my family are Italian and my nana wanted to go to Italy to visit family she hadn't seen for 20 odd years. As my grandfather was unable to go due to business commitments (the family business of Birti Bros, shortbread manufacturers), Nana asked Mum to go with her. My father was also unable to go as he worked in the family business, so Mum and I, Nana, and Mum's girlfriend Evelyn went. We made this journey by sea on the S.S. Orcades (pictured) disembarking at Naples - the journey took 3 weeks. There was lots to do on board, always something going on and I remember some fun times. One thing that sticks out in my mind is when we crossed the equator the captain and crew dressed up as King Neptune and his helpers and painted the kids with icecream and threw them into the pool (I was too scared to be thrown into the pool even though someone was in there to catch the kids). There were parties and entertainment for the kids on board and on both legs of the journey I won first and second prize in the kids' fancy dress party. The picture here shows me receiving first prize from the captain. I was dressed up as Little Bo-Peep - Mum had made the costume out of crepe paper. The other photo is of Nana and myself on board.

little bo peepkaren, nana

After disembarking at Naples, the rest of our journey was made by train north, our destination being Lavarone, Cappella. I've not found these places on maps I've looked at, but the nearest city is Trento (Trentino), right up in the north of Italy. The next

karenphoto was taken the day we arrived. Whilst in Italy we stayed in an apartment building owned by the family. Various family members also lived in this building as well as other unrelated people. In the basement of this building there was still the family business of Birti Bros. (Fratelli Birti) where it originated. Just a bit of background here -not long after my father was born, his father and 2 of his father's brothers migrated to Australia. From what I can remember, they set up a confectionery business in Melbourne (later to become Birti Bros. shortbread manufacturers). My grandfather stayed in Melbourne with the business and the 2 other brothers moved to Kancoona South in Victoria (in the vicinity of Myrtleford and Mt. Beauty) and started growing tobacco. Actually, I've just remembered that the nearest township to Kancoona is Dederang (I'm sure that's on the map.) The tobacco growing wasn't successful so they turned to dairy farming. It wasn't until my father was 12 years old that he and his older brother and Nana moved to Australia, after the business was firmly established. This business was in High Street, St.Kilda which I think is now called St.Kilda Road - the bit between Carlisle Street/Balaclava Road and St.Kilda junction. The business has long gone as all the buildings on that side of the road were pulled down to make way for the widening of that section of the road. I've gone off at a tangent here - back to our trip overseas. We stayed in Italy for 4 or 5 months before going to visit family in England. En route we spent a few days in Switzerland and overnight in Paris. The next photo is of myself and Nana feeding the pigeons in the very famous St.Marks Square in Venice.

st.mark's squareI remember nothing of where we stayed in London - we were there for about 6 weeks. I remember outings and visits to relatives, but nothing of where we stayed, which was Earls Court. Unfortunately whilst in London, we had rolls of undeveloped film stolen from our room - unfortunate because they were all photos of the family in Italy - Mum says whoever took them must've thought they were new films. Mum was keeping the films to have developed when we got home to Australia. Our stay in London was extended by some 3 weeks as there was a strike on the wharves so all shipping came to a standstill. It was in November of 1960 that we sailed home. I was then 6 years old and spoke fluent Italian. Mum asked Dad to continue speaking to me in Italian so I wouldn't lose it, but by then he was used to speaking English (only speaking Italian with his mother). I can hardly speak Italian at all now, but I still understand a bit.