Friday, 19 April 2013

A glimpse of the days long gone: The Italian Diaries, part IV

In the BC era (before children) I loved spending hours in the vintage shops and flea markets, looking for the old photos and postcards. Now I hardly ever have a chance to browse at my pleasure. However, during the last trip to Italy, I happened to pass through Ferrara's flea market, and my husband has taken the boys home, allowing me to spend time there and peruse the stalls to my heart's content. I quickly found the place where I could have probably spent the whole day. It was a table with the old photos, each priced at 1 euro. They were all piled together haphazardly and unceremoniously, in big heaps. I was standing in the middle of the square and travelling back in time to the days long gone.

These two photos below I have secretly named "Proud parents".
The young woman shows her new baby with a confident smile on her face. The photo is dated 24.2.41. The war was going on, the Italians even sent several units to fight against the Soviet Union. Was this woman showing her children to the husband who was sent to the war?

A couple on the left sent this photo to their cousins, mentioning that Teresa Giulia has turned 17 months. They are dressed in smart outfits, the husband is wearing a suit with a bow tie, his hair is pomaded, the wife has an intricately cut dress. His eyes are piercing. For some reason this photo makes me think of the Italians who left Italy for America. I can easily imagine him in the Prohibition-era crime syndicate, but maybe I have watched too many movies like Bugsy Malone and The Untouchables (blame my hubby).

The anxious-looking girl Albertina Battarra sent her photo to her dear friend Elsa on 22.09.1926. She reminded me of Briony from Atonement (though the book is set 10 years later).
I found the nameless family group totally fascinating. The children have clearly inherited their father's long horsey face (no date or names in the back).

The young couple visited the studio on 10.09.11. Carlotta has given this photo of herself to a friend.
The family group had their photo taken in Bologna in the Borghi photo studio, and the photo was posted to the Notari family in Bologna.
Who were these people? What happened to them? I will never know.

The shy and pretty young woman Anna Agnetti clearly was not sure what to do with her arms, the pose looks quite awkward. The photo was taken in the Zambini studio in Parma. Her photo reminds me of the few photos of my great grandmother that were taken before 1917, with a very similar hairstyle.

Little Laura's photo was taken in 1939, and she is a Ferrarese girl. What a cutie. I have a similar photo of myself at about the same age. As my hair was quite short, it was impossible to tie a ribbon, so the photographer just put the bow ribbon on top of my head.

The three siblings from Bologna were sitting for this photo in 1923.

This image of a smashing-looking heartthrob and Errol Flynn-lookalike has been cropped mercilessly, and the person standing on the back of the bench and leaning over the young man (was it a woman? there seems to be a fur stole on the bench) is cut off. The photo was posted in 1937 and signed Tonino. 1937 was an anxious scary year for many countries, with the Great Purge in the Soviet Union etc. In 1937 Italy joined an anti-comtern (Communist) pact that has already been in force between the Japanese and the Germans. The pact established the Triple Alliance that has become known as The Axis. Many old Russian photos of the 1930-50s have a similar fate, with images of the "dangerous" friends and family members who were pronounced the enemy of the people been simply cut out of the photos. Is that what happened with Tonino's friend? Or was it simply a love affair that ended, and discarded as an old glove?

I want to finish my photo show with a happy image of three confident and smiley young women who seem to enjoy the sunshine and their new outfits. It reminds me of "Roman Holiday" with Audrey Hepburn. Same simple elegance and freshness. I wonder who the boy sitting at their feet was. These ladies might still be alive,
would they remember that sunny day when the photo was taken? There is no note scribbled in the back, and it is not a studio photo. Just many of the glimpses of the Italian history.

This array of the beautiful old photos brought to memory one of my most favourite poems by Francois Villon, Mais ou sont les neiges d'antan?

Nay, never ask this week, fair lord,
Where they are gone, nor yet this year,
Except with this for an overword, -
But where are the snows of yester-year?

I am submitting my nostalgic post to the #PoCoLo linky on the lovely Verily, Victoria Vocalises blog.

And if you enjoy reading about vintage finds, visit Me and My Shadow blog's Monday linky Magpie Monday.

Me and My Shadow


  1. All your Italian posts look and sound amazing from their synopses. I need a free hour or two to have a good read! Sorry I have been absent reader/commenter lately, will try to catch up with myself! Lx

  2. Ah, Leta,no worries, you are a busy Mum, don't I know how it feels.

  3. Love the photos, I love old pictures too, and also like to imagine the stories behind the pictures. Lovely post xx

  4. What great finds! I love old photos - I have some dating back to the 19th century and it is my long term goal to label them all properly so that future generations will know exactly who they all are and the stories behind the photos.

  5. I love old photos, those are fascinating. I have really enjoyed these diaries

  6. I love the way you come up with stories for them all - you have a fabulous imagination :)

  7. Old photographs are fascinating, it's fun using your imagination to create their story.

  8. I love old pictures I find them fascinating #PoCoLo

  9. How beautiful. It really does make you think of the stories behind the photos - I love all your descriptions, particularly the Errol Flynn and Roman Holidays ones. What a great project. Thank you so much for sharing this post with PoCoLo (your post will inspire my NaPoWriMo poem today :)) x

  10. Wow sounds like the perfect afternoon to be left to wander around looking at all the vintage loveliness.

    These are absolutely fascinating - sometimes beautiful, sometimes evocative and in the case of that guy with the dismembered hand on his shoulder - plain weird!

    Thank you so much for sharing x