Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 24, 2013

Sotto tutti i cieli

This is the title of a lovely book I was given yesterday at the Museo Paolo Cresci in Lucca. It roughly translates to “Under all skies” and is a guide to the story of Italian immigration as told in the beautiful little museum to the side of the Palazzo Ducale di Lucca in the chapel of the S. Maria della Misericordia.

The chapel is almost on the corner of Via Vittorio Emanuele II and Via Vittorio Veneto, just around the corner from Piazza Napoleone. The entrance could be easy to miss, it is a small door leading into a little courtyard.


The entrance to the museum is the beautiful chapel. Look up as soon as you go inside to the frescoed ceiling.



The exhibition is in Italian, but there are lots of wonderful photographs and items collected around the theme of immigration from Italy in the last century, making it easy to follow.


The photographs are very touching. There are some sad and expectant little faces looking out. I hope they found what they were looking for in their chosen country.






Life must have been very hard indeed to make people undertake a frightening voyage to the unknown.

There is a great depiction of the ships that carried people across the seas. I suspect that the trip in steerage would have been a bit grim.



There are postcards sent home to loved ones left behind…even one from Australia.


The new life in other places is shown as well. Ellis Island New York was the place where many landed and they had to first show they were healthy enough to be allowed into the country.






We can thank these courageous people for bringing their customs (and food) to other countries. They worked hard and contributed much to the communities they moved to.

The museum has excellent archives and may be able to help trace family members from the area.

I was part of a tour guided by the director of the museum.


It was organised to be part of a digital event happening all over Italy. People were invited to attend and report via facebook, twitter and other social media. I don’t tweet, so my contribution is my blog post.

I was invited by Paola Moschini, a delightful young woman from Ponte a Serraglio who has just begun working as a tour guide in our area. Please look at her site and if you are in the area contact her to show you gorgeous Lucca and surrounds. She speaks excellent English and knows lots about this fabulous part of Italy.



  1. It helps when we can learn about the culture of people ,their food and their language.Thank you for this.

    • I will return on my own to have a good look at the museum.

  2. The Italian contribution to other countries has been enormous. On the other hand,we can imagine all the heartbreak and suffering that this migration caused to the people and families involved.

    • Australia would not be nearly as interesting without the contribution of the people who came from other countries. I would like to thank the Italians especially for bringing good coffee to Australia.

  3. Fascinating to study the intermingling of cultures! Argentina owes its famed Fugazetta Pizza, Milanesa’s, creamy pastas and the amazing variety of dulce de leche ice creams, to her Italian immigrants 🙂

    • We can thank Italians for many good things.

  4. Gosh what stories must lie behind those old photographs, I found it poignant looking at them.

    • I hope the families of these people know what they went through to provide a better life.

  5. Lucca calls to me more and more with each one of your posts. What a great idea to show Italian emigration from an Italian point of view. One of my relatives was refused admission at Ellis Island because of an eye condition. Imagine the shame when one had to go back.
    Have you been to the museum at Ellis Island? Its my favorite museum of all time.

    • Hey Rosie … That area is wonderful!

      • Hey Frank should we charter a bus and drive over?

      • Ha ha … if only we could … so chartering a plane will have to do. …. BTW …. Lucca is a very short distance from my relatives.

      • The son of a school friend of mine has a farm in the Lucca area. We spent a lovely afternoon with him and his family.

      • … thus maybe a place for you to stay!

  6. Everything has a story, and the history doesn’t have to involve the rich and famous.

    • I’m sure some of these people did become rich and famous.

      • Yep … but the pics of ordinary folks leads to great history.

      • I think all these people are heroes whatever became of them.

      • Absolutely!

  7. These museums are so fascinating – it doesn’t matter that there is no English commentary because these pictures really do speak a thousands words. Looking at the photo of the five men (about seventh from the top) you can well imagine how they must have felt when they arrived in their new country, unable to speak the new language and needing work to survive and maintain their sense of worth as men. You do wonder what became of all those people.

    • I certainly hope that life was a little easier for them in their new country…eventually.

  8. Very moving pictorial of those brave souls in the early 20th century some of whom left their own country seeking a better life. How ironic that people from those very countries now visit Italy in their millions every year. That frescoed ceiling is just stunning. No matter how many chapels, churches and museums I come across while travelling in Italy, entering those places and casting one’s eyes up to the ceiling, is always an absolutely ‘wow’ moment.

    • I wonder if they had any idea what they were going to.

  9. It was a very brave people.

    • My grandfather was one of those very brave people. He left Finland at 19 to go alone to Australia. I am very glad he did.

      • And where you was born after it? 🙂

      • My grandfather went to Australia in 1912, married an English girl, had 3 children, one of whom was my father. I was born in Australia in 1953. I have visited Finland many times, but I have not been able to visit my grandfather’s birth place, which was Saakijarvi, near Viipuri, now Vyborg and part of Russia.

      • Viborg… hm. Have you read my post about contemporary Viborg?

      • Oh, yes, you have… I see your comment. Sorry 🙂

  10. Oh wow, this is so cool. I am going to visit this museum my next trip to Italy (very soon now – I leave Australia one month today! Will you be in Italy still?). We have a photo of my grandparents wedding in Philadelphia that is so like this. I will blog it. Thanks for posting it.

    • I will be in Bagni di Lucca until the end of June. Let me know if you will be in this area and I will take you to the museum.

      • I will be in touch Debra. Lucca has been on my radar for some time. Actually, I am coming over for a blogging conference amongst other things. Have you heard about this? It just happens to be not too far from where my relatives are and I am due for a visit.

  11. This really touches my heart. It makes me think of my grandparents and what it must have been like for them to leave their parents and siblings to come to America. My grandmother was only 14 when she got on a boat in Naples by herself to head to NY where her aunt was living. I wish I could sit down with my grandparents now and talk to them about leaving their homeland.

  12. How terrifying it must have been for your grandmother. I hope she was happy in her new life.

  13. Ciao Deb, my nona and nono are in a picture in that museum. The is one devoted to the figuristas that came to the USA.

    • I will go back and search for them.

  14. Once in Genoa, we went to the Maritime Museum and the special exhibition was about immigration…to actually walk throught the replica of the bunk beds in the ship was scary – to imagine the “ride” over the ocean, separated as a family, and to get to the US only sometimes to be turned back due to health, no income, no relatives, or whatever…it is an enlightening experiece. (my maternal Grandmom’s family came over from Ireland during the potato famine, so can only imagine the struggles..) Thanks for sharing. Is the museum open year round to visit?

    • As far as I know the museum is open all year and it is free.

  15. “Life must have been very hard indeed to make people undertake a frightening voyage to the unknown.”
    What a great point. I often think about that and how scary it must have been. They didn’t have the internet or television to give them an idea of what to expect when they got to their new country. Imagine what a shock it must have been.

  16. […] I have been inspired to think about this photo again as a fellow Italy-obsessed blogger Debra recently posted an entry about a wonderful looking museum with some equally great photos from the Museo Paolo Cresci in Lucca. Refer to the post here. […]

  17. […] I was reminded of this photo again when a fellow Italy obsessed blogger Debra recently posted a blog entry about a wonderful looking museum with equally great photos from the Museo Paolo Cresci in Lucca. Refer to the post here. […]

  18. […] I was reminded of this photo again when a fellow Italy obsessed blogger Debra recently posted a blog entry about a wonderful looking museum with equally great photos from the Museo Paolo Cresci in Lucca. Refer to the post here. […]

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