There is a small but lovely immigration museum in Lucca, that was fascinating to visit, especially since all four of my grandparents were immigrants from Italy. The Paolo Cresci Foundation for the History of Italian Emigration museum is located on Via Vittoria Emmanuele in Palazzo Ducale.
As I struggle with learning to speak the Italian language, I can only imagine how hard it was for them to take the stressful journey to America and other foreign countries without knowing how to speak another language.
This picture below is from the Immigration Museum and shows a cross section of the kind of ships they traveled on. My husband is pointing to the area of bunk beds right above the cargo area of the ship. The men were separated from their wives and children, the ocean created rough travel resulting in many people getting seasick for most of the journey. (If you would like to see a documentary of their journey and entry into the US in the early 1900’s, watch this movie on Netflix called The Golden Door.
In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s many Italians immigrated to America in search of “The American Dream”. Between 1880 and 1920 almost 4 million people had come to America from Italy. There were many Italians who worked for awhile in America and then returned to Italy with enough money to buy land.
Poverty and political hardship were the main reasons for immigrating. For 80% of Italians, agriculture was their livelihood. Mostly the farmers lived in harsh conditions, in one-room houses with no plumbing. They worked in a feudal system where a wealthy landowner allowed them to live on his land, farm it, and receive some of the crops in return for his work. They were basically starving.
This is a small museum in Lucca, but there are wonderful photos, videos, and information in an easy-to-view set up. As a descendent of Italian immigrants, I am very grateful for the museum and for the courage of my grandparents to take the risk of leaving their homeland and other family behind, to forge a brighter future for them and all their descendants, such as me!
And now I return to Italy every year to learn more about their mother country, one I am in awe of, having become an Italian citizen myself, coming full circle.