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Banda di musicisti (Credits: Archivio Diaristico Nazionale)

Giovanni Piazza

Giovanni Piazza was born in 1890 in Sirone, a small town in Brianza, to a very poor family. He interrupted his studies in third grade and soon learned the stonemason's trade, a profession that led him to seek work abroad.

In 1910, he left for Switzerland on the advice of a friend, Giovanni Rigamonti, who was already in Lugano and had to return to Italy to do his military service. Rigamonti helped him organise the trip: he referred him to his old employer and gave him the contact details of his accommodation and of a fellow Italian who lived there.  It wasn't hard to emigrate in those years: a passport was ready in no time with 40 cents, without too much red tape, and many people chose to move abroad.

Giovanni describes his experience in minute detail, from the attention he paid to the clothes he chose to the pay offered by the construction site managers, via his daily life as an emigrant in Lugano as the guest of a family.

One day, while he was out for a walk, he met Maggioni, the music teacher who was teaching in Sirone. Maggioni suggested he join the local band and took him to meet the head of Lugano music school, who offered to engage him as a clarinettist. He invited him to the music school for an audition and told him that he had to study the clarinet four days a week - Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday - and that there was a final concert in the schoolyard on Saturday evening. At home he had to practise, and for his work as a musician he was paid 11 liras a week.

He returned to Italy in 1927.


Story collected in cooperation with the Archivio Diaristico Nazionale.


  1. 1890

    Giovanni Piazza was born in Sirone, a small town in Brianza.

  2. 1910

    He left for Switzerland on the advice of a friend, Giovanni Rigamonti.

  3. 1927

    He returned to Italy.

The city band. Piazza is the player holding the clarinet (Credits: Archivio Diaristico Nazionale)
The band in which Giovanni Piazza played (Credits: Archivio Diaristico Nazionale)