13 The  Rigo-Pianalto Story

Rina Camillo's Family

Rina's parents, Luigi and Clelia Rigo, migrated to Australia, respectively in about 1924 and 1933. Rina was only ten years old when she went there and her brother Arduino, was 12. Their third brother Bertillo remained behind in Italy, but joined them for several years much later on, before returning definitively to Italy. Their home town, Malunga, was a tiny village, high up on the steep slopes of the spectacular, steep mountain Pasubio, north of Vicenza, also in the Veneto region.

They come from an extremely attractive mountainous area, which has now become a popular tourist attraction, famous for its dolomitic peaks and for a long series of tunnels dug out by  hand by the Italian soldiers, during the First World War, high up above the snow line. Malunga had fallen under Austrian rule and Clelia remembered the day when the Austrian border near her home was torn down, after the Austrians had been defeated.  At Pasubio there is another war memorial, with the bones of soldiers killed there, that were collected from all over the slopes. A certain ... Revrenna is listed there.

     Click to enlarge   Harvest time for the handsome Mr. Pianalto      
                            Click to enlarge 

Life must have been quite hard in Malunga, as the very few areas of level, arable land were situated on distant slopes that were separated by deep valleys, which had to be climbed each morning by the farmers. For transporting the products home however, they had stretched, probably with enormous difficulty, long steel cables from the fields right across the valley to Malunga, on which trolleys of hay, timber and vegetables, went whizzing  through the air. A sad tale is told of a small girl who pushed off the trolley with all its load, but didn't let go in time and was carried off and fell to her death.  

The old home - Click to enlarge
The hamlet of Malunga on the slopes of the Pasubio                              The original home of the Pianaltos

Because of their mountainous origins, it is understandable that the Rigo family chose to settle in Myrtleford, an attractive location facing the similarly spectacular Mount Buffalo. The Myrtleford, Happy Valley, Bright and Mount Buffalo area, has likewise become a well-known tourist resort in Australia.  
The steep mountain peaks of the Pasubio

Clelia's father, Pietro Pianalto, was a carpenter and his surname translates as "High plain", which is oddly appropriate for the location of his abode. His work bench can be seen in a photo taken in 1980, but it has since disappeared from the house.

He also cultivated silk worms to make an extra penny. Pietro was an extraordinarily handsome man, distinguished and took great care in his appearance. He was also known for his goodness, always willing to help his neighbours in need. His wife was said to have a very good sense of humour, which was probably transmitted to her grand-daughter Rina.  

                    A young Luigi Rigo       Luigi in his later years

Luigi Rigo, born in 1886, was from the Verona  area and was also musically talented, playing the clarinet, trumpet and the guitar. During the First World War he was a sergeant in the army, as an Alpine in the 6th Brigade, from which he was honourably discharged on the 15th August 1919 at the end of the Great War.  (See Certificate) He participated in campaigns lasting through 1915, 1916, 1917 and 1918, suffering also a term of prisoner of war with the Austrians. 

On his voyage to Australia, he kept up the morale of his fellow travellers with his music and an encouraging "Mai paura!", meaning "Never fear!" In fact this became his nickname and Rina was "The daughter of Mai Paura" and sometimes even, "Mai Pauretta" (Little Never Fear). His sounding of the Reveille on the trumpet one night, caused quite a stir, as it was interpreted by the passengers as an "Abandon Ship".

By trade Luigi was a stone mason and also soon found his way to Myrtleford, after that his family joined him in Australia (see ship's ticket), living in different places there, one being at Panlook (the name of a local Chinese family) and another being in an isolated place in the bush, German Creek, which was full of kangaroos and lyre birds. Here Rina learned to shoot a rifle and went to school on horseback. Clelia harvested hops on the Panlook farm and worked at tying tobacco after it was harvested. One of Luigi's many fine works was the stone fireplace at the Mount Hotham hotel.

The family moved to Melbourne, where Rina went to the Good Shepherd Convent in Abbotsford. After having left school, she got a job in a parachute factory, but with the outbreak of war, she lost the job, because of her alien Italian origin, being considered unreliable in such a delicate war oriented job. Her friend, Fanny Borsari, nee Cester, managed to get another job on the pretence that she was Spanish, rather than Italian. Fanny was an excellent opera singer, who was always called to sing at every party and had to invent Spanish words for her songs, in order to keep everybody fooled on her origins.

After the outbreak of war, the Rigo family returned to Myrtleford, where Rina's path was destined to cross Dino's.

Clelia came from a large family: Angela, Ida, Savina, Zefferino, Sebastiano, Rina, all of whom migrated to Australia and ended up in Myrtleford, except Rina who went to live in France. Angela married Beppi Piazza and formed a family that was to play an important part in the development of Myrtleford.  

Clelia Rigo  Clelia Rigo - Click for more photos of the Rigos

Clelia and Luigi retired in a home at the entrance of Myrtleford, which was built on the site of the very first white settlement in the valley and behind the house can be seen the remnants of the original stockyards.

In this house Clelia offered hospitality to the Italian migrants, providing a place to meet and play cards and reminisce over Italy. Clelia rounded off her income by selling the odd bottle of beer. She began the tradition that grew and developed into the realisation of the "Savoy Club", built on the grounds next door, which became the official focal meeting place of all the Italians of the area.

Clelia and Luigi Rigo are buried side by side in the Pioneer's Cemetery in Myrtleford.

Clelia's sister Savina came to Myrtleford at a much later date, after that many of her numerous sons had migrated there. Peter Revrenna was the first to come in 19..., followed by Eugenio (Poncho), Sebastiano (Seb), Marco and Mariuccia, where they all settled down and formed their own families. Mariano, Rina and Franca remained in their town Villaverla, close to Vicenza. Savina spent several years in Australia, but afterwards preferred to return to her little home town in Italy, where she lived until passing away at a grand old age.

Savina Revrenna  Savina Revrenna - Click for more photos of the Revrennas

The Revrenna brothers are both a hard working and fun loving family and quickly win the simpathy and respect of everyone they meet. Always invited to every party, they improvise games and funny costumes and are a delight to both children and adults alike.  

The Revrenna brothers - Click to enlarge
Laurence Camillo with Sebastian, Eugenio, Marco and Peter Revrenna

Peter married Jenny McHarg, the daughter of an Australian lawyer from Albury and was a kindergarden teacher, who also had a big way with children. Forever seeking adventure, Peter is quick to take up every invitation to go dancing, skiing, hunting, exploring, gold-panning, prospecting, or just to have a quiet beer at the local pub. His recent big passion has become opal mining and he has staked out many claims in the Australian desert of Lightening Ridge, which he visits on digging trips at every opportunity.  

Peter Revrenna down the opal mine  Peter down his opal mine at Lightening Ridge

This rather unusual couple inspired the following limericks:

            A miner by name of Peter,
            dreamed nuggets by the metre.
            Many holes he would dig
            and dance a funny jig,
            after sculling beer by the litre.

                            - o -             

            A poor lady called Jenny,
            of problems had many.
            Her husband was mad,
            always looking very sad
            and spending their very last penny.


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