Their cafes were popular with the men as they could spend all day in there and not have to buy anything more than a cup of tea.
The miners wives lied the cafes as well – because when their husbands were there they were not spending money on beer in the bars! The cafes became known as Temperance bars.
In 1939 the second world war started – the police had orders to arrest all Italians as enemies of the state. This was not popular with the Welsh people as many of the Italians had been born in Wales, and they had always been very friendly with the Welsh.
During the War many of these Italians were made to work on the land as farm labourers, or were kept in prison camps. Others were sent away to British colonies abroad.
In June 1940 the ship the ‘Arandora Star’ sailed from Liverpool carrying sixteen hundred men – Italians and Germans to be taken to Canada. Off the coast of Ireland on the 1 st July the ‘Arandora Star’ was torpedoed by a German U-boat. 486 Italians and 175 Germans were lost at sea.
After the war the cafes continued, but the coal industry had died by the 1980s. Many of the cafes closed or changed to other shops – Ferrari’s became a bakery.
Italians still remain proud of where they came from – Bardi. Many visit regularly. They largely remain Catholics – but they are beginning make their mark in other areas of welsh life.
Robert Sidoli comes from a family of Italian Immigrants. His family own cafes and run ice-cream parlours in South Wales. Robert though plays professional rugby and plays for Wales. He is one of their star players – although he could also have played for Italy – the country of his parents’ birth.
For our PROMISE Comenius project we have investigated the story of Italian immigration in Wales, and we have spent a lot of time interviewing second and third generations of Italians in Wales – their origins and feelings for their ‘home country’.
Tower Colliery, near Aberdare, is the last coalmine still working in South Wales
At one stage there were many Bracchi (Italian cafes) dotted through the valleys. Over the years the coalmines have closed – and many of the cafes have closed with them.
The Italian café is just as popular today with a new generation of loyal customers, many of whom go several times a day, queuing outside in all weathers to sample the roast dinners and home made cakes.
Some cafés have now changed hands and have been developed into bakeries.