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Roasio, the Village with the suitcase 

Museo dell'emigrante di Roasio - il Paese con la valigia a cura di Rosy Gualinetti

Roasio is a little village in the province of Vercelli situated on the hills of the Baraggia (a natural reserve), on the right bank of the Rovasenda stream.

On the 21.12.2021 the residents were 2.242, but over 600 of them still live and work abroad, following the tradition of their fathers and therefore feeding a migration that is lost in the mists of time and generations.

The first outings ever recorded date back to the second half of the sixteen-hundreds and were directed towards Rome and Turin. Then, around the end of the seventeen-hundreds the seasonal migration towards the Baraggia started, first in June-July for the weeding of rice, and in a second moment, in September, for the harvesting.

This mass movement lasted for the whole of the 19th century and resumed later on during the first and second world war.


Around 1860 the people of Roasio crossed the Alps, and travelled towards France and French-speaking Switzerland, where they worked as labourers, construction workers, interior and exterior decorators, and miners in the steel industry of Le Creusot (France).

Other testimonies and documents dating from 1890 tell the stories of men who left their Country to work in the construction industry in North and South America, as well as Africa, which immediately became the continent of choice, with people emigrating especially to South Africa, Angola, Belgian Congo, Mozambique, Rhodesia, Gold Coast, Nigeria and Algeria.


The road and railway builders were followed by those who ended up working on construction sites of public and private landmarks, creating with time real business dynasties.

Their achievements are a testament on foreign land of their expertise and their strong operational capabilities in working as a group, and for that, they were wildly recognized and praised.  


"Museo dell'emigrante" of Roasio and its book, "Il paese con la valigia" (The village with the suitcase), wishes to dutifully honour the memory of those great men and women.


Rosy Gualinetti

Curator of "Il paese con la valigia"(first edition, may 2004; second edition, november 2013)

To request one or more copies of "Il paese con la valigia" write to

Other publications connected to our migration:

'Mondo capovolto' by Andrea Cantone
Published: October 2023

Museo dell'emigrante di Roasio - Mondo Capovolto di Andrea Cantone

In 'Mondo Capovolto' ('Upside Down World' - Edizioni Effetto) Andrea Cantone continues telling the story that began in 2022 with 'La luce dell'equatore' ('The light of the equator'), illustrating a piece of our migration history that perhaps not everyone is aware of. ​


On June 10th 1940, following Italy's entry into World War II against France and Great Britain, all Italians who were in English colonies were arrested and declared prisoners of war.

Among these were 10 people of Roasio living in Nigeria, and 29 people of Roasio living in the Gold Coast (what is now Ghana), who together with their compatriots were put on a steamer, sent to Jamaica, and locked up in an internment camp.


'Mondo capovolto' was written with the aid of diaries, autobiographies and notes left by our emigrants, all of whom are found in our Museum. 




"Against the backdrop of the dramatic events unleashed by the Second World War, the destinies of Italian emigrants in Africa are intertwined across two continents.

It all begins on a Monday morning: it is June 10th 1940, the world turns upside down and Nigeria, an English colony, becomes enemy territory. Italy goes to war against France and Great Britain, and that same day Alessandro Testa is arrested together with his compatriots. Their lives now seem marked. First interned in the city of Lagos, then, as had happened to the African slaves in previous centuries, boarded and sent to prison camps in Jamaica where they were forced to work for the English government.

'World upside down' tells the incredible and authentic events that remained hidden in the folds of time and in the attics of the descendants of the first Italians who faced the African continent.

This book describes how they faced the unknown, making the most intimate sufferings, the small battles and the daily triumphs of each of them, heroic."

'La luce dell'equatore' by Andrea Cantone
Published: May 2022

Museo dell'emigrante di Roasio - La luce dell'equatore di Andrea Cantone

Inspired by the stories of the emigrants to whom our Museum pays homage, 'La luce dell'equatore' (The light of the equator') was written with the aid of diaries, autobiographies and notes left by our emigrants, including the words of Grato Cappa and Vigino D'Alberto that can be found on this page. 

You can find the novel inspired by their stories at the Museum, online (Edizioni Effetto) and in bookstores!




"Africa is a name written in the destiny of many families in Roasio, a small town in the province of Vercelli, for over a century.


Alessandro Testa, an ambitious twenty-year-old, leaves Italy to join his older brother in Nigeria. These are the years preceding the Second World War and those boys represent, with adventure in their blood and courage in their hearts, that generation of young people who emigrated to look for something new.

But in such an uncertain world historical context, abandoning your homeland is an enormous risk. Italians who left for Africa in the early years of the 20th century faced the unknown, illnesses and loneliness, while becoming aware of how their destiny was entrusted to the true sovereign of the continent: to that sun which, without caring about the fate of men, rises every day celebrating the triumph of a nature so powerful it's able to take over the entire human race.

Of those boys, few made fortunes, many returned home defeated, many died and some became men."

'Emigrazione roasiana in America'
by Pier Felice Cominolo
Published: 2022

Museo dell'emigrante di Roasio - Emigrazione Roasiana in America di Pier Felice Cominolo

Pier Felice Cominolo, an emigrant from Roasio who is passionate about history, has collected all the information he has accumulated over his years of researching our migration towards the American continent in this publication




"After thirty years of migration towards France (1860-1890), the fall of Napoleon III and the advent of the third republic in 1870, working conditions in that part of Europe became more complicated.

Our Roasians therefore changed their sights and became interested in America. This was helped by the opening of the Fréjus railway tunnel, the creation of the Compagnie Générale de Navigation, and the construction of special trains for emigrants which caused an influx to the port of Le Havre (France). From there hundreds left for Ellis Island, given the cost of the ticket and the crossing time of around nine days. The conditions on board the steamers were precarious, traveling in the holds without great comfort, t times were primordial. ​


In this publication I have listed the names of fellow villagers who left to seek fortune on the other side of the Atlantic, alongside the name of the steamer on which they travelled.​

I hope that this can help us find the traces of our grandparents, uncles, cousins ​​and understand why they left, under what travel conditions and perhaps why they returned or why instead they chose to settle in America."

'Emigrazione roasiana a Le Creusot'
by Pier Felice Cominolo
Published: 2021

Museo dell'emigrante di Roasio - Le Creusot di Pier Felice Cominolo

Pier Felice Cominolo continues his research with this new publication dedicated to our migration towards the steel district of Le Creusot (France). ​


Introduction: ​


"A few years ago I decided to draw up the family tree. I set out in the footsteps of my grandparents and great-grandparents who left to seek fortune abroad. Searching for the origins of my paternal grandmother, I arrived in Le Creusot, a French town in Burgundy, halfway between Lyon and Paris. After looking at the municipal registers of births, marriages and deaths, the employee advised me to take a tour of the Académie François Bourdon.

The association preserves a good part of the archive documents of the old Schneider foundry which no longer exists today. ​

The benevolent representatives of the Académie made available to me a considerable mass of documents, where I was able to find the information I was looking for. In the hiring registers, the personal details of our fellow migrants appeared, more specifically: Surname, name, date of arrival, year of birth, profession (at the time of hiring) and place of birth."

'Base RO-VI-SO (Roasio-Villa del Bosco-Sostegno) - EMIGRANTI' by Pier Felice Cominolo
Published: 2016

Museo dell'emigrante di Roasio - RO-VI-SO di Pier Felice Cominolo

Base RO-VI-SO brings together approximately 2900 names of people who have left the municipalities of Roasio (VC), Villa del Bosco (BI) and Sostegno (BI) to emigrate.​ The names are divided in alphabetical order and the searches include the following data: Surname, Name, Date of birth, Municipality of origin, Father's name and country of expatriation. ​




"Base RO-VI-SO brings together around 2900 surnames of fellow villagers who have left abroad. ROVISO could be the hypothetical name of a municipality which would bring together Roasio, Villa del Bosco and Sostegno. I have brought them together here because they are all present in the three municipalities via my family ties and also through their evolution.

Historically the three Municipalities are in fact linked: the separation of Castelletto (a small hamlet) from Sostegno (1870), the merger of Castelletto, Roasio and Villa del Bosco (1927) and the separation in 1949 of Villa del Bosco from Roasio. ​

Also, the geographical configuration of the Giara slope basin and the complex and intertwined municipal limits, mean that the three municipalities are closely linked to each other. ​

The destinations of emigration featured in this publication are of all continents and practically of all countries, as we will see. First France, Switzerland and later the Americas and Africa."

'Roasiani sulla costa degli schiavi' by Vigino D'Alberto
Published: 1979 (Reprinted: 2019)

Museo dell'emigrante di Roasio - Roasiani sulla costa degli schiavi di Vigino D'Alberto

Vigino D'Alberto was born in Roasio in 1906 and emigrated to the Gold Coast (now Ghana) in 1926. In 1931 he moved to Nigeria. With effort and tenacity he obtained the first contracts for public works and continued to work in the construction sector until 1963. For his merits in the social and working fields he was awarded the honor of Commander of the Italian Republic and the Star of Italian Solidarity. ​


In 'Roasiani sulla costa degli schiavi ('Roasians on the Slave Coast') Vigino D'Alberto recounts his experiences in West Africa.



​“A few years ago I found among my old papers a protocol page, repeatedly folded and yellowed by time. Inside there are around thirty dates reflecting the period 1929 - 1932. Next to each date a few words, written with inks of various shades, to remember some events I had considered important.

Carefully scrolling through that succession of dates and notes, I seemed to clearly review the entire plot of a performance which brought back to the stage the characters who had followed it, and the events that had characterized such an intense period of my life.

Hence the idea of ​​writing this short story, which would never have been written without the help of that scant list found by chance at the bottom of a drawer.

I encountered some difficulties in continuing the posthumous diary beyond 1932. In the absence of Italian documentation on West Africa, I had to resort to the English press, to photographs taken by me during my stays in Africa, to the testimony of a few survivors who also wore the colonial helmet, but above all I had to trust my memory ."

'Esperienze africane 1931-1952' by Grato Cappa
Published: -

Museo dell'emigrante di Roasio - Esperienze africane di Grato Cappa

Grato Cappa was born in Gifflenga (BI) in 1918 and moved to Roasio at a very young age. He emigrated to Nigeria in 1931 where he worked on the construction of various railway sections and then moved on to the construction of public and private buildings (with an adventurous stint as a gold prospector).

In 1940 he was taken prisoner of war and interned together with his compatriots in Jamaica. At the end of the conflict he returned to Nigeria where he founded one of the largest and most important construction companies in the country. ​

For his merits in the social and working fields, Grato Cappa was awarded the honor of Commander of the Italian Republic and the Star of Italian Solidarity. He was also awarded the title of Grand Officer, and named Knight of Labour. ​In addition, the Supreme Pontiff John XXIII awarded him the honor of the Equestrian Order of San Silvestro.

In 'Esperienze Africane' ('African experiences'), Grato Cappa recounts his life as an intrepid emigrant on the African continent from 1931 to 1952, attaching images of his life and his most important works.

'Sikà Gua (La sedia d'oro)' by Tina D'Alberto
Published: 1950

Museo dell'emigrante di Roasio - Sika Gua di Tina D'Alberto

Tina D'Alberto was born in Roasio in 1905 to Agostino D'Alberto and Margherita Micheletti. Her father, born in 1873, was one of the most illustrious pioneers of our migration and had not failed to instill in her the spirit of adventure, so that in 1931 she embarked for the Gold Coast (now Ghana) to join her husband, married at the completion of her studies. ​


On the African continent Tina did not limit herself to living as a foreign woman (the first Italian on the Gold Coast), but rather began to study and delve deeper into the customs and activities of the local populations, summarizing her experiences in this book "Sikà Guà” (“The golden chair). In this text the author recounts the events of which she was protagonist or witness to, referring to what for the Ashanti people is the symbol of the homeland and the power of God.

Intelligent, curious, interested in African culture and traditions, she always wrote objectively without ever indulging in judgment, which was quite rare for those times.


Having returned to Italy in 1933, Tina D'Alberto was delegated for Piedmont and Valle d'Aosta for the Italian Africa Institute, of which she was a valuable collaborator for many years. She was a great supporter of Italian work in the world, but always held special consideration for the people of Roasio, whose strength, determination and resourcefulness she always praised.


In 1960 she visited the Belgian Congo, Rhodesia and South Africa, as a guest of the local and Italian authorities. For her social activities and commitment to promoting Italian (especially Roasian) work in the world, she was awarded the title of Knight of the Italian Republic.


She lived in Turin for a long time, but never failed to visit Roasio, which she always had in her heart, so much so that she contributed significantly to the creation of our Museum by donating numerous documents belonging to both her and her father Agostino.


In consideration of the importance she had for the historical memory of Roasio, our Museum has paid homage to her by publishing two of her articles in the book "The Village with the suitcase".

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