The journey

By ship

At least until the end of nineteenth century, Italian emigrants crossed the ocean on obsolete sailing ships which were rightly called “Navi di Lazzaro” (1). The journey, which could take as long as a month even in the early years of the last century, was made in conditions that would be unimaginable today. And the worst part was the accommodation.

Berths, all on the lowest deck, opened on to corridors which received air only from the hatches. Conditions were cramped everywhere. As a result, in the morning everyone was forced to move to the main deck, on the bridge, regardless of weather conditions. Respiratory and intestinal diseases were rampant and mortality was very high.

From the 1920s on, the duration of the journey and conditions on board significantly improved, with the advent of the huge passenger steamers on which large numbers of emigrants sailed.