Non ho l’età – The song that touched a generation of immigrants

Carmela, don Gregorio, Gabriella and Lorella have never met but they have a lot in common. In the mid 60’s, at the peak of the great migratory wave, alone or together with their families, they arrived in Switzerland, where they lived for a more or less lengthy period. They lived here during the difficult Schwarzenbach years while listening to the young pop singer from Verona, Gigliola Cinquetti, who became famous after her victory at the Sanremo Music Festival of 1964 with her song Non ho l’età (per amarti) / I’m not old enough (to love you).

Thanks to her reassuring aspect, Gigliola found her way into their hearts and those of many other Italian immigrants all over the world. A symbol of the Italy they left behind, she became an object of veneration, resulting in her receiving thousands and thousands of fan letters.

Four of these letters, having survived intact to the present day, tell of Carmela, don Gregorio, Gabriella and Lorella and of their experience as “immigrants”. Carmela followed her parents to Switzerland, where for years she lived clandestinely and where, with patience and tenacity, built the base for her own family and profession. Don Gregorio, a young Calabrian seminarian in Chur, was an activity organizer in immigrant camps. After twenty years of service in the parishes of canton Zurich, he returned to Calabria to care for his original community and today’s new immigrants. Gabriella, born in Switzerland to parents from the Veneto, followed her mother and father in their failed attempt to return to Italy. Lastly Lorella, whose parents hoped in vain to settle in Ticino and who were worn out by hard labor without every attaining the well being they desired.

Four very different stories that cross paths to the refrain of one of the most popular songs of the period. Four different stories that speak of hopes, dreams, and solidarity. But they also tell of closure, xenophobia, clandestinity and exploitation. Four stories that today are more relevant than ever.

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