Tag Archives: italy

Family heirlooms: my Italian roots

Most of the furniture I own is conceived by Swedish designers and built in factories. No great story there (yet).

This is one of the few pieces in my house that comes with it’s own past. It was sculpted by my great-grandfather (on my father’s side), Cesare Balestreri.

Cesare first came to North America in 1912. He was one of the millions of people that docked at and went through the immigration process at Ellis Island, near Manhattan, New York. Over the next few years, his wife and two young sons came to join him and the family settled down in Montreal.

My great-grandfather and I don’t share the same last name. In the 40s, after World War 2, racism was rampant against Italians so they decided to change it to an anglicized version of the word (Archer). The name may have disappeared but I will never forget where my family came from and looking at this little shelf as it hangs in my kitchen, I get a daily reminder of that. I’ve always been amazed and filled with admiration in thinking about what these people had to go through before, during and after their journeys of immigration.

In 2007, I went back to where the story starts: Como, in Northern Italy. This is where my grandfather was born and where some of his relatives still live. I was too shy to go and meet them, wanting to explore this beautiful city by myself but what I can say is that I instantly felt at home there. I was lucky to go back there for a few hours in 2010, after having been through a bad life experience. Once again the city’s charm and peaceful attitude soothed me.

I hope you enjoy the photos and if ever you are in the area, I urge you to visit this lovely town!