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Altered Images. The Story of Italian Migration to the South Wales Valleys

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The towns of Rhondda Cynon Taf, were once full of Italian cafes or Bracchi as they were known, with names like Ferrari, Sidoli and Servini common place amongst the Welsh surnames at the time. 

Many of these cafes have now disappeared but a few are still open today including Servini’s in Aberdare. 

In partnership with the University of South Wales, the Altered Images project recently worked with a talented student film crew, 4KMFS, to produce a film to showcase the history of Italian migration in Rhondda Cynon Taf. 

The project received £250,000 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and the film captures the inspiring, insightful and at points tragic experiences of South Wales’s Italian community over more than a century as told by Robert Servini. 

Mr Servini compellingly and eloquently tells the story of how his family found their way from Italy to the valleys of South Wales and the trials and triumphs they endured and celebrated in order to build a new life amidst the booming industrial revolution.

Councillor Ann Crimmings, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council Cabinet Member for Environment and Leisure, with responsibility for Heritage Services, said:

Capturing our past is so important for our future.  Mr Servini’s story is powerful and illustrates an understanding of how other cultures can make our communities a richer space. 

The migration of Italians to the South Wales Valleys over a century ago had a fantastic and lasting impact in our towns and villages with the opening of Italian cafes and ice cream shops. Indeed, Caffe Bracchi at Rhondda Heritage Park Museum is a tribute to the strong Italian influence still here in the Rhondda Valleys, more than a century after the first migrants were welcomed to our valleys from the Bardi region.

The main aim of the Altered Images project, is to help record and research memorials and monuments throughout Rhondda Cynon Taf as well as capturing the diverse stories and reminiscences of our neighbourhoods.  The history of the Servini family is now recorded, not only for this generation, but for future generations and I’d like to thank him for his participation in this important project.

 More information on the Italian families that settled in RCT can be found by visiting the Local History collections at Aberdare, Treorchy and Pontypridd libraries. 

If you want to learn more about local history or your family tree, RCT Adult Community Learning runs Local History and Family History courses, to book a place, please visit

View the film here

Notes to Editor 

About the National Lottery Heritage Fund in Wales

Using money raised by the National Lottery, we inspire, and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future. 

Thanks to National Lottery players, more than £30 million goes to good causes across the UK every week. 

Follow @HeritageFundCYM on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund 

Posted on 31/08/2023