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Gabriella in window

Gabriella makes pasta for the afternoon rush.

The 24 hour job

Working grandmother finds peace
between two jobs and her family

Visuals and text by Natalie Cammarata

She wakes up at 5 a.m. six days a week. She is fluent in five languages. She works two jobs, and on her only day off she makes her granddaughters' favorite cake. No, she is not superwoman. She is an Italian working mom.

Gabriella Cocci, lives like many other women in modern day Italy. In a culture where four-hour lunch breaks are the norm and leisure is a daily priority, these women are trading in their R and R for full-time jobs.

"Working is satisfying for me, but I don't have a lot of free time. It's normal now for families to not have a lot of time for one another," Cocci says.

Portrait of Gabriella

Gabriella Cocci

While women have joined the workforce in increasing numbers for the past few decades in Italy, they now must balance between the career they have built and the family they have created and love. Often, there is not enough time in a day, as she knows well.

Cocci discovered this as a young mother with a full-time job. Her family was originally from Fossombrone, about 40 kilometers from Cagli. They moved to Luxembourg in 1955, where they had Gabriella.

During her education there she learned five languages, including English, French, and German. She met her husband, Romolo Magnoni, at a "discoteca" (Italian nightclub) when she was 16 years old. He was working at a restaurant at the time. After completing high school, they married and moved to Cagli, his hometown.

While Magnoni was busy opening a cafe, Cocci's multilingual talents were leading to her first job. She interviewed for a position that required knowledge of several languages at a clothing manufacturer outside Cagli. Two days later Cocoa Manufacturing Company offered her the job.

While her daughters, Sara and Cristina, were growing up, Cocci was working full time at Cocoa, leaving her little time to spend with her family during the day. Traveling for work made family time even less available. During this period, Cocci's mother-in-law often watched the girls or else their father would watch them in the afternoon. Sometimes, Sara, nine years older than her sister, would watch Cristina on her own.

Although she was absent during the day, Cocci devoted her evenings to her family, cooking dinner and helping the girls with their homework. Still, she views the increased amount of time women are spending at work as damaging to Italian family dynamics.

"Italian families have completely changed. When women got the same rights as men, that meant women also would have to work just as much as men to do what's best for the family financially - but that leaves less time for mothers to spend with their children," she says.


Gabriella's chocolate pie.

Full-time jobs particularly restrict family time, and part-time jobs are difficult for women to find in Italy. "(Employers) want you for eight hours a day, not four. It was better in the past when the father worked and the mother stayed at home," she says.

Cocci has worked for Cocoa for 24 years as the commercial director of exports – traveling, meeting with international clients, and making decisions about garment design and fabrics. Her work experience, however, does not end with the clothing industry.

Six years ago, Magnoni bought and reopened a restaurant that his mother previously owned, renaming it the Osteria Sant'Angelo after a nearby church. Cocci put her cooking skills to use at the restaurant two years ago, when she decided to work only part-time at Cocoa. Now she makes everything from pasta to cannelloni.

These days, Cocci opens Sant'Angelo at 7 a.m., leaves and goes to work at Cocoa from 9 a.m. to noon, and returns to the restaurant from noon to 3 p.m., finishing her long day cooking from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Her only break occurs during the traditional "pausa," when Italian families return home from work and school for a "pranza" or the main meal of the day. When parents return home from work again around 9 p.m., the family will often eat a small dinner.

In addition to pausa, Cocci's only full-day break comes on Sundays, family days, when Sara, 26, her husband, and her two daughters travel from a neighboring town to eat lunch with Cocci, Magnoni, and Cristina, 17.

Dividing her attention among two jobs, two daughters, two granddaughters, a husband, and their two dogs seems to be as easy as making cannelloni for Cocci. And although she could always use more time with her family, her work is satisfying. She even wants to get a degree at a university after she stops working in 10 or 15 years.


Gabriella waits on customers at Sant'Angelo.

Magnoni admires his wife's dedication to both family and work. "Family is very important to her, but so is work. When she is working, she always does her best and nothing less. It's hard because she has to separate her energy. I appreciate that because it's not easy," he says.

Magnoni doesn't call his wife a superwoman, but he might as well.