In these pages you can find some notes concerning yesterdayâ€™s Fontanarossa:
The conditions of live
Residences: in a lot of houses the fireplace was missing, fire was lighted in the middle of the room called â€śfugherĂ â€ť, todayâ€™s kitchen, the ceiling of which generally consisted of small spans supported by beams blackened by the smoke (seccatoio) on which chestnuts were put to dry. Windows were small, roofs were made of straw or slates in different shape, thickness and measure (ciappe); glasses were replaced by bunting. Villagers had not big problems of heating thanks to the possibility of having a lot of firewood.
Dresses: they were generally of hemp and cotton or fustian, the wool suits were rare; during winter lot of them put on clogs or rough shoes with a lot of patches: in every house there was always someone who played cobbler using the awl, preparing the pitchy string for the seams and the small wooden sticks of dry elder for soling. Coats or overcoats did not exist. Women dressed simple suits: a full skirt (fadetta), a bodice (gippa) a foulard or a scarf on their head.
During the feasts or for the mass they covered the head with some beautiful wool foulards in bright colours or with the â€śpezzottoâ€ť decorated with complicated printed patterns, similar to the mantilla of the Spanish women.
Bread was black. They used the so-called â€śfarinettaâ€ť (flour) or fine bran or pulses flour with the addition of beans and vetch. Despite this bread was baked two or three times a year, on the occasion of great celebrations.
Usually daily, or on alternate days, according to the number of the family members, they prepared a â€śfocacciaâ€ť made of a mix of wheat and melic flour that was cooked late in the evening in the fireplace, buried under the still burning coal and the ash remained from the firewood burnt during the day; after some hours they obtained a flat dark loaf, hard and not always well cooked, dirty with ash; when cool, it was cleaned with a duster and then put under lock for not taking the risk to find only the crumbs the day after.
Olive oil was rare, walnut oil was normally used. The food of every day was: polenta, soup (with a lot of potatoes), sometimes homemade pasta, in winter some leaf of cabbage, in summer beets duly seasoned with milk or lard.
We must pay attention on the question of the chestnuts: at the end of last century Fontanarossa counted â€“ with the hamlets â€“ about a thousand of inhabitants and the land was not enough for feeding everybody.
Therefore fields were tilled and plantations of chestnut trees were put anywhere and since then this product has fed whole generations, being the only resource for so many families.
Woods, also the remote ones, were always kept clean. The chestnuts were picked up in the â€ścavagneâ€ť (baskets), put to dry in the â€śgrĂ¨â€ť (today almost disappeared) generally placed in the house kitchen in order to save space and firewood.
When dry, they were put in small quantities inside strong hemp bags, long and narrow, and then crushed by strong young people who rhythmically beat on special wood trunks properly shaped, the so-called â€śtacchiâ€ť, so that the chaff came out of the fruits; these were carefully selected by women in long but happy hours of diligent work and then closed in large cases â€śbancĂ â€ť, waiting for eating them or waiting for merchants coming from the lowland.
With the ground chestnuts they made a polenta that often was part of the weekly menu or ate them dry, cooked in soup with milk.
Appetite (maybe it is better to say hunger!) was always great. Eggs were not used because they were sold for buying salt and meat was on the table two or three times a year.
Pupils of ninety years ago
Usually the daily foods was: in the morning before the school a cup of raw milk with bread or well cooked dry chestnuts, at midday polenta or soup; seasoning: lard, milk, home cheese and sometimes a kind of mashed potatoes mixed in the pot with milk and some onions (fracassĂ = stew of potatoes).
||Ninety years ago school was attended up to the third year of the primary school.
The school building was the old house â€śof the soulsâ€ť: pupils went in through a staircase of stone protected by a wooden handrail made of a pole nailed to two stakes.
On the landing, just after the front door, a steep wooden staircase of chestnut tree brought to the first floor, where a large room was the only classroom for all the pupils of the three classes: benches were of raw wood, the pupils number varied from 30 to 40 (boys and girls) with only one teacher. As in all schools, the class was full of intelligent, less intelligent, industrious, lazy and sometimes true donkeys pupils. Clothes were really poor, pupils did not wear an uniform, but a cap, a jacket (gipun), trousers of fustian, often with patches on the knees and at the back, cowhide shows with double sole strengthened by big nails, often formed by part of old shoes, sewn by hand with a pitchy string; the shoes were polished with the soot of the stove cover, spitting on the brush; the stockings were made of wool spun by hand.
Girls wore a long skirt up to the ankles and in winter they brought a crochet shawl on the shoulders.
The satchel was generally a bag of fustian (sacchetta); it contained the book concerning arithmetic, geography and history, two little exercise books (price: 10 cents), a pen and a penholder.