Articolo disponibile anche in: Italian

On every farm you can find what is necessary to lead a dignified life. The vegetable garden guarantees fresh seasonal produce all year round. The hens peck around the courtyard.

The pigs splash in their trough behind the pig pen. The rabbits play in thier cages. The cows ruminate in their stalls. Cereal and fruit trees are cultivated. Bread is baked in the wood stove from flours ground in the communal mill.

Water comes from the well and wine from the surrounding vines. If there are olives, they are conserved in olive oil, stocked in terra cotta jars. Pumpkins are used to sweeten. Salt is precious and scarce. Dry aromatic herbs flavor our dishes.

For special occasions, religious holidays, the birth of a boy, we have the luxury of eating a bit of meat, (not only the cheap cuts), and to taste some sweet Holy Wine, whose grapes were dried in the barn where grain is stocked.

There is even a small chapel where we can pray, or at least a small tabernacle with a sacred image. Weather permitting, life takes place almost exclusively outside.

The day consists mainly of hard work in the fields. When it is still hot, the courtyard is the social center: during the day the hay is stacked for beating, the animals’ food is stored, the children play, the women embroider and sew, seated on rattan chairs.

In the winter, family life moves inside: repairs, various manual activities, house work, are put aside for days of rain or cold weather. When work is done, we gather around the fireplace with the ever-present copper pot on the stove, roasting chestnuts and telling about the day.

This is the world that was molded in the Middle Ages, starting with the building of the “housetower” structures in stone, towered and strongly fortified. This continued during the 1700’s and 1800’s, when next to these house were added Leopoldine farms, created by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Pietro Leopoldo dei Lorena.

With the first settlements, the farming families were organized according to the feudal system: this was a work contract where the landowner gave his land to a sharecropper, then dividing the crop.

The sharecropper set up the lands received in concession by the family, thus dotting the countryside with small farming communities. The feudal system, ending in the second half of the 20th century, changed the compactness of the farm civilization but didn’t completely end it.

A certain wit, sparkling eyes, the art of getting along, not throwing anything away, a bittersweet disenchantment, words that still live in today’s Italian language, are only some of the infinite remnants of the farming civilization absorbed, almost without notice, in our way of being today.

Francesco Sorelli – Il Bisarno Oltre la Sieve