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A poor, small house in Via Serrone

In its old, historical state this house would be an example of what in Gambatesa was called a catapecchie de case, a pejorative (socially stigmatizing) dialect expression for a small, dirty old house (Maybe "stone hovel" would be an equivalent).

La maggior parte di quelle catapecchie non hanno che un'apertura che serve da porta, da finestra e da camino. Nell'interno, per lo più senza pavimento, con i muri a secco, abitano, dormono, mangiano, procreano, talvolta nello stesso vano, gli uomini, le donne, i loro figli, le capre, le galline, i porci, gli asini.

"Most of those hovels have no more than one opening which serves as doorway and window and chimney. Inside, in most cases without a paved floor, with rude walls, live, sleep, eat, procreate, sometimes in the same room, men, women, their children, the goats, the chickens, the pigs, the donkeys." (Ignazio Silone, Fontamara, «Prefazione» | "Preface", trans. RWA)

Figuratively such a house was also referred to as a ruttelle, a dialect word meaning a place dug out of the tufo ("compacted sand") under Gambatesa, where chickens were kept. Ruttelle comes from the dialect word u rute, which comes from the Italian word la grotta ("grotto").

A poor, small house in Via Serrone, Gambatesa, 40 KB

An earlier roof of this house was lower than its present roof, as is shown by the remnants of the old roof and chimney in the wall. The house is now being renovated, but the stairs to its doorway have yet to be reconstructed.

Via Serrone, Gambatesa, 30 KB

The white wall beside the stairs to the doorway of the house above can be seen in this photograph. The slope of the street suggests the altitude of Via Serrone, 800 feet above the valley below.

Why is the wall in the right foreground rounded? This may be from the days when some houses were fortified against attack, like the Church of San Nicola with the gun port in its wall. Gambatesa overlooks the valley which was the historical invasion route from the south, which suggests the why of Gambatesa's location, because like the village of Tufara, it is "a defensive position in visual control of the main roads such as the sheep migration tracks" [Il tratturo].

Photographs by Angelo Abiuso (Geneva), August 2004

The URL of this Web page: https://www.roangelo.net/valente/catapech.html
Last revised: 22 June 2009 : 2009-06-22 by Robert [Wesley] Angelo.

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