Bosco di Chiusano. How they used to sleep at the Valente Farm.
On this page ...
- Bosco di Chiusano
- The altitude of Bosco Chiusano
- Life at the Masseria Valente - Living arrangements
- North Africa and Southern Europe
- The ground is sinking at the Valente Farm
- What the farmers were like in the old days
- "Nicola il Santo"
- Celestino Muzzétt
- When Gambatesa's Historical Center was Built
Bosco di Chiusano
The origins of Gambatesa were in three locations within the present agricultural territory of the comune of Gambatesa: Vipera, Salandra, and Bosco Chiusano ("Chiusano Woods"). Bosco Chiusano was the location to the south of the present inhabited center (or, village) of Gambatesa.
It looks a little like the pre-Alps in Switzerland: the beginning of the Alps; it's not as high as the Alps but you have woods, places with cows, and it's not too high. And this place, Bosco Chiusano, looks a little bit like that. But I didn't find any -- I found the place where there is a the statue of Mary; there is a little place in a woods where sometimes maybe they go to if they said the Mass or something like this -- but I didn't find any ruins.
And I stopped to talk with a farmer, a man who was working out in the fields; I took many pictures of his agricultural tools. And I took pictures of the vineyard, and several pictures of the place there Bosco Chiusano. All these pictures, the vineyard, everything -- some I don't know exactly where it was on the road between the village of Gambatesa and the end of Bosco Chiusano, but all these pictures were taken in Bosco Chiusano. But Bosco Chiusano is quite a big place in Gambatesa; and it's between Gambatesa and Riccia, and to go there it's really -- you'll see the pictures: the road is very narrow and the road's in very bad condition, but I have the pictures now, and so you can have a little idea of what was Bosco Chiusano.
But it would be a perfect place for a village: there is water, there are fields you can cultivate, there are fields [pastures] you can put horses and cows on it, there are woods, there is almost everything. And it's a bit higher than the village of Gambatesa. And I have still relatives of mine living there, but I didn't know; I was talking to the man who was working in the fields and he said, "Oh, you have some relatives there; you must have some relatives there." And I said, Yes, I have heard something like that, and after when I talked to my mother, she said, "Oh, but why didn't you stop in this house and this house, because these are cousins of yours and they could give you more information." But I didn't see anybody, and I didn't dare to knock at the doors of strangers' houses.
The altitude of Bosco Chiusano
And after I did some sketches about some of the pictures I took. And Bosco Chiusano -- you can see the village of Pietracatella (to the north-north-west of Gambatesa) from Bosco Chiusano. You can see Salandra and Vipera, the Fondo Valle ("the route along the bottom of the valley"); if you draw a line more or less from Bosco Chiusano to Pietracatella it's all these things are more or less all on that line: Pietracatella, Salandra, Vipera, Fondo Valle, and Bosco Chiusano.
[So, it's quite high?] It's higher than the village of Gambatesa. [The town hall of the village is at 666 meters (2,185 feet) above sea level. But around Bosco Chiusano there are hills at 695 meters (2,280 feet) and a bit further to the south is Gambatesa's highest point at 958 meters (3,143 feet). On the map military maps of 1955-1957 Bosco Chiusano is labeled as Bosco di Gambatesa o Chiusano.]
Life at the Masseria Valente - Living arrangements
I have to send you the pictures, about how people were living in these small houses at the Valente Farm, how eleven people could live in two rooms, when, where and how they were sleeping, and they were sleeping with the animals. And I said to Michele Valente, "But you were sleeping, you know the same place Jesus Christ was born", and Michele Valente told me that the children were sleeping in the stable. And I said, "But well, it's very stinky." And he said, "No, but this was, the animals were the heating system in winter time."
And in the pictures you can see how they were sleeping; they were sleeping in the stable; there was like a mezzanino [a partial story between two main stories of a building: mezzanine] half-way between the ground and the roof of the stable, and on this small mezzanino there were beds and often the children were sleeping with the animals. He told me the animals were the termosifone, the [hot water] radiator, and he started to laugh and he said the waste of the animals (urine and manure) was the termosifone; the waste kept them warm.
[Does Michele Valente remember this himself?] Yes, he said that he himself had a small folding bed, in Italian una branda ("cot"), and Zio Michele said, "I had a little bed like that in the stable, and I was sleeping with one cow and one donkey." [He was sleeping on the floor with the animals?] I think on the floor (not on the mezzanino), because he told me that he had to open his cot to sleep and then he had to close it, and he said it was in "un piccolo angolo della stalla" [a small corner of the barn]; he was sleeping there. [How old was he?] He said that it was when he was a child, but he didn't say until when he had to sleep like that.
Some close relatives of mine did the same. And sometimes, my relatives told me, they were sleeping in the mangiatoia ("manger") (It's where you put the hay for the animals), and the children were sleeping there.
So in the Masseria Valente there were several houses, belonging to different families (and Zio Michele did a list, so after I'll tell you which room how many people were living): one room, four persons; the other one, three persons; the other one, seven persons. So you could have seven persons: so father, mother, plus five children, living in one room and one stable. And in this one room, you had the kitchen, and the place where to sleep.
That was how people were living up until the 1960s. In Gambatesa it was this way until the end of the 50s, beginning of the 60s. Then very slowly in the 60s and 70s things started to change and by the end of the 70s all this was more or less finished. It took maybe ten years to have a complete shift from the old way (the ancient Roman Empire or Medieval way) of living and the modern way of living.
North Africa and Southern Europe
Remember I told you about my friend, colleague, his father comes from Algeria. He is a Berber; his group in Algeria is called Chaouia. Many Berbers have blue eyes; they look like southern Europeans; people from Europe are genetically from the same people as the Berbers of North Africa [west of Egypt]. They were there since the Roman Empire, before the Arab invasion; and the way they were living, the way they were building things goes back to that period.
So as I told you, when my friend looked at the pictures of Gambatesa and the old farms in Gambatesa, he said, this looks exactly like North Africa; and the way his father was living when young was exactly the way my father was living when he was young, the size of the houses, people living together, things like this. So probably this way of living comes from maybe the Middle Ages or back to the period of the Roman Empire or the end of the Roman Empire.
See, there are very close connections between people from North Africa and south Italy. People from Spain, Portugal, south of France, Italy, Greece, genetically they are very close to the Berbers. But basically the same group of population that left Africa, they split in the area near Egypt or Palestine; some turned left and went to colonize North Africa and they became the Berbers, and the others they went up to Greece, crossed the Aegean Sea and they settled in southern Europe; they are genetically close and they are even in culture very close, in the way of living.
(There were several departures of people from Africa, where all the world's human population came from. Then you had some who went to the north of Europe and they are the population from Germany, Sweden, all Europeans from north Europe who are blonde with blue eyes. And then there was another group that went to Asia.)
The ground is sinking at the Valente Farm
So I went to see Michele Valente [fu Antonio (b. 1910), fu Michele (1883-1964), fu Nicola Valente (1853-1939)] in the summer , and I talked to him. Something interesting. Do you remember in Masseria Valente I sent you some pictures where you can see a house with three doors? So first I must send you the photographs and then I have many things to tell you, about how many people were living in the same room, and how people were living there in Masseria Valente.
Ah, I can tell you that at Masseria Valente the ground is sinking from Masseria Valente down to the to the road going to Colle della Putina. And I saw a wall (and I think I maybe took a picture of this wall) with a crack in it (like in walls after an earthquake), but not on a house, on a small wall next to the house. And Zio Michele said, "You see this crack is because the earth is sinking in the direction of the road. And if we don't do some work to reinforce it, then one day maybe the whole masseria can collapse." There are in Gambatesa many places where you can see the earth sinks. In Gambatesa they call this lam' (a lam').
And Michele Valente told me that they are making now confusion between Macchia della Terra and Macchia Valle Sace. Macchia della Terra is where Masseria Valente is. And Macchia Valle Sace is a place, it's on the same hill but more to the direction of the top of the hill.
What the farmers were like in the old days
Michele Valente told me, and then I started to laugh and I started to write the things down, and he said, "Ah, maybe I mustn't tell you this story." But I said, "No, no, no, it's ok."
My great grand-mother Anna Maria Moffa (the wife of Luca Valente), one day she argued with my great-grandfather and she took a pitchfork and she tried to kill him. "Ah, well," I said, "she was very aggressive?" and Zio Michele said that "Before people were like that".
And he told me that my great-grandfather Luca was very accustomed to court houses (because he brought a lot of lawsuits); he had very often to go to the court house which was in Riccia, because he had many arguments with his neighbors and people in Gambatesa that ended into a court house (Michele did not tell me what they argued about; probably to buy and to sell land, things like that). And Michele Valente told me, he remembers when my great-grandfather was preparing the mule to go to Riccia because he had to go to the court house because he was suing people and things like this; he was well-known to sue people in Gambatesa.
"Nicola il Santo"
Do you remember the story I told you about somebody in the Valente family who was doing work in Macchia della Terra and suddenly he found himself down on the hill next to the river? And his nickname afterwards was "Nicola il Santo" [Nicholas the Saint]? I didn't tell you? So there was one Valente -- I have to ask my mother how he was related to us. One day he was working in the place where the Masseria Valente is, in Macchia della Terra, and he had some problems: he was plowing or tilling [in French labourer] the soil, and something happened, something broke, and then he started to bestemmiare ("blaspheme"), you know bestemmiare, it's when you say things like "By the Blood of Jesus Christ". He was really very rude and suddenly he felt like somebody took him in the air and suddenly he realized he was down near the fiumara, the river, down you know where there is a bridge to go from Gambatesa to Masseria Valente. And then after that day he never did any blaspheming again. He was called "Nicola il Santo" because after that he never said any more blasphemy and when somebody in the street would say blasphemy, immediately he would say, "No, no, stop, don't say this. It's obscene" and things like that."
The farmer I met in Bosco Chiusano, Samuele Conte (You will see his picture; I took a picture of him there because he was working in his field), told me a story about Bosco Chiusano. It was a story a bit like the story of "Nicola il Santo". So the story he told me, he said that once a man in Gambatesa ... There he was a man named Celestino Muzzétt ("Muzzétt", it's his a nickname, because muzzétt is a unit for wheat, like a kilogram, a pound, and things like that). So this man called Celestino Muzzétt had a dream; he dreamed about some money buried in Bosco Chiusano in a place called Rippa. ("Rippa", it's a cliff, like Salandra and Vipera, these are rippe, La Rippa della Salandra, La Rippa della Vipera.) So he dreamed about money buried somewhere in Rippa della Vecchia, and he went there and he started to dig, and he found a stone, and looked under the stone and he found the money; and when he found the money suddenly -- it happened the same as "Nicola il Santo" -- he found himself down in La Peschiera, which is the place just to the southwest of the village where the road going to Bosco Chiusano starts (I took a picture there).
I said, "Ah, well, there is a Valente, it happened the same to him." And Mr. Conte told me, "Yes, I know something about that," and he told me the same story. In my family all the Valente have something like that. So the same story that people were taken in the air and suddenly they found themselves down the hill, down Macchia della Terra, down Bosco Chiusano. I don't know if it's a legend or it's true, but it's the second time that I heard something like that in Gambatesa. [Did Celestino behave differently afterwards?] "Ah, no, he didn't tell me anything about that. But he told me the name of the man, Celestino Muzzétt, and the story was told to him by his father. And he gave me the name of a man who is related to Celestino; it's a man I know, and he lives in Masseria Valente, next to our relative there, Michele Valente. But I must ask in Gambatesa if people know about that."
When Gambatesa's Historical Center was Built
One of the d'Amico nephews of the Giuseppe Pasarella (Pasarelli) who built a house in Gambatesa after he was badly wounded at Normandy in World War 2, graduated from the university as an architect. And his university work was titled Intervento nello centro storico di Gambatesa, and his project was the rehabilitation of the center of Gambatesa, based on research he did between 1978 and 1980.