The traditionally copper water-pot was called a conca in Abruzzo; it was cleaned with sand. The woman rolled a handkerchief or piece of cloth to make a soft pad which she placed on her head before the conca. The women also carried the clothes they washed at the village fountain on their heads.
Note source: Estella Canziani in her book Through the Apennines and the Lands of the Abruzzi from just before the First World War.
Water and Washing in Gambatesa
by Angelo Abiuso (Geneva)
Gambatesa is a village in central southern Italy between Naples and Rome.
The water-pot Carmina is carrying on her head is called a tina in Gambatesa. She is standing in Largo Fontana, the open space around the village fountain.
The piece of cloth placed between the head and the tina is called a spara in dialect. The cloth is rolled like a snail's house around your hand, and when you pull out your hand there is a hole in the middle and the tina goes into the hole and the balance is correct.
All the water used in the village of Gambatesa had to be fetched from the fountain at Largo Fontana. It took a girl about 3 minutes to walk from the fountain to the Church of San Bartolomeo Apostolo, for example, carrying a tina on her head. [See the street map of Gambatesa] This carrying of water began at 5 or 6 o'clock each morning with girls queuing (lining up) at the fountain. Poorer girls were paid to carry water all day long; they knew exactly how many liters of water each household needed.
In Gambatesa clothes were not washed at the village fountain. The village fountain was in a park (La Villa) in the heart of the village; it was not a place for any kind of washing. People argued often because the whole village had more or less (Some people had private wells) to get water from there; and they had to queue for the water, which of course needed time to fill the water pots (and not only water pots, but any object that could be used for water).
The people did not have to pay for the water; it came from an underground spring. But people argued especially in summer time, and a police officer had to keep them quiet. Demand for water was higher in summer because summer was tomato "salsa time", and a lot of water was needed for the preparation of the salsa (a salz' in dialect).
People washed clothes at home during the winter and in one of the torrenti ("streams that carry water down from the mountains") during spring time or in autumn.
Clothes washing was also done in a special place called the lavatoio ("public washhouse"). But rather than a building, the lavatoio was a covered place with a big basin. The lavatoio, however, only dated from the 1960s. Nunziata DiRenzo (See below) must have washed her teacher's clothes in a torrente.
The Valente family used to wash clothing in the Torrente Tappino. A week was needed to do all the washing and ironing.
Nunziata DiRenzo's Childhood
When in 1903 Nunziata DiRenzo attended school in Gambatesa (She was born in April 1897 and would have begun school at 6 years old), she went for the three -- and only three -- years provided by the Italian state school system. But although attending school was compulsory and free, Nunziata was made to wash her teacher's clothing, a bitter memory for her.
According to her children's memory (never very reliable), Nunziata said that she had washed the clothing at the village fountain. However, this does not seem possible: at the beginning of the 20th Century in Gambatesa this fountain was located directly in front of a very rich family's palazzo. And later after it was moved, the fountain was in the center of the municipality's park, at the end of the street leading to the Town Hall. Perhaps Nunziata meant some other place or perhaps her children simply were not listening. "She was always talking about i vecch', i contadin', the old people, the farmers, but I can't remember what she said."
The Piemontese government had required southern villages to open schools, but it had not provided the money to pay for these state schools. But Nunziata DiRenzo did not have to wash her teacher's clothing in order to pay for her schooling; it was rather that in those days, although almost a hundred years after the legal end of feudalism, there were still many "services" that poor people were expected to perform for the wealthy. (These services were of course in addition to all the work that little Nunziata already had to do for her own mother.)
Esther Valente's Memory from 1960
There was no indoor plumbing in the houses she visited in Gambatesa in September 1960, but Esther Valente (1930-1994) saw water pipes being put down. Decades later, it was said in America, the municipal fountain was closed in order to force people to pay for piped water. But this may not have been true, because in August 2002 water flowed freely from the fountain.
The History of Indoor Plumbing in Gambatesa
In the old days they did not have water at home, but there were many sources of water. There was la Fontana that everyone used, but some people also had private wells (like the well in the garden behind the old Valente house in Via San Nicola; when this house was divided, as part of the agreement, both houses now have to share the well). They also had the streams where they got water: vallone ("ravine", like torrente), but this water was only used to wash clothes.
Then. At first the authorities put fontanini ("little fountains", i funtall' in dialect) in each district. This was in 1957-1960. This was good because then the women did not have to queue at la Fontana as they used to have to do from very early in the morning each day. After that each house had to have pipes installed inside the house; the state provided the pipes only to the outside of the houses. It took just a few years, 2 or 3 years time, before everyone to had water in the home, and then the fontanilli were taken away. The little fountains were not there for very long.
Identification of the photograph as Carmina Valente
Carminuccia VALENTE was the wife of Bernardo GALLO who lived mezz u Carminar vicin u Support da Chiesa. She is the woman in the photograph with la tina coming from la funtana.
Communication from Carmina Valente's son Salvatore Gallo of 7 November 2003. Carmina's grandson Domenic Venditti also made this identification, 29 August 2003. (Domenic was the godchild of Esther Valente.) There is another photograph of Carmina Valente from 1967.
Dialect translation notes: mezz u Carminar vicin u Support da Chiesa = "in the middle of" or "half-way down/up" Via Carminaro (now called Corso Roma) "near" Via Supporto da Chiesa ("Street of the Base, or, [structural] Support of the Church"). The Valente house is near the steps where you go up to San Bartolomeo Apostolo.
la tina = "water-pot" in Gambatesa's dialect; la funtana = "the fountain".
Carminuccia is a diminutive of the name "Carmina". This was also what Giovanni Valente called his oldest daughter. Both women were named after Michele and Giovanni's mother Carmina IACOVELLI.
Family resemblance: The woman in this photograph was earlier misidentified as Carmina's younger sister Donata Valente. But my aunt who made the earlier identification visited Gambatesa in 1995 and met Donata Valente then, and so the family resemblance would be quite strong, seen thirty-five years later.
Angelo Abiuso wrote to me: "Some people in Gambatesa said that it is Donata, but some others said it is Carmina. Va papisc' va! (Va a capire, va!, "Go figure!")" [Dialect sayings from Gambatesa]
The URL of this page: https://www.roangelo.net/valente/conca.html
Last revised: 9 March 2004 : 2004-03-09 by Robert [Wesley] Angelo
Home | Site Map | Site Search | Valente and DiRenzo Family History - More Family Photographs