Home | Valente and DiRenzo Family History - From Our Correspondent in Geneva (Angelo Abiuso)

Cantina in the Tufo of Via Serrone

This is a cantina dug out of the tufo of Via Serrone a few meters from Zio Angelo Abiuso's house, but on the other side of the street because this cave is at street-level (There are no stairs to go down) but Angelo Abiuso's cantina is under the street and the houses.

A cantina in Gambatesa, 39 KB

The wine in this cantina is too much for one person or family to drink.  People sell what they don't want to friends (i.e. the extra wine is not sold as a business).

One family uses 100-200 liters of wine a year, depending on the size of the family.  In Gambatesa a demijohn holds from 5-50 liters; the damigianella (its dialect name) in the top photograph is about 15-liter sized.  But a bottiglione ("big bottle") like in the lower photograph holds 40-50 liters.  The magnum-sized bottles are called butteglionn' in dialect.

The cantina in the photographs is lighted only by a Roman olive oil lamp.  The blackness of the tufo is due to the soot of many years, to spider webs, never being cleaned.  The size of the cantina: two European cars could be parked inside; the cantina under Zio Angelo Abiuso's street is much larger.

A cantina in Gambatesa, 34 KB

In the old days demijohns used to be wrapped in straw; now plastic is used.  After a thin layer of olive oil was poured over the wine, a rag or an inverted tin can (see the red and white object at the bottom-center of the lower photograph) was used to keep the dust off the olive oil.  Olive oil was used in Italy to isolate wine from the ruinous effects of the bacteria in the air, like the way corks were used in France; when I was a child I remember that my grandfather Francesco Valente used to take the oil off the wine by rolling up a single sheet of newspaper: he just touched the oil and the paper sucked it up.

The very large round filled-hole spaces in the background of the lower photograph: there may be another cantina on the other side of these.  Maybe there is an old network of caves behind the circles in the photograph.

In the cantina under the street near Zio Angelo Abiuso's house you go from one cantina to another through doorways: there is not one huge cave.  The caves are as old as Gambatesa.  (There are by the way no bats in the cantine, but the are many bats in Gambatesa.)  But I think that it is now illegal to dig caves out of the tufo.

In some places in Italy people lived in caves.  And in the Middle Ages the caves were used to keep the animals and maybe for the people to sleep themselves.  In Via San Nicola there are houses that are partly dug out of the tufo, as is the ground floor of the old Valente house where all their animals were kept.  Maybe the first people to live in Gambatesa in Medieval times lived in tufo caves.

Photographs by Angelo Abiuso (Geneva), August 2006.

Related Page: The Cellar of the old Valente House in Via San Nicola.

The URL of this Web page: https://www.roangelo.net/valente/sottotuf.html
Last revised: 9 March 2007 : 2007-03-09 by Robert [Wesley] Angelo.

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