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Contadini's life a century ago

05-03-2024 11:12:04


Culture, olditaly, countrylife, historyofitaly, civiltà contadina,

Contadini's life a century ago

Life in the Italian countryside a century ago: A glimpse into tradition, hardship, and rustic charm



Life in the Italian countryside a century ago: 

A glimpse into tradition, hardship, and rustic charm



Italy is famous for many things: art, architecture, food, and bella vita, but a tapestry of tradition woven by generations of hardworking contadini, or farmers, contributed to the modern idea of Italy with its strong values and respect for food. 


A century ago, life in the Italian countryside was a stark contrast to the bustling cities and modern conveniences we enjoy today. Let's take a journey back in time to explore the rustic charm and challenges of rural life in the past, and reflect on how it compares to our contemporary comforts.


Traditional customs and way of life

Life for contadini in the early 20th century revolved around the rhythm of the seasons and the cycles of nature. Families lived in rustic stone houses, often passed down through generations, and their days were filled with laborious tasks in the fields. La famiglia, or family, was the cornerstone of rural life, with multiple generations living under one roof and working together to till the land and tend to the animals.


La dolce vita? Challenges and hardships

Despite the idyllic imagery often associated with rural life, the reality for contadini was far from easy. Mancanza, or scarcity, was a constant companion, as families grappled with limited resources and unpredictable weather conditions. Harvests could be meager, and the threat of crop failure loomed large, casting a shadow of uncertainty over their livelihoods. Access to basic necessities such as clean water and medical care was often limited, leading to health issues and hardship.


Rustic living: houses, decor, and cuisine

Contadini lived simply, with their homes reflecting a blend of practicality and tradition. Houses were adorned with simple furnishings, often handmade from local materials. Walls were adorned with religious icons, photographs of loved ones, and colorful tapestries, adding warmth and character to the humble abodes. Many houses boasted a pozzo, or well, providing a vital source of water for drinking, cooking, and washing.

When it came to cuisine, contadini relied on the bounty of their land. Meals were hearty and wholesome, centered around staples such as pane, or bread, made from locally grown grains. Vegetables from the orto, or vegetable garden, provided essential nutrients, while fruits and nuts gathered from nearby trees added sweetness to the table. Meat was a luxury reserved for special occasions, with contadini often raising their own livestock for slaughter.


Animals as companions and providers

In addition to providing food, animals played a vital role in the lives of contadini. Chickens roamed freely in the yard, providing eggs for breakfast and meat for celebratory feasts. Goats and sheep grazed in nearby fields, their milk used to make cheese and butter. Some families even kept pigs, fattening them up throughout the year for the traditional slaughter in late autumn. In many houses, especially in southern Italy, animals used to live together with the humans, and the reasons were two:

  • the more, the better: their body temperature helped to warm the room up. In other words, it was common to see a donkey in the living room, or chickens under the bed;
  • the outdoor space was never enough, so they had to keep animals inside the house.  


Looking Back, Moving Forward

As we reflect on the life of contadini in Italy a century ago, it's essential to recognize the resilience and resourcefulness of those who carved out a living from the land. Their dedication to preserving tradition and their strong sense of community are values that continue to resonate today. While we may enjoy the luxuries of modern life, let us not forget the sacrifices and hardships endured by those who came before us. In honoring their legacy, we can appreciate the progress we've made while striving to create a more sustainable and inclusive future for all. La vita contadina del secolo scorso may have been challenging, but it was also imbued with a sense of simplicity, authenticity, and a deep connection to the land that still holds sway in the Italian countryside today.





Italiano with Marco - 2021 

P. IVA 01398460772 

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