So many kilometres through so many communities; traditions that are secular if not millennial. Italy is an incredible mix of cultures, flavours and landscapes making it a unique “Harlequin” country in the world
The Cammino Basiliano Association aims to raise awareness, enhance and protect authentic local craftsmanship using locally sourced raw materials, so that the traditional manual skills and quality of “know-how” are not lost.
Little by little along the route the genuine traditional craft activities that we discover still in existence will be described. In line with this philosophy, information will be provided on: dishes and ancient recipes, characteristic and niche products, ancient festivals, processions, rites and everything else that still takes place with the genuine and heartfelt involvement of the population, who take part with deep rooted authenticity and not just to entertain tourists in the summer. The knowledge and protection of the environment also with respect to and awareness of the ancient uses of the native flora in the areas crossed by the Cammino Basiliano will also be described.
We want our “walkers” to discover, not only the wonderful, unspoiled nature along the Cammino Basiliano, but also the works and local products of the local craftsmen, thus giving them support, motivation and a future.
The Ditto ceramic artisan workshop produces items using traditional methods (working manually with a wood oven) that have been handed down from generation to generation within the same family.
We prepare the kiln with wood and then light the wood. Once it is lit, we feed the fire with crushed olive stones and these are used to feed the fire throughout the firing process, which may last up to six hours. The fire must burn uniformly across the kiln, otherwise in one part of the kiln the objects will be sufficiently fired, while in another they will not be fired enough. Basically, it takes an expert to manage a kiln properly.
Inside the kiln the objects must be organized carefully. There are between 1,000-1,500 objects inside the kiln which have to be appropriately arranged; the vases at the bottom, the more delicate objects placed on top and the remaining pieces in the centre. Once organised the firing process can begin and heat enters through the central holes.
During firing the beauty emerges; although you may want a totally green pine cone instead, unexpectedly, you get some blue stripes or some yellow stripes because glaze has fallen from above.
This is a photo of a loaded kiln – the objects are placed one on top of the other. Different shades of green and yellow may be formed for example, if yellow glaze blends into the green it results in an amazing array of different hues of green. The firing of the objects in the kiln in the third photo is finished and are ready to be unload.
Leo wool mill
The oldest Calabrian woollen mill has been operating since 1873. It is integrated into the region to which it belongs, enhancing its natural, cultural and human resources. It represents one of the most interesting company-museum in the area.
The raw material
The initial piece of wool must not be compacted, otherwise it will be impossible to pull out continuous fibres. The fibres will then be twisted into a consistent thread which entails that spinning is easier and more uniform.
The rust woodblock printing technique
Pear wood is ideal for use as a woodblock. The wood is very elastic, resistant and does not split, which is perfect for a woodblock as it is always being hit, immersed in water and washed. On this woodblock a Galla Placidia crow has been carved.
Most of these wooden print blocks come from Romagna. Rust woodblock printing was invented there. Woodblock printing has a long history for example, in China and India. There are also areas in Provence that use this technique too.
The uniqueness of this technique is the ink, which is a mixture of iron oxide, flour and acetone. These are blended until the mixture has a consistency like cream, then the dye is used as if it were a print. The wood block is placed on the fabric, then hit with a wooden mallet to transfer the ink onto the fabric. The printed material is dried in the sun then it is put into a caustic soda bath to tone and fix the dye. This process changes the colour and shade of the dye.
The weaving process
In each of the steps of the weaving process all the movements must be synchronized because even a small timing issue can cause problems and the shuttle that passes backwards and forwards could catch.
During washing, the material can shrink up to 50%, so 3 meters can become 1.5 metres, it doubles in weight, and completely changes the feel, strength, resistance, and impermeability. In the past, all the herdsmen’s cloaks were made with felting because it was a thick fabric and, by applying a little animal fat, it became waterproof so water would just run off the cloak.
And finally this is our class Z energy rated washing machine.
Gino Fuoco is an artisan who works with wood and keeps an ancient tradition alive. He makes baskets from chestnut wood cut into strips, treated and soaked in water. He collects the wood in the winter season before the reawakening of spring.
From reeds he creates traditional moulds for cheeses and ricotta. With heather, olive and maple wood he produces utensils for domestic uses and with poplar wood he makes goat and cow collars to attach bells to.
Calabrian luthiers continue an ancient artisan tradition
The lute or guitar made its first appearance in Italy when the Arabs introduced it into Sicily and Calabria around the 9th-10th century. It’s use spread and it was transformed due to the skills of local artisans who made it into a high quality instrument, which became one of the main sources of income for the local economy. Many luthiers lived in the Giudecca district of Bisignano and their creativity and professionalism led them to create new traditional folk instruments such as the battente guitar.
The De Bonis family is one of the longest-established families of luthiers who have been in the business since the eighteenth century. The signatures and stamps that the De Bonis maestros have always printed on the inside of each of their instruments, are reproduced in specialised books. In the edition of the universal dictionary of violin production, “Les Amis de la Musique” published in Brussels in 1951, all the members of the De Bonis dynasty are cited, with the dates, history and characteristics of each instrument they created since 1720.
Today this artisan dynasty is represented by Rosalba De Bonis who is a specialist in making battente guitars. She learnt the luthier profession first in her uncle’s workshop and then by attending the international luthier school “A. Stradivari ”in Cremona.
One of the great protagonists of Calabrian “chitarrari” is in fact the battente guitar, an instrument from the 1500s, whose characteristics are:
• its sonority, because the strings must be struck and not plucked and the fifth string or scuordo produces a low, deep note;
• a pick is not used, only the hands which strike the strings producing the “ribunnu”, the rumble, which is a perfect accompaniment to singing.
Museo della liuteria di Bisignano – Collina Castello
Laboratorio di Francesco Pignataro – via Pirozzi 50 – Bisignano
Liuteria Jonica Corrado – Montegiordano
Liuteria De Bonis via della Giudecca 9 87043 Bisignano (CS)
Photo: courtesy of Liuteria Jonica Corrado
Holidays and Rituals
“The Forgotten” is a documentary by director Vittorio De Seta, who in 1957 documented the Fir Festival in Alessandria del Carretto, in the province of Cosenza. A tradition that has been handed down and is still celebrate in spring to mark the beginning of the summer.
Lu tempo di li pisci spata ( The Swordfishing Season)
“Lu tempo di li pisci spata” is a 1954 documentary in which the director Vittorio De Seta portrayed traditional swordfishing in the waters between Sicily and Calabria. Bagnara Calabra, Scilla, up to Punta Faro and Messina are where swordfish lay their eggs and where the fishermen await the epic moment to fish. Even today in Scilla it is possible to see the spataras (swordfishing boats) moored in the marina.
Musulupara carved by Marcello Manti – Il Tipico Calabrese, Cardeto (RC) – Photo by Simona Lombardo
Musulupa: food, ritual and art
In Calabria, food is a highly symbolic ritual. There are recipes that have been handed down generations, like speaking an ancient language. Even today at family celebrations there are dishes that have remained unchanged for centuries on Calabrian tables. There is no time of year in which a divine mystery or a sacrament is not celebrated with a table laden with food or that a grandmother, closing the oven, does not say a prayer in a whisper or make a quick sign of the cross.
During the Easter period it is an ancient custom in the Grecanic area to prepare musulupa, a cheese that looks like an amulet, a message of auspicious love as well as being the incredible results of artistic expression.
Musulupa is prepared with what remains of the preparation of other forms of cheese. The mixture is poured into a mould called a musulupara to obtain a sort of toma (a traditional cheese) and is consumed fresh. It can also be cut into pieces and lightly browned to be added to an omelette or other dishes on Easter Monday.
Traditionally it was the gift that a betrothed gave to his future wife, specifically during the Easter period, when the end of Lent was celebrated with the hope of new rebirth, fertility and love.
The mould is a mulberry wood carving and represents either a female figure or a circular shape similar to a breast, both finely decorated with small Greek style geometric patterns and a Byzantine cross.
Visiting places in the Grecanica area you will be able to meet the last musulupara carvers, traditional artists whose work is truly fascinating.
Cuddure prepared by Marcello Manti – Il Tipico Calabrese, Cardeto (Rc)
Photo by Simona Lombardo
La Cuddura, a pledge of love
In his book “End of Meal”, Vito Teti, citing Durkheim and Barthes, talks about the act of eating as a “total social fact” – as a link between nature and culture. Eating is also a language, therefore taste and communication, and each food contains and transmits a situation, represents information.
During religious celebrations in Calabria, food is a ritual and highly symbolic. There are recipes that have been handed down the generations, like speaking an ancient language. Still today at Calabrian family celebrations, there are dishes that have remained unchanged for centuries on the tables, often closely linked to a specific period of the year. Food that was once real communication between people, culinary rituals that are now stripped of their symbolic and social value, yet still remains an opportunity to tell a story.
Easter day marks the end of Lent and is the day on which the resurrection, the arrival of Spring, rebirth and abundance is celebrated.
One of the symbols of traditional Calabrian cuisine in this period is the Cuddura (from the Greek kollura, corolla, corona), a simple dessert with an imaginative shape which has different meanings depending on its design.
The Cuddure, Cudduraci, Cuddureddi, Campanario, Cuzzupe, depending on the southern area in which we find ourselves, are based on soft wheat flour, sugar and eggs, the latter being both an ingredient and a decoration.
In fact, the hard-boiled egg completes the design and more than any other aspect symbolises rebirth, eternal life, abundance. – Tradition has it that the eggs should be blessed in church before being added to the dough shape.
The Cuddure are prepared in the Reggino area where there is a Greek influence, unlike the others (for example the Cuzzupe from Catanzaro) they are delicate and soft inside, spiced with cinnamon and carnations and perfumed with orange peel.
Depending on the form, they were given to specific people because the different shapes represented different messages: if it was in the shape of a basket or a “pappatuleda” (doll) it was intended for the “figghioli” (children) of the house; in the shape of “ferru i sceccu” (donkey / horse shoe) it was a symbol of good luck; if heart-shaped, they were a mother-in-law’s gift to her future son-in-law, while if in the shape of a tower and garnished with hard-boiled eggs, it was a future bride’s gift to her betrothed, because it represented home and fertility.
Photo by Simona Lombardo
Her Majesty the Crispella
During the Christmas period, in every self-respecting Calabrian house, Crispelle, also called Zéppole, should not be missing. Grandmothers and grandchildren gather in the kitchen for the preparation rites, hordes of cousins rush to help, the table is laden with good wine, cheeses and cold meats to act as an addition to the queens of the Christmas table. The luxury of fried pasta, savoury and sweet, is one of the traditional dishes par excellence whose recipe is still handed down (fortunately) and which we invite you to try making. In a saucepan, heat a little water and keep it warm. In a large pan or bowl, dissolve a portion of brewer’s yeast in a little warm water. Gradually add 1 kg of flour to the yeast together with the warm water until the dough is softer than that for a pizza. Part of the flour can be substituted with boiled and mashed potatoes (the ones in the photos were prepared like this).
Add salt as required, knead, also pulling upwards to add air to the mixture, then cover the container with tablecloths and blankets to keep the dough warm and let it rise for about 2-3 hours. If you want, you can put it next to a radiator.
After the necessary time has passed the pasta will have risen more than double its size and will be full of bubbles.
Get ready to fry !!
Crispelle are usually filled with anchovy pieces (small and rounded) or left empty (elongated to distinguish them from stuffed ones), but they can also be stuffed with other ingredients such as dried tomatoes and nduja (spicy pork).
Fill a pan with plenty of oil for frying and prepare a container with a little water next to it to moisten your hands. The frying operation must be done quickly.
When the oil is hot, take a small quantity of dough with your hands, give it a shape, stuff it then put it into the boiling oil. A lot of oil must be used as the crispelle should swell and rise to the surface to cook well. Continue until the dough is finished.
The empty elongated crispelle are usually fried first in order to use the oil before cooking the ones filled with anchovies etc. If desired, the empty, elongated crispelle can be brushed with honey. Serve while still hot.
Foto di Simona Lombardo
The Calabrian Cedar
A citrus fruit originally from Persia, the Cedar grows well in Calabria, Reggio Calabria and the high Tyrrhenian coast of Cosenza (the Riviera dei Cedri).
The Calabrian cedar is renowned worldwide and valued for its properties. In Jewish tradition it is a sacred fruit and is still chosen today by rabbis from various parts of the world who go to Calabria to select it due to its purity.
In Calabria it is widely used for the preparation of jams, syrups, liqueurs and candied treats. Even simply picked and brought to the table, it is an excellent end to a meal, cut into slices and served as a refreshing digestive.
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Project realised with the contribution of Regione Calabria
Project realised with the contribution of Regione Calabria