By now the chestnuts of Casabasciana had had two months of care lavished upon them. What with collecting them, drying them, shelling them and sorting and cleaning them, they should have been feeling properly mollycoddled. Now was the big moment, the first dry sunny day for a week, when they were to be taken to the mulino, the water mill, to be ground into flour. There were 12 sacks of chestnuts ready for the first trip, so we have to go in two cars.
Marco goes ahead to stop for petrol on the way, and I accompany Domenico in his Suzuki 4×4. The journey is as interesting as the destination. He describes something of his life when he was a boy growing up at Castelluccio in the ‘50s and talks about the evolution of the landscape and movements of people in those days. When he was 10, he went to school every morning in Casabasciana, a 45-minute walk along a woodland path, and returned home again at lunch time.
Children didn’t play in those days. In the afternoon he went out on the mountain with the sheep. They had 15, as did most families, and his mother Olga made pecorino cheese and ricotta from their milk. What with chickens, rabbits and a pig, chestnuts, wheat and vegetables, plus a couple of horses for transporting goods, they were virtually self-sufficient. I ask whether they felt life was hard. He replies, ‘We didn’t know anything else. We were happier than people are now. Now everyone needs a car, a television, all those things that require money. It was simpler then.’
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