Abruzzesi Lavatoi, Breaking the Backbone of the House

Chieti Public Wash

The Laundress, Pasquale Celommi (1851-1928)

The Laundress, Pasquale Celommi (1851-1928)

It’s interesting contrasting paintings and photos of women doing the laundry in Abruzzo, seeing old black and white photos that hide the cheery glow of toil!

I had a triple whammy this summer of my car and washing machine going down and a stomach bug.  I can’t imagine the dread illness must have bought to the mind of each mother or sister as they envisaged handwashing a sheet not just once but multiple times as a bug swept through a family that was considerably larger than today’s nuclear ones.  Now try imagining doing that if you lived in a hilltop village like Calascio.  Not not only did your house have no running water, but neither did the village, it was dry until the 20th century.

There are some modern-day thinkers who believe that the ‘chatter’ and communal spirit outweighed the hard work, it’s not a remark I have heard that from any of the elderly ladies during my time in Abruzzo.  There was no pilgrimage down to our village’s cement lavatoi, I am not sure what was there before this early 20th-century installation, rather the washroom was left alone, neglected, and torn down to make way for a communal pagoda when it was damaged in the earthquake, a place to sit in the shade.

Lavatoi in their most ancient forms do remain, with stunning fountain heads like L’Aquila’s 99 Canelle with its 99 carved fountain heads.  At some like in Scanno, you will discover the spout you used was determined by which class you were in! Hopefully,  as we look at them and admire those fountain heads and troughs under or next to them we can equally admire and wonder at the strength and resilience of the women that used them.

Read our article about the history of soap in Abruzzo, with recipes on how to make olive oil soap at home, and details of Antonella Marinelli’s workshops with whom you can make felt soap at the medieval lavatoi and fountain in Fontecchio.

 

 'Abruzzo e Molise' by Vincenzo Balzano

‘Abruzzo e Molise’ by Vincenzo Balzano, 1927

 'Abruzzo e Molise' by Vincenzo Balzano, 1927

‘Abruzzo e Molise’ by Vincenzo Balzano, 1927

 'Abruzzo e Molise' by Vincenzo Balzano, 1927

‘Abruzzo e Molise’ by Vincenzo Balzano, 1927

 'Abruzzo e Molise' by Vincenzo Balzano, 1927

‘Abruzzo e Molise’ by Vincenzo Balzano, 1927

‘Abruzzo e Molise’ by Vincenzo Balzano, 1927

‘Abruzzo e Molise’ by Vincenzo Balzano, 1927

La Fontana delle 99 Cannelle

La Fontana delle 99 Cannelle

Altipiani d'Abruzzo' (Emidio Agostinoni, published 1910, from the 'Italia Artistica' series)

Altipiani d’Abruzzo’ (Emidio Agostinoni, published 1910, from the ‘Italia Artistica’ series)

Well Chieti, Angelo Vetta, Abruzzo e Molise, by Vincenzo Balzano - 1927

Well Chieti, Angelo Vetta, Abruzzo e Molise, by Vincenzo Balzano – 1927

La Fratelli Alinari, Abruzzo e Molise, by Vincenzo Balzano - 1927

La Fratelli Alinari, Abruzzo e Molise, by Vincenzo Balzano – 1927

San Vito and the Fountain of the 99 Spouts., L'Aquila, 1960's. from the book Abruzzo e Molise, volume 12 of the series Le Regioni d'Italia, published 1970.

San Vito and the Fountain of the 99 Spouts., L’Aquila, 1960’s. from the book Abruzzo e Molise, volume 12 of the series Le Regioni d’Italia, published 1970.

Fontecchio, Braccio da Montone

Fontecchio, Braccio da Montone

Civitella Roveto Fountain, © Peter Austin

Civitella Roveto Fountain, © Peter Austin

Fontana di Porta dei Marsi ,Tagliacozzo, © Peter Austin

Fontana di Porta dei Marsi Tagliacozzo, © Peter Austin

Scanno Fountain, © Peter Austin

Scanno Fountain, © Peter Austin

Thanks to Peter Austin for his collation of Abruzzesi lavatoi, read his article on the 20th-century photography legends that explored Abruzzo.

Sam Dunham
Author: Sam Dunham

Sam is a very lucky midlife 'mamma' to A who is 12 and juggles her work as a self-employed freelance SEO food and travel copywriter and EFL teacher. She is the founder of the Life In Abruzzo Cultural Association, co-founder of Let's Blog Abruzzo. she is the founder of the 'English in the Woods' initiative, teaching English outdoors in a forest style school.


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