In Cabernardi, in the territory of Sassoferrato, we had the largest sulfur mine in Europe and our children’s lives also revolved around sulfur and, in some way, the mining reality.
I think back to when I was a kid when in the afternoon after school we used to go with friends to the town to linger in the artisans’ shops.
Yes, because back then we were a big family and it was nice to stop, browse and chat. We passed by the two carpenters of those times, “Orlandi and Caverni”, where we were curious about their skills in building, painting, planing.
Then we went from the newsagent to the “Tuta” hardware store where we bought the carbide.
The carbide, the miners used it to shed light in their acetylene lamps in the tunnels insiede the mine mine, we used it to make the “bangs” with punctured jars, started with a small flame.
We had also found another little game but for that one, it was necessary to go to our pharmacy.
The older generation, with the excuse of a sore throat, bought potassium perchlorate in tablets which, mixed with a little sulfur powder, formed a mixture that made things explode in a remarkable way.
The large nuts and bolts of the mine tracks were used to do this. We threw them into the air and whenever they fell to the ground they made terrible noises, similar to explosive mines.
In short, we children were attracted to the alchemy side of the mine.
Today we would be called dangerous … back then we were just lively!
We passed by the blacksmith “Rigucci” to admire the forging of iron with the coal fire revived by the bellows. Then from “Basili”, a little man with glasses who knew how to repair umbrellas and work tools.
He looked to us like Archimedes Pythagorean, a charachter that we followed on the comics. We rejoiced in seeing the harvests and beating of the wheat, the people in celebration and in joy … We collected flowers to decorate the streets for the day of the “Corpus Domini”.
We arrived with my friends of that time near the sulfur mine, full of the fervent and hard work of the miners. But also with the joys of ‘after work’. The “Dela” for 5-10 lire sold us lupins and toasted “becche” to eat, we brought a small table and seat in front of the club. We followed the game of “bocce” and the games of cards.
In this treasure chest of memories there is my life, completed by the many friends of those times, by the carefree youth.
How much love that friendship brought, those walls of Cabernardi!
Then the spell broke, the first transfers where my family was also involved, the struggles to defend work began … finally the mine was closed.The exodus struck entire families that were then scattered throughout Italy in other mining and industrial activities. Sicily, Puglia, Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, Veneto, Trentino Alto Adige, Lombardy.
Our town was depopulated and we met in the summer during school holidays …
If ever one day you walk through the small streets of my town and you see the autumn leaves that dry and brown in color are raised in a whirlwind by the wind, that day you could have my same feelings of love and melancholy.
Then, scrolling through the houses with closed doors, you will remember how I spent my moments… where a youth where you loved each other predominated, united in poverty and work.
You will relive known faces, the fresh and free air, still perhaps with a little sulfur smell …
And at dusk, when the lights dim and the silence of the night re-appropriates its space, it is the same night as when we were many in Cabernardi.
The night falls asleep with us, after all we were all actors of this theater …
Cabernardi, you were here before me and you will be later. I wish the next generations would love you as I’ve loved you.
Cover photo from Sassoferrato Tourism