Once upon a time there was a young man who with guluppa over his shoulder walked the local white roads of the Marche to go to work.
The guluppa was the famous meal without which he did not go underground.
It included ‘acetello’, the water with the addition of vinegar that quenched and disinfected the panzanella, the best expression to describe the leftovers made of dry bread soaked in water-vinegar, with a little oil, garlic and tomato.
Finally there was the fila, the bread where instead of the crumb there was an omelette, in summer made with foje or wild herbs and in winter, with vegetables and potatoes.
It was the early 1900s and this is the image that I built in my mind of my grandfather Luigi while he was going to the sulfphur mine of Cabernardi, to immerse himself in the bowels of the earth and extract the so-called yellow gold.
It was a very hard job and every day these men, little more than teenagers, risked their lives.
The memories handed down tell that when the siren’s scream vibrated in the hills, families feared for their loved ones at work underground: it was the signal of some accident that happened in the tunnels.
Despite this, everyone felt lucky to have a paid and safe job.
The Montecatini company, responsible for the extraction of sulphur in the mines, had built what we would now call a “corporate welfare” for the workers, offered them housing, equipped with wood for heating, electricity and a vegetable garden for family needs.
Thus 100 years ago Cantarino was born, a village at the foot of Monte Rotondo created out of thin air for miners.
We are in the heart of the Marche region, in the municipality of Sassoferrato, and here my grandfather Luigi, once he was married to my grandmother Anna, was assigned a house and raised my mother and two other daughters, working for 30 years in the mine.
Upon reaching 25 years of work, he received an award and a medal: it was not for everyone to reach this goal!
In the meantime, extraordinary events followed in the world: there was the twenty years of fascism, the sadly famous economic crisis of 1929 and the Second World War, during which the sulphur mines were even set on fire.
Despite the great difficulties, my mother “learned the trade” as a seamstress, setting up a small workshop in the living room at home and teaching, in turn, the art of sewing to the local girls.
The post-war period and the closure of the mines in 1959 fuelled the emigration of young people, but my grandfather Luigi and my grandmother Anna, now retired, stayed in Cantarino.
When my mother met my father, they emigrated to northern Italy to work.
The bond with our grandparents, however, remained always alive and my brother and I wrote letters to the grandparents and invariably spent all our summer holidays in Cantarino, where we built friendships and long-lasting relationships.
The strong bond with these territories was also passed on to our children born between the 90s and 2000s who, despite living and working elsewhere and being citizens of the world, find themselves in Cantarino in the name of these common origins which include values and knowledge of the past.
In the past 20-30 years it has been nice to see how these places, so dear to me, have once again been placed at the centre of a wider vision, recognizing the right value linked to history, culture and nature.
One of the most pleasant initiatives is the Palio of the Sulphur Mine, a challenge between the districts that renews the memory of ancient crafts and hard excavation work in the mine.
The districts are opponents in the race, but then friendship and complicity are the masters.
Today the constant and tireless commitment of those who live in these areas has allowed the birth of the Sulphur Mine Museum and the Cabernardi Mining Archaeological Park, of which Cantarino is also part with his little piece of history.
Cover picture by Sassoferratoturismo.it