Estratto dallo scampolo di ricordi N.14 di Angelo Giorgio Mutinati


When I was a child, the boundaries of this little heaven were as follows: to the north, the town ended with the houses of Via Cavour, and I perfectly remember that when I looked out of the windows of the house of my auntie – zia Annunzia – ta, I could see as far as Laureto towards the sea. From the house of my other auntie – zia Petronilla, I saw via Cisternino, where “Paul’ Mest’ Traiin’ “” – Paul the carriage master – Paolo Smaltino, excellent and famous builder of carriages – built them and would then heat up the rings into which he inserted the wheels, putting them down on the desert carriageway, beyond which the countryside began.

So, walking down the road in direction of Cisternino, on the right-hand side there were houses, while on the left there was the countryside: the only existing buil – ding on that side was the power distribution substation. Beyond it, there were just open fields. The steps connecting Corso Cavour with Via Cisternino, east from the square known as Largo della “Ruotella” (it was the place of the foun – dling wheel where mothers could leave their unwanted babies), were called “a’ schel’ d’u maccill’ ” – the steps of the slaughterhouse – because the building at the corner between said steps and the road to Cisternino, now a bar and/or han – gout, was the city’s slaughterhouse.

Past the Church of San Rocco, also the line of houses north of Corso Cavour as far as the church called Chiesa della Greca bordered the countryside to the north. The square in front of Chiesa della Greca had been built on the site of the former graveyard.

To the east, namely behind Chiesa della Greca, there was the countryside. Today’s Piazza Mitrano was a field where the cattle fair took place; in fact, it was widely known as “Largo Fiera” (Fair Square). On the opposite side (towards Cisternino) and on the southern side (towards Martina), there were open fields.

To the south, the city’s border was marked, as it still is today, by Via Nardelli (Lungomare, namely the so-called Sea Promenade); from there one got to the Villa Comunale, the Town Park; and then, south of the main street known as Stradone, between the park and the school building, there were several premises on a level with the street.

The whole square of the Town Hall was a large open space with a view on the hill called Serra. This square called “u’ llarie’ d’ Sant’ Piit’ “ – the square of St Peter – was split into a harmonious system of smaller spaces connected by steps; the central one included an ornamental fountain (‘vasca’ in Italian): for this reason, those that are my age used to call the place “abbasc’ a’ vasch’ ” – down at the fountain -. It was our favourite place where to play. Further down from this square, stretching as far as today’s northern front of the Town Hall, there was a road and a large field where the carousels were set up during village fairs and festivals. On its western side, the town ended at “largo delle taverne” (abbasci’ o’ llarie di taverne) – down at the square of the inns -, the current Piazza Marconi.

On the north side of this square stood Palazzo Agrusti and a series of building with just a ground floor, except the building on the corner of the road to Fasano, which was the home and the doctor’s surgery of don Michele Campanella. On the western side, in an isolated position, there was the hospital, and beyond it the countryside. To the south, opposite the hospital, there was a winery (“Sparisc’ “ – Curri, which then moved to the Mitrano plant on via Stazione), then the mill of “Pasquel’ catarrin’ “ – Pasquale Sampietro – and, finally, a row of spacious rooms used as inns; hence the name of the square “u’ llarii’ di tavern’ “.

Most of Locorotondo’s population has always lived in the countryside all year round. A hardworking folk, parsimonious and indefatigable, and extremely digni – fied, sparing no effort, thus celebrating the value of hard work but also the warmth of generousness and of a genuine and heartfelt solidarity. People used to come to town on market days, namely Sundays (interrupting the working week was inconceivable); the market took place on the main street, the ‘Strado – ne’ (officially named Corso Venti Settembre); otherwise farmers came to town on the occasion of important festivals and fairs, or for special needs.

Many of them, the poorer ones, reached the village on foot, sometimes barefoot, in any case, however they came, they took care of carrying along with them, in a little bag, the good shoes to put on at the town’s entrance, a dignified and tou – ching form of self-respect and respect for others. The means used to get to town was the calash – “a’ sciarrett’ “ – for the better-off people, or “u’ sc’rrabball’ ” – a calash with a trunk for luggage in the back -, or “u soprammoll’ “ – a carriage with primitive leaf suspensions -, or “u’ traiin’ “ – the big carriage used for transporta – tion.

Once in town, one had to park one’s vehicle (which was done without problem along the very street); but the animal had to be taken care of (whether a horse, mule or donkey), which could not be left tied to the carriage for a long time. The rooms at the back of these large inns were therefore meant to temporarily accommodate the animals. The inns were also coaching inns for transportation by means of draught animals between towns.

Besides the stables for draught and pack animals, the inns also provided cate – ring to travellers. I perfectly remember the inn called “Taverna della Romana”, right next to today’s Cassa Rurale, and the one “da’ Campion ‘ ”, located at the beginning of Via per Cisternino, opposite Palazzo Agrusti.