Scattered among the houses, partially invisible to those who do not observe them in their capillary development, along the slopes near houses or in natural spaces outside the village, the Fano Adriano vegetable gardens are tinged with a bright green during the summer season, when the cultivations reach the proper maturation, ready to be consumed. Treated with meticulous attention, visited several times a day, they enrich the landscape with colors and scents that are transformed into dishes and in daily meeting occasions, becoming places of intense social exchange, conversations and mutual aid.
In Fano Adriano, village of ancient settlement situated on the slopes of the Gran Sasso over 700 meters of altitude, in the Alto Vomano, there is a widespread practice in the cultivation of domestic vegetable gardens jointly shared with the neighboring villages and with the hamlet of Cerqueto. This agricultural activity concerns the small plots near the houses, or slightly distant lands, particularly in spring and summer; in the warmer months they acquire an aspect that makes them look like gardens, lush and cared for in every detail by daily diligence. Above all, this practice is mostly performed by the elders and the women of the village assisted by relatives or by the neighborhood, according to a custom of reciprocity, knowledge exchange and equipment sharing which has always distinguished the community of the mountain and hill.
The most densely cultivated area is Villa Moreni, situated at the lower margins of the village and built around the church of San Rocco. The elderly people who gather daily in the gardens working jointly, chatting and spending a significant part of the day, report that in the past and until the years following the Second World War, the lands around the village from the lower valley and, symmetrically, in the direction of mountains, were all cultivated as well. The woodland was kept away from vineyards, orchards, fields of wheat and rye and the grounds were meticulously divided into ploughed, wooded and pasture grounds, because the Community life depended largely from the surrounding environment and it was necessary to make as functional as possible the resources in the best way. Concetta Di Odoardo and Cecilia D’Agostino, neighbors, have shared for decades, between memories and stories, an adjacent piece of land to produce carrots, beetroot salad, beans, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, onions, basil, rosemary, sage, celery, potatoes and many other vegetables, fruit, flowers placed on the margins of the crops to embellish their vegetable gardens with additional colors and perfumes.
The ancient basins carved in stone locally called “grignetti”, obtained from rocky areas located just outside of the village, acted once as natural “pigiatoi” (grape press basin) for winemaking. Probably of medieval origin, they testify an era in which the cultivation of grape and wine production were spread throughout the area. According to the memories of the elderly, vineyards were particularly extended until the 60’s of the last century, before the massive exodus that led a large part of the resident population to move and establish in Rome or in other territories were they once lived seasonally during the recurring transhumance
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Cleaning the garlic
Concetta Di Odoardo while cleaning the garlic in the garden.
Fano Adriano (TE), July 19, 2011.
Video shooting by Gianfranco Spitilli,
Archive Centro Studi Don Nicola Jobbi/Bambun.
Transmission and preservation
The mountain vegetable gardens in Fano Adriano have been cultured uninterruptedly up to today regardless of past decades when they have experienced different stages of partial disruption, loss of numerous autochthonous cultivations, that were transmitted in the past with the interfamilial renewal of local seeds thus facilitated maintaining a significant biodiversity in cultivation, partly irremediably compromised today. After a phase of abandonment, also those who emigrated to Rome have resumed to cultivate their gardens, contributing to the revitalization of agricultural activities in the area.
Attention to the cultivation of the mountains has been conveyed again by inserting the vegetable gardens also in a broader territorial context, thanks to the qualified contribution of experts invited to analyze and expose the current status of these practices such as, in more recent years, virtuous initiatives of valorization of home-grown vegetable gardens as the itinerant exhibition “Orti aperti” by Associazione Teatri de le Rùe and supported by the same town of Fano Adriano and by the associations “The Grignetti” and “Pro-loco”. The landscape architect Cristiano Del Toro, current President of the Associazione Civiltà Contadina, took part in the initiatives of discovery and knowledge of the Fano Adriano vegetable gardens urging the defense of seeds originating in the territory and the creation of protected vegetable gardens in order to preserve the biodiversity of the ancient seeds, and thereby avoiding the standardization of productions, the confusion of backgrounds and the use of hybrid products disseminated by the multinationals in this sector.
From the variety and origin of crops point of view, the Fano Adriano vegetable gardens are potentially improvable, however from decades they have already been an essential vector of a to-be-protected quality of life through specific supported initiatives aimed at safeguarding agricultural practices as well as social life on which it is based, thus favoring the generational turnover and the commitment of young people as a potentially guarantor of the future.