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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Un Salto Nel Passato -- A Jump Into The Past




Baveno has a winter tradition, Un Salto Nel Passato, A Jump into the Past. A year of planning, and hundreds of volunteers, are needed to organize this town-sized event, in which Baveno returns to the mid 1700s, complete with all manner of shops, trades, townspeople, and foods. The transformation of the town is magical. Wherever necessary, modern features are covered with what must be miles of bamboo sheeting. And the attention to detail is very, very impressive, from clothing, to interiors, to machines and equipment. This year, I had the pleasure of attending.

This is the way it worked: Upon arriving in Baveno's central piazza, we visited the registrars at the dazi booth, who gave us our official documents stating that we were now citizens of Baveno in the 1700s.



We then traded in our euros for a sack of francs, representing the old money of that era. We would use these later on for some nourishment in old Baveno. The term francs, I discovered, originates as a medieval term for gold coins depicting the king of the Franks, and then evolved into a currency standard in many countries throughout Europe and extending into parts of Asia and Africa. 


Then, following a marked path throughout the town, one begins a tour of 56 different shops or areas. Each was clearly labeled with its original dialect name. The first stop was the feree', the iron workers, seen in the photo below. They, as all of the volunteers, were actually 'working'; in the iron shop they were creating tools using 300-year-old methods. A charming fact to know is that many of the volunteers in this event are actual present-day practitioners of same trade they were demonstrating. And sometimes, their families had been in this trade for all these generations since the 1700s. Much of the equipment and items being used comes from personal family collections of this type. The pride of sharing these family traditions was visibly evident to me, and a unique feeling that I cannot relate to often in the U.S.


Now that I've explained the premise, let's leave 2012, let's remove all signs of the 21st century from the photographs, and let's take this jump into the past:       (  continued....   )



At the usteria, the winemaker's yard was beautiful, filled with grapes, workers, such as the young grape crusher shown at the top of this post, as well as young maids preparing gnocchi and pasta. Meanwhile, at  a table, a young girl plays cards with old, hand-drawn paper playing cards; the table held some of the local wines they've made.



The wines were certainly brought to the local lucanda, such as this tavern, where a sign outside states, "Whoever drinks only water has something to hide." 


In a corner of the town was the prison. I'm not sure what his crime was, but this prisoner doesn't look too despondent. Probably because his sentence is only this one day.


The spinning wheel was fully functional and the spinner was creating ball of yarn in the ruculenta.


By candlelight, a nobleman has his portrait drawn by the town's artist and calligrapher. 


Wonderful, wonderful attention to detail. Every room was like a movie set.


One thing that was interesting to me, as an American visiting old Baveno, was the convergence of the different time eras. We were visiting Baveno as it was in the 1700s, but many of the buildings being used for this event date even much older than that, from the 1500s or 1600s, or pieces perhaps even before. This type of stone street shown above, for example, is much older than the 1700s, as is known from the design of the paving in the center of the road. The paving on either side of the street is newer, perhaps done to widen the path at some point in time. 

Back to the past...


At the stone mason's, the picasass, a crew of workers was busy creating stone bowls. Again, all of the workers were actually working, at sometimes difficult manual labors. Such as these laundry women, who were scrubbing linens at the original laundry, the lavandeer, basin in town.


These men spent the day chopping wood outside of the church at the buschiro.


 And in a small square in town a team of men were cutting long pieces of wood into beams.


The pharmacist's shop is an excellent example of the attention to detail. All sorts of concoctions were brewing in the shop, the pharmacist was portrayed by the current town pharmacist, and the collection of old medicine bottles is his own.




So, after walking around all the neighborhoods of old Baveno, one can work up a bit of an appetite for some warm food. Now it was time to spend our francs, which we chose to do first on some mulled wine. We could have had minestrone, being prepared in this giant kettle in the farm area...



But we chose some chestnuts hot off the fire...


And some warm raclette cheese and potatoes, provided by these costumed servers. Notice the raclette in front of the fire, in the background.




This event impressed me in every way. From the details, to the organization, to the participation, to the obvious delight of all involved. Historically, I learned much from the event, and I can imagine for children who grow up here, this event provides a wonderful bridge for them to understand their heritage and take pride in their town. 

Here's the official website, with more photos and information: www.unsaltonelpassato

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