martedì 18 gennaio 2011

The fleet of 23 oil mills of Preston

The fleet of 23 oil mills of Preston

Antonio Bruno *


Preston is a town of 5,617 inhabitants which is located in Salento, in the territory of the Serre Typical, is 56 km from the capital and 10 km from the Ionian Sea. "Preston, rests between two sub giocaie Apennine Mountains are one o'clock in the other east to west, in the floor of a valley so that Aprica, look at the typical big umbrella pines, a few points dactylifera, the ridges of the mountains crowned with more olive green, the pluckers and colorful carpet of large fields that surround it, would like at first glance looked like a place east. "

(James Arditi, local historian)


Historical documents

There is a mystery in Salento Lecce, in a small town in the Deep South, Preston, 23 oil mills, all together, worked the olive oil that would give clear that by the city of Gallipoli came across Europe. Preston a real "underground city" dell'onciario data reveal that in 1745 were registered in Preston 17 oil mills "tarpeti to grind olives," then the rule of section 1816, note 23 mills, while in the State of Weights and measures users subject to periodic review for the year 1885 become 21.

Why do so many mills in a single country?

Agrarian reform in Preston

It may be that many mills all together are the result of the large presence in the territory of Preston's shallow groundwater? One thing is certain: the system of underground mills of Preston is a unique event, an exception for industrial archaeologists.

I am proud of the people of Preston, who are nicknamed the people of Preston "Mascarani" meaning masked. This name comes from an event in a night of carnival of the eighteenth century when a masked man fired a shot and killed the prince who was looking out the window of the castle of Gonzaga. No one knows exactly why the Prince was killed, perhaps because of the Droit de seigneur then in force or perhaps because of the exploitation to the detriment of workers, however, after the murder the principality was sold to another family that the de Liguori, presumably to avoid the same fate of his predecessor, introduced a land reform that provided for the distribution of land to the peasants in the lease and construction of a series of crushers.

That the pride of the people of Preston have yielded to the same exemption from any form of taxation? Perhaps this is why so many oil mills all be under the same town? But what life was like all'inetrno of these twenty-three mills of Preston?

The trappitari

The workers of the mill (trappitari) during the winter could be engaging in a trappeto where work was ongoing and could last from November until May.

I came trapittari underground in early October and came out in April, less than week weeks depending on the season.

Shifts of exhausting work in a warm and humid low pay and unhealthy, we would sleep down there in a corner on sewn bags full of leaves and skins of peas, ate down there, common in pots, especially legumes and vegetables (a puree fava beans with chicory), which were taken daily from the kitchen of the owners or cooked on fires made with lumps of residue. Even the toilet was down there, a hole dug in the soil, animals (donkeys and horses) lived down there, too, a corner turned into a stable with a manger and trough, long hours walking in circles to turn the grindstone and life long short.

Those who lived nearby went home for Christmas and the Feast of the Immaculate, who lived far returned home in late April early May, when the job was finished.

The Uri and striate

Connected with the cavity of the mills there are two magical presence of Salento Lecce: the Uri and striae.

The "URI" in the folk tradition are mischievous elves and night, it is said they lived in the mills and that every night is fun to make jokes to the workers and especially the "nachiru" tying the tail of the mules attached to the wheel the miller. The streaks are the witches that night went out in the open air night and annoyed travelers.

The process of transformation of olive oil in kerosene

The process was long and exhausting the sacks of olives were paid in through a hole that opened at the surface and this was the only thing that was done without difficulty.

The officer at the wheel crushing the olives was driven by a blindfolded mule that turned up at its lowest. Above the wheel there was a hole necessary for the release of fumes. The rooms were well defined. The first was wide to the left of the barn. The "sciave" were the storage areas, each owner who took the olives to be processed. To deposit (since no one could enter the mill) was called from the "Nachira" which in turn opened the hatch of skied concerned. For each skied a corresponding hole on the square. Once processed the olives, the mixture was put in "fìsculi" which were put under the charge of the pressing machines of the same. At first the machines were used to Calabrese that has been supplanted by those of the Genovese. The main difference was purely economic. The press in Calabria, in fact, had to be used in pairs in the absence of much material, while the Genoese, being single could be used more appropriately to the needs of production. For this reason, the presses were installed in the Genoese "battery" of three or four single presses.

He would pick up the oil and separated him from the vegetation (the bilge) Nachira was called (the term derives from the greek "naùkleros" master of the vessel), and was also responsible for trappitari and supervisor of the work, the leader in short, the one who decided to work shifts and rest, blessed the food before meals with the sign of the cross and before harvesting the olive oil in batteries, recited the evening prayers and the rosary because "it is com mon trappitu nna church "(the mill is like a church).

Look, the distinguished scholar of Agronomy Gallipoli John Presta, that the best of Nachira trappeto were those of Capo di Leuca, and that's why family members and friends wished to pregnant women who gave birth to the son to become prorpio Nachira.

The bilge was disposed of through the natural fissures of the rocks, the bilge emits a terrible stench in the open, the more so after weeks of work underground and around rotting piles of olives.

One of the last utime Nachira he composed these verses:

There has cchiù me lu lu trappitu ...

Me nu lu boasted ciunca nc'era status.

Quannu trans rrumasi stupitu:

conzi them 'nterra and manne Sparre,

overnight com nnu spianditu

without coppula 'ncapu, Puru squasatu.

The first night I lost sonnu lu,

lu the secunna sonnu and appititu

and the third brain de la capu.

Mmenzu ship nc'era nn 'ommu stisu

thirteen de Parma 'mmenzu measured

Mom will lapse nnu bruttu Fatu:

quartu each of ura Vole cotulatu.

If lu nachiru vote, let us de 'mpisu:

"Azzàmu st 'Stane curcatu ommu ca!"

Vote muledda my vote and fireplace,

The Biava you do without the measure.

Ntra scinnisti Ddu me is dark burps

There giurnu the night and turn me capu!


They are many to praise the work in the mill.

But he praises those who have never worked there

When I entered I was amazed at the amount of containers and piles of olives grounded.

All night he could not organize without cap on his head and also tired.

The first night she did not sleep one hour (lost sleep)

the second did not sleep ate (lost sleep and hunger)

the third night lost his head.

In the middle of the mill that is likened to a ship "extends a beam," that the press, long thirteen palms that had to be continuously pushed by millers for pressing and straining to drain the oil.

The Nachira with polite ways not so much shouting: "Kill that this is asleep" to invoke the millers in their duty.

"Turn my ass, walking around and I give you corn without measure."

Where have you brought me in this dark cave;

night and day where my head was spinning.

The team designated to trappeto was composed of thirteen people, divided into two teams. The definitions of the various tasks reflect the dual purpose winter underground oil mill in the summer on the ship's staff:

The head was trappeto Nachira and the helmsman on the ship;

The head was in the 2nd Vice-Vice-Nachira and ship Nocchiero;

The staff worker was the crew as the ship;

Druchicchiu, a young handyman 12 or 13 years, the ship hub.


John Presta, olive trees of olives, and a tear out of the oil or primary purpose relates to the highest possible perfection, or relates to the maximum possible amount of that Treaty. Naples in the Royal Printing Office, 1794.

John Presta, Memory sixty-two essays about various oil, submitted to the majesty of Ferdinand IV, King of the Two Sicilies, and critical examination of the ancient mill, found Stabia Napoli Vincenzo Flauto, 1788

L. Franza, biographies of famous men of the Kingdom of Naples, Tip. Nicola Gervasi, Naples 1814

Domenico De Rossi, An Economic History of Salento: wine grapes and olive oil left from Gallipoli to distant destinations

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