Peasant Autonomy
go to the previous page     Nederlands     go to the next page
Story 53

An estate in Northern Italy – 1910 (1)

Olmo is growing up

for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: Robyn Aldridge)

Northern Italy.

Leo, the old farmhand, slaps his open hand on the table. “Who says 'bastard'?,” he shouts, and his eyes shoot fire. Nobody answers, there is a deathly silence. “In this house there are no bastards. The father is one of us. Isn't he, Rosina?” Rosina, the mother of Olmo, goes on sobbing quietly. Then, Leo continues, a bit more kindly now, “Well, Rosina, you must know it.” “Of course I know,” she answers, and then her eyes light up, “even if I don't know it.” Everyone has to laugh. “Bring Olmo,” Leo says.

In the big, somewhat run-down living room of the servant part of a large estate, about thirty farmworkers, men and women, are eating together. They are all members of the Dalco family. They talk, they make jokes, but also sharp-toned remarks – for example about Olmo, a boy about nine years old, a diablo, a rascal. Once again, they threw at Rosina, his mother, that her son is a bastardo, a bastard. Sobbing, she ran away.
This is the last straw for Leo. He is a farmworker about seventy years of age. He has a moustache and stubbly beard, he wears a weather-beaten hat even at the dinner table, and he has a raspy voice. He sits at the head of the table, and is the undisputed leader of the family.

for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: Borghy52)

Northern Italy.

Olmo is eating in the stable with a plate on his lap, together with the other children, when he hears his name called. He is afraid of being in trouble for one of his pranks. He wants to run away, but a pair of strong hands grasps him, and puts him on the table. Quickly he takes off his hat, presses it under his right arm, as it should be, and walks step by step in the direction of Leo. “Listen, Olmo, you are growing up. Soon you will start learning to read and write. Later on you will join the military, and you will see the world. But just remember: you will not become an official, carabiniere or priest. I will not have those kinds of people in this house. You are a Dalco, you will become a paesano, a peasant." Olmo nods his head. Leo offers him his glass, so that he can drink a sip of his wine.


The masterful, five-hour-long movie 1900 (1976), from the Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci tells the story of the big changes in the lives of peasants in the first half of the twentieth century; the great agricultural strike of 1908, mechanisation, fascism, resistance and liberation.

Go to:
= part 2:
The cavalry unit turns around - a village in northern Italy – 1920 (2), story 69.
= the next page:
Independent after thirty years - a remote farm in the marshlands of Iceland – 1911 (2), story 54.
= the Table of contents, story 53.