Places of interest04 December 2018

Valle Maira: the way of the Acciugai (anchovies peddlers)

Wherever there was a fair or a market there was always a Valligiano willing to trade his things: cotton drapes, drapes, knitwear, cheeses, shoes, irons and, of course, anchovies.

Valle Maira

Valle Maira

Val Maira, a land that is still intact and uncontaminated, has always experienced emigration.

"Oooo anciuìe, anciuìe"

A sack of white canvas on his shoulders, few garments, the ever-present wide-brimmed hat, and supported by a stubborn spirit and a body accustomed to the hard mountain life, the anciuìe descended to Dronero, at the entrance of the Valle Maira, and in train they traveled to Genoa to buy anchovies from Sicily, Algeria, Spain and Portugal.

Fish peddler was a seasonal profession, born to cope with the daily problem of survival, a torment that grew during the winter when it was not possible to work the land because of snow and frost.

Not to burden the already poor family budget and to earn some money, from September to May the men and boys of Albaretto Macra, Celle Macra, S. Michele, and other places located on the left bank of the Maira, with the necessary license of the ambulant seller, left for the Ligurian coast. Only the women stayed at home to take care of the children, the old ones, the cattle.

Once the anchovies were purchased - the price ranged from 3 to 4 pounds per kilo - the valley dwellers faced the return journey by train to the points of distribution, and then transported their cart from street to the street, from the fair to the fair, from village to village, where they scream "Anciuìe anciuìe" and sell their fish.

Only the arrival of the beautiful season matched with the return to the mountain pastures for the harvest of rye and hay. The famous "caruss d'anciuìe", which the anchovies peddlers pushed and pulled around Italy, today has disappeared, forgotten somewhere!

[Credit Flickr]

Because the memory of this tradition is not destined to get lost with the disappearance of the older generations, in Celle Macra the Mountain Community has set up multimedia stations (at the former Church of San Rocco) where the theme of itinerant crafts of the valley: artists, artisans, breeders and, above all, acciugai is developed.

The Seles museum

Set up inside the former Church of San Rocco, a recently restored 17th-century building in Borgata Chiesa, the capital of the Municipality of Celle di Macra, the Museum is divided into three sections: a first part is dedicated to the craft of the anchovies. clothes and work tools, as well as a collection of posters and placards linked to the events of the anchovies.

[Celle Macra Acciugai Museum Seles, Credit quotazero]

The second section explores the theme of fishing and the transport of fish, with the display of a lampara and fishing equipment, wooden and cardboard boxes for the transport of fish and the typical cart. Finally, the third section is dedicated to the trade of anchovies, with the display of documents and municipal registers dating back to 1800 to demonstrate the long history of this itinerant trade.

Complete the museum tour the screening of a video with interviews and testimonies of acciugai and ex acciugai.

Point of reference and collection of the testimonies and documentation of all the acciugai of the Valle Maira that have had their birthplace in the Municipalities of Dronero, Celle di Macra, Macra and Paglieres, the Seles Museum is part of an itinerary thematic that develops in the Cellese territory and that completes the exhibition present in the Museum.

Judit Neuberger

International editions:   English | Deutsch | Russian