High and Low Middle Ages
With the fall of the Roman Empire (476 D.C.) Umbria followed the destiny of a large part of Italy, passing through the barbaric invasions to the dominion of the Franks and that of the Longobardy who left various "signs" in the customs and the Umbrian toponymy. Citing, for example, the particularly interesting Longobardian term "waitha" (guardia - guard) from which derives the appellation of guaita or gaita, of which is indicated in the four quarters of which Bevagna is divided from the surrounding territory throughout all of the Middle Ages. This distribution is attested to by the council Statutes joined until now in the writing of the XVI century; from this document there is found other important information about the economy of the citizens, the manner and the techniques of the production of the principle local products, the functioning of the mills, of the ovens, the organisation of some workshops, the methods of selling certain produce, the regulisation of weights and measures, so much so that Bevagna holds in it's history, many valuable examples of Umbrian traditions.
The privileged selling places where in the major square, in which were sold bread, fruit, spices, salt and fish. Wine, instead, was sold in jars sealed by the Chamberlain (the officer adept at the keeping of account books). The butchering of the animals happened in special spaces, where the beasts were skinned from the head down and hung up; the skin could be kept and dried on the streets only on a Tuesday, the day of the market. The bench for selling by the butchers did not have a covering so that all was well exhibited to the public, from the mercandise on display to the weighing.
The council mills were found near the Malvicinorum gate, their internal organisation, the work of the conductor, the responsibility of the baker's boys were regulated in minute detail by the Statutes, that ended with a detailed list of mercandise sold at Bevagna, by importance and by place.
The magnificent feast reminiscent, was organised in the course of the last week of June, had its culminating moments in the days of the market, that from the principle square stretched out along two paths, until branching out into the interior of the four quarters. To substantially respect the details handed down through the history, every gaita knew how to give to its own market the characteristics of self-government and certain distinctive directions.
And so, in the Gaita San Giovanni we are privileged to witness moments of great spectacularity, highlighted by rather sophisticated component techniques: the Gaita San Pietro is said, to be instead, "of the fornare", in such that they preserve the records of the ancient forni that appear in the interior of this quarter. The Gaita San Giorgio boasts of a group of young people, the Cantores Umbri, who have addressed their passion for music in the in-depth study of songs and music typical of the XIII and XIV centuries: the Cantores are specialised in the study and interpretation of medieval music, basing their executions on the historical and iconographic research over and above their study of ancient manuscripts and texts. The Gaita Santa Maria, finally, prefer following, with rigorous faithfulness, the historical details of the local economy: and so the realisation of their craft begins with the working of hemp and arriving at a refined and faithful reproduction of hempen cloth and resistant ropes.
The roads during the festival, are populated, still today, with stalls and are brought alive with the sounds from the work-shops in which the visitors may find a little of everything, from fabrics to objects in leather, from wickerwork to ropes, and also paper, wrought iron, copper, decorative candles made by hand and there are also cheeses, fish, bread, wine and flat breads (focaccia) just made. The work-shops stay open for the entire week, contributing in creating a climate of enthusiasm which culminates in the market days. The exhibitions however, created as a village fair, became an instrument of recovery and cultural value to the crafts and local traditions: a phenomenon that finished in investing the consumers during the whole cycle of the year, and it represents a way for the inhabitants of this city to reintroduce and relive, proudly, their ancient traditions, above all culinary, reintroducing old recipes such as the famous minestra di farro e fave (vegetable soup with pearly barley and broad beans), the focaccia, lentils etc.
Still today the entire frame of this festival is medieval, beginning with the opening ceremony of the "Mercato delle Gaite", in which the entire town is found in the main square in a festive atmosphere which becomes tense at the moment of the archery game, which is always done in the square and reawa kens traditional animosity.
The meeting places, not to be missed, are the taverns, where it is possible to taste numerous foods from ancient recipes and enjoy unusual flavours, and the most forgotten, listening to medieval music and witnessing dancing from original choreographies.
Another city which has developed a particular significance in our comprehension of Umbrian reality, is Norcia.
In fact a characterisitc aspect of the economy, of the uses and customs of Umbria is that of the «norcineria», the productions of pork meat that was born as a craft to export, practiced a little everywhere for all the year round. And with the craft was also exported also the term "norcino", that nominates who slaughters the pigs and who works with the meat.
Other than throughout Umbria this term is used widely also in Latium and Tuscany because of the development of the work of the norcino is traced back to the winter emigration of the population of the Apennine, transhumance prefering the pontifical state and using the countryside near Rome to range the products of the sheep-breeding. «In the high Middle Ages - wrote Ansano Fabbi, who outlined an historical profile on the craft of norcino before the deforestation of the mountains caused by the autarky agriculture of small communities, there were stretches of woods of oak forest trees, and the farmers used the acorns for the pasturage of swine herds. And so our farmers were specialised in the anatomy, slaughtering, castration, care of abscesses of swine, and sold the salted pork to nearby cities. The salting and maturing of the internal parts of the swine (hams, shoulder, neck, loin), the making of the sauages from the chopped meats (salami, sausages, mortadella) became a specialisation of our norcini (nearly a denomination of origin, that became a precise professional qualification in Rome and Florence). They provided the complete bleeding of the swine and its chilling; they broke it into two parts to extract two hams, two pork back fats, two necks, two cheeks, two shoulders that provided the dry salting. At the beginning of the winter season the Umbria-Marches Appeninne became depopulated and the norcini, right then, left their homes to emigrate, to the cities and countrysides of Latium, Tuscany and the same Umbria and Marches».
And it is to be remembered that this craft went throughout the years from strength to strength, so much so that in the beginning of the 1600's there was created in Rome, in Via di Torre Argentina, the church of the "nazione norcina" (norcini and delicatessen sellers had acquired a building in Via Colonna to realise an oratory with adjoining hospital for the infirm). In 1615 Paolo V recognised officially the brotherhood appointed with the denomination "S.S. Benedetto e Scolastica". «The medieval type of emigration - wrote again Fabbi - lasted until the end of the Second World War. Our elderly people recount that, to go by foot from Tuscany, they walked by way of Mevale-Sellano-Foligno, or Piedipaterno-Spoleto; they had fixed stages near to the taverns of Foligno and Passignano del Lago. After 1855 there was inaugurated the first carriage road Norcia-Piedipaterno-Spoleto: the norcini met at the Hotel of the Posta or at Porta Romana to wait for the stagecoach of the postillion; those who had to go the furthest had precedence in entering the carriage. In 1900 the first vapour machines entered into use, with the wood burning ovens for the boiling of the water: often the wayfarer had to go into the woods, to cut the wood that enabled the fires to continue».
It was only after the Second World War that the winter travelling of the norcini disappeared because they began to move with their families and to transfer establishments to the Latium and Tuscan cities, where they opened shops (usually norcinerie) and also establishments for the production of pork products, and so this medieval figure became in a large part absorbed into the process that characteristed Italy after the 1950's.