Day 51 – Agnone

Today we take a drive to a town called Frosolone. On the way we pass many small towns nestled in the hills.

The historic center of Frosolone features narrow streets from medieval times.

Each of the three historic areas or contrade of the town has its own church and a portal for defense. The portal to this contrade has long been lost to ruins.

Few people are out in the streets on a Sunday afternoon. These men find company at a bar under an arch.

We visit the Museo del Costume, where Vincenziana tells us about how the women of Frosolone created textiles from a young age. This sampler is made of ginestra, or broom, which grows everywhere in this area. It’s the first cloth I have seen made from broom, and I was surprised to feel how soft and pliant it was.

This costume would have been worn by a married woman. The designs varied by town and by status. Unmarried women and widows wore different outfits.

A silver hanger allowed the women to carry their knitting needles wherever they went.

A document identifies the dowry items that the woman brought to her marriage. Women would begin weaving and sewing these items as young girls, building up their dowry throughout their youth. If the marriage was not consummated, the woman took back all the belongings listed and returned to her home.

We have a difficult time understanding this concept, particularly as it is presented in Italian. Why would a marriage not be consummated? Obviously the goal was to produce children, (and, more specifically, male children) but what if the woman could not conceive? Apparently, this tradition only assessed the male’s masculinity and whether he was capable of producing children.

Frosolone’s men spent most of the year on the road. As shepherds, they practiced transhumance, walking their sheep on century-old trails from high in the mountains in Molise to the plains of Puglia and back again. Consequently, they left the women alone to raise the children and tend the fields. To protect themselves against brigands and other dangers, the women wore this metal object in their hair. To us, these objects seem to belong to the rich, but Vincenziana assures us they were normal wear for the women of what we would call middle class.

Out on the square, a plaque remembers men from Frosolone who died in mine disasters in West Virginia. The disastrous 1907 mine explosion caused the U.S. to create laws protecting mine workers.

An earthquake destroyed the church that once stood in this area. Remaining are the two lions and a cross.

We visit three churches, one for each neighborhood. I’m drawn to this little cherub.

We visit the Cutting Tools Museum, as Frosolone has long been known for its production of knives and scissors.

We visit a workshop filled with antique tools and are shown how they make the handles from cow horns.

Lunch is at a local trattoria

and features hand-make maccheroni.

A local man comes over to our table to improvise songs for us.

I’m told the one he sings to me in dialect is about how my hair is as white as his. He’s like a rapper in his ability to make up rhymes as he sings.

Throughout this area we find curtains showing fine handiwork. In this oval someone has created the symbol for Frosolone, the bird, the letter F and the star. We find many places for sale, as the young people have left to get jobs elsewhere.

Tomorrow is Monday, and we’re back to class.

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