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Woodstove Revival in Umbria

Date: November 29, 2012 - categories: - 6 Comments

“L’Italia si riscalda a legna e brucia il caro bolletta” (“Italy is heating with wood – burning up the costly bill” – i.e, heating bill), a local Umbrian paper reported recently. Yes, as fuel costs soar, wood is back, fire has been re-discovered. Although we have propane gas heating – methane heats many a home, too – we hardly ever use it: our woodstove is used not only for all our cooking and baking but also heats our water and warms the house (circulating heat through the floors).

Pino makes the Umbrian torta bread on our woodstove (note his candle-holder above it) – 1976 (approx.)

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Many an Italian home is woodstove-warmed today: since early 2012, the importation of legna da ardere (literally, “wood to burn”) is up 26% and the consumption of gas oli has dropped nearly 50% over the last twenty years. Over six million wood-burning stoves and fireplaces have been lit as cold weather moves in: an all-time record. Italy is now the world’s lead importer of firewood notwithstanding our 10. 4 million hectares of forest.

The boom took off in 2006 with the skyrocketing of gas oil and methane gas prices and woodstoves fed by pellets (made of pressed, dried sawdust – first introduced into Italy at the end of the 1990’s) or cippato (woodchips) became popular, too,. Italy’s enormous technological advances in woodstove design has made this country the European leader both in production of woodstoves and in acquisition.

Woodstove pipe and chimney pair – a lovely duo

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Stroll a medieval hilltown and note the terracotta roofs: chimneys are often flanked by woodstove pipes.

The kitchen – the only room with any heat – was once the heart of any rural home (kitchen, storeroom and bedrooms – that was it) and woodstove and fireplace were the soul of the kitchen.

On the woodstove top, farmwomen baked the Umbrian flatbread, la torta, toasted bruschetta, put sauces and soups to simmer and roasted chestnuts; succulent geese, chickens , guinea fowls, and rabbits roasted in the woodstove oven.

Hanging off the spokes of a wire contraption encircling the woodstove pipe, rain-soaked jackets could dry – and small family laundry items.

Cooking rabbit cacciatore on
our woodstove, 1977 (approx)

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On one of those spokes over our woodstove, a rudimentary candle-holder dangled: Pino had made it out of a tin can, cutting one side off, so that our woodstove was illuminated (more or less!). On rainy winter days years ago, that improvised clothes dryer was strung with the cloth diapers of our first-born (a January baby, our Keegan).

Below the oven door, there was a warm space where wet boots or shoes dried – or newborn orphaned chicks or baby rabbits dozed in a box.

A pot of boiling water was always on the stovetop (and in a cauldron hanging in the fireplace): none of us had running hot water in our homes.

Times have changed but la stufa a legna will always be the soul of our kitchen.

Read more about Peppa and her woodstove-roasted chestnuts
Read about winter nights around the woodstove and the fireplace
Click here to read about – and see – the chimney wonders of Assisi
Read about our rural life and rural friends

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6 Comments

  • Randy Ballweg says:

    Great article Anne; pointing out that, once again, a gentle stroll through your Assisi will bring history to light!!
    Enjoy this Holiday Season!

    Randy

  • Anne Robichaud says:

    Randy..time to come and sit around the wood stove with us!
    Sorry to have missed you in WI when there to cook in March

  • Sandi Spector says:

    Thx for another great read. My fave is the pix of you ( as a child bride) and Pino!

  • Bev Oliveri says:

    I love the way you make life in Italy come alive. It pulls me back to where my grandparents grew up. Thank you for continuing to share this rich and special part of our world. I just wish it were closer!!!!

  • Andy & Marie Angaiak says:

    Loved seeing your wood stove in action today, Annie! Still working it after all these years. Best Italian lunch in all of Italy!! Grazie for your most kind hospitality during our once in a lifetime daytrip to Assisi. What a beautiful place….no wonder you love living there so much!

  • Anne Robichaud says:

    Thanks, Sandi and Bev, for your notes and so appreciated
    !
    Glad you enjoyed reading “the memories”

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