Palermo in the early twentieth century: the trades disappeared between street vendors and beautiful shops
Many of these works have become extinct, while others have evolved: the street vendors who “barked” their goods around the city played a fundamental role.
In the early 1900s, some trades characterized everyday life. Many of these jobs in Palermo have become extinct, others have evolved. As we have already said, the shops were mainly located in Via Vittorio Emanuele, in Via Maqueda and in the local markets. The street vendors played a fundamental role.
The scribe was in the vicinity of the public offices. At that time, most of the common people were illiterate, so he was used to write to a prisoner relative, to a relative soldier, a request for a subsidy, a letter to his girlfriend, for the granting of a permanent position etc.
The scribe, though operating in the middle of the street, had a few chairs for waiting customers. The scribe was almost always old, a very discreet guy, he didn’t tell the facts of his clients. He listened to the topic in dialect and wrote it in Italian. When he was wrong, he rolled up the paper and took a new one.
Many were the itinerant trades: the Acquajiolo or Acquavitaro went around with a small table painted in the manner of Sicilian carts, had a dozen glasses to pour water to the customers, carried a quartara filled with water and for a grain filled the glass in which he poured a piece of zammù (anise). He never tired of “abbanniari”: Chi l’aiu frisca, but who is jacciu? Another responds: Tiniti i renti, viriti ca vi carinu! Water! Acquajolu is there, cu flights viviri? Atturrunata è! (Keep your teeth, beware that you fall! Water! The acquaiolu is, who wants to drink! Fresh is!).
Another job ‘A cucchiarara (seller of spoons and ladles. It was a job that the elderly women carried out. It was not well seen by the boys: sometimes, in fact, the mothers used to spoon the lignu to return the unruly children to reason She also banned her products with a weak voice: hajiu beautiful spoons p’arriminari! Accattativi the pù stufatu! (I have beautiful spoons for mixing! Buy the spoons for the stew!).
“U caramilaru (candy vendor) was always surrounded by a crowd of children and teenagers. He sold pupatelli (rustic sugar-coated biscuits); kill panza (shredded dried figs, compressed and wrapped in dark wheat flour); cannulicchia (small cannoli filled with ricotta). What drove the kids crazy was carob sweets. They had a cylindrical shape because they were wrapped in a shining metal sheath that the calamilaru from time to time extracted with a sharpener, offering the sweet with a particular gesture.
He made the rounds of the popular districts, especially in the alleys of the historical center shouting: Kill-wipes, pupatelli, calameli! Who on duci! Who are more beautiful (belly-killing, pupatelli! They are sweet! They are beautiful!). It was the voice that drove the children crazy with joy.
The cuteddi amola (the grinder) that with its particular bicycle equipped with a water wheel stopped in the popular quarters to make knives and scissors. Often this activity also included the repair of water (rain cover and umbrellas).
‘U piatta e pignati (seller of earthenware dishes and pots) also sold cantari (pitali da notte). “U conzalemme patched earthenware dishes and pans.” U scuparu sold brooms: Belli scupi hajiu! Bewilder the fools! What beautiful jokes Hajiu! (I sell beautiful brooms! Buy brooms! What beautiful brooms!).
“U stagnataru often owned a small shop but he also did not disdain to do this work on the streets. The housewives made the quares and the pans stagnate in order to isolate the food from the copper of the pot and to avoid the toxicity of copper in contact with food. With a small coal forge and a tin stick he smeared the whole surface of the pan.
“U spidiciddaru (skewer seller) who sold skewers and kebabs for a few cents. He was shouting: Haju spiticedda! Haju spits luonga! (I have small skewers! I have long skewers!). He also sold metal traps to catch mice. “U bannituri (auctioneer) with a drum informed the people of the upcoming opening of a shop or advertised the prices of a particular store.
“A‘ catina curuni was the seller of rosaries he made with a wire. A muscalora (fans to feed the stove fire). “U muscaloru, in the summer it was used in the hot days of August as a common fan to cool off the face from the heat. He also sold wide-brimmed hats for men working outdoors. “U attaru bought cats to make fur. “U lattaru sold milk at home bringing with it the cows to be milked.
Agghiaru sold garlic: There is the agghiaru! Attack them! Accattativi “na trizzaia d’agghia!” We fly closer to it! “U luppinaru sold lupins. In a forearm he carried the tall basket where he kept the cuppitelli (paper cones). Some used large leaves to lay the luppinas. His way of selling was: There is ‘u luppinaru! The lupins are unaffected !.
U rina d’argentu sold white sand (rina d’argentu) for cleaning various metal kitchen objects. Haju rina d’argentu! Go for ‘u ramu! (I have silver sand! Go clean copper) for two cents a fist. He also sold the “rina di marmuraru” (marble sand).
Near the squares or the richest places it was found ‘allustrinu (lustracarpe). He polished his shoes for a few cents. His hands were always black. “U cirinaru sold matches; ‘U sulichianeddu (repaired shoes); “U pizzaloru (cenciaiolo) between the alleys of the old city and put them in the basket that he carried on his shoulders. The babbaluci vendors (snails), mountain vegetables and oregano, traveled miles to find their goods, climbing up the hills and cliffs that surround Palermo.
In the winter months you could see ‘u paracquaru (umbrella repairer). Amolacudeddi also passed (grinder). They were all humble and very tiring jobs. The street vendors turned the streets and alleys of the city and often in the evening they had not earned the indispensable for cunzari a tavula (to buy food). Many of these jobs have disappeared, others have evolved. Today it is rare that a friendship relationship exists between the customer and the shopkeeper.
Palermo city of art, culture, sea and good food, never ceases to surprise us, a place where history, customs and traditions merge among the influences of the peoples that the ahho dominated. We at the Federico seconso bed and breakfast would be delighted to have you as a guest of our facility, to give you a stay in Palermo like a true king!