Aino Mill


English / Italiano

(Link to photographs at end of text).

The history of the Aino Mill (Mulino Aino), a small industrial craft complex in the village of San Carlo, Poschiavo, opens a window on life and work in rural Switzerland in the last 300 years.

Our great-great-great-grandfather Gioan Antonio Marchesi (1777-1839), who had previously lived and worked at Annunziata, about 2 kilometres south of Poschiavo, rented the complex in 1801 for a quart of grain per day and bought it in 1818. (A quart is a unit of volume or capacity and a quart of buckwheat grain, which is grown locally, weighs about 0.75 kilogrammes or 1.75 pounds). We believe that it was owned by the then Mayor of Poschiavo, and was offered at a nominal rent, as it needed much restoration. Gioan Antonio and his son Giuseppe have been described as “artisans full of resourcefulness and initiative.” The location of the mill on what was at the time, the main route towards the Bernina Pass, was an opportunity to develop a successful business. It is certain that the mill dates from at least the 1700’s, and Aino is the old name for its location in San Carlo. The mill prospered and when it was in full operation, at least 15 people were employed, underlining its importance to the development of San Carlo.

The mill is an excellent example of an eco-friendly small industrial complex, where a family made it’s living from milling flour, the blacksmith’s forge and the sawmill. Some of the machinery is very old, and some dating from more recent times in the first part of the 20th century. The old equipment, often made of wood, still functions very effectively.

The sawmill is the most striking building in the craft complex. Timber represents an abundant raw material in the valley, and there was a strong demand for it. There were several sawmills scattered throughout the area in the old days. The forge building is the most recent and dates to the early 1800s. Before 1834, the year in which a serious flood damaged the entire Privilasco area, the Bernina Road passed right in front of the forge: here, the horses and carriages or carts were checked to ensure that they could tackle the difficult way over the Bernina Pass. In the forge, the blacksmith made horseshoes and cow shoes, and many articles and implements used daily on the farms and in the homes.

The mill was last in full operation during the 1960’s when Federico Marchesi (1890 – 1977) and his wife Eugenia Marchesi-Cortesi (1911 - 1990) lived and worked there. Today, it has been restored to operational use and you can see this on a guided tour arranged through the Tourist Office at Poschiavo. It is a true picture of rural work in the 1800’s and early 1900’s and enables one to realize how vital were the blacksmith, the miller and the sawmill to a community and local economy.

We know how hard our ancestors worked for we have learned that my father’s uncle Prospero Marchesi (1876 – 1940), worked long days in his own forge at Cima Villa, Poschiavo, and in the evening, also helped in the Mulino when necessary.

All the machinery on the site was originally driven by a waterwheel set in a millstream, diverted off the River Poschiavino. The waterwheel was replaced in the 1930’s by a turbine, when Federico Marchesi took over the operation of the Mulino. There is a complicated system of belts which allows different machines to operate according to the required task. Health and safety considerations had much lower priority, and we think that Giovanni Pietro Marchesi (1849 -1905), father of Federico, lost his life in a tragic accident in the mill. We have been unable to find any details about this.

The millstream, where local women washed their clothes, has been restored, and some of our relations can remember using this in the 1950’s. Soap was made with a mixture of pigs’ fat and ashes, and in various places around Poschiavo and San Carlo, the millstreams can still be seen.

It is likely that the children of Giuseppe Marchesi and Anna Maria Gaigher were born in this house, including Federico Marchesi who subsequently went to Australia with three of his brothers. Each of the 8 vivant siblings received 1/8 of the house when their father Giuseppe died in 1889, and subsequently, Giovanni Pietro Marchesi bought the entire property from his siblings.

Federico & Eugenia Marchesi can be seen working in the mill in the photograph taken in the 1960’s, the period when it was last in operation. My father and I met him by the mill in 1969, as he sat by the roadside sharpening a scythe. Federico had emigrated to Canada and the United States in the 30’s but returned to San Carlo when his mother was ill. She died in 1938 and he had intended to go back to America, but he had married in the meantime and remained in San Carlo with his wife. During the 1930’s, he installed some of the machinery which can now be seen operating very effectively. In the later years, Federico and Eugenia concentrated on processing buckwheat, also known as saraceno or black flour. It grows well in poorer soil and at altitude and has long been cultivated in Asia, Russia and parts of Europe. In the Valtellina and Valposchiavo, it is used to make pasta, gnocchi and pizzocheri, a very nourishing and tasty peasant dish including the simple ingredients of potatoes, vegetables, butter and cheese. Buckwheat is not a cereal and is widely used in gluten free diets.

For many years, there was not much interest in the conservation of technical infrastructures that were of vital importance to our forebears. However, an extensive restoration of the mill was begun in the early 1990’s, involving many local volunteers, which now enables subsequent generations to understand how our ancestors lived and worked over 200 years ago. The Aino Mill and the other museums in Poschiavo can be visited and great efforts are made to set aside times for schools so that students can learn about the part that it played in the lives of our ancestors.

Today, there are more than 200 of these restored industrial complexes in Switzerland, which are powered by water, and they are a witness to man’s ingenuity and creativity. The Aino Mill is the only site in Switzerland where a flourmill, a sawmill and a forge are operated by the same turbine. The sawmill is also the only one that works hydraulically in the whole of Canton Grigioni. These facts alone underline the importance of the Mulino Aino and its restoration. Maria Orsola Marchesi, (1856 – 1934), daughter of Giuseppe Marchesi and the only surviving sister of the 8 siblings, married Carlo Lanfranchi and their great grandson Arno Lanfranchi, was an historian, who was associated with the restoration project.

Photographs.

Mulino Aino

(Per le foto si vede alla fine del testo).

La storia del Mulino Aino, un complesso artigianale preindustriale in un piccolo paese rurale è molto affascinante. Il nostro bis bis bisnonno Gioan Antonio Marchesi (1777-1839) chi abitava precedentemente a Prada ha affitato il complesso nel 1801 per un quarto di grano per ogni giorno e poi l’ha comprato nel 1820. Il Mulino è stato posseduto dal Podestà di Poschiavo, ed era offerto ad un affitto nominale, come esso ha avuto bisogno di molto ripristino.

Lui e suoi figli Giuseppe sono stati descritti come “artigiani pieni di risorse e di spirito d’initiativa.” Si può attribuire una data al mulino almeno nel diciasettesimo secolo ed Aino è il vecchio nome per questa parte di San Carlo, nella ValPoschiavo, Svizzera.

Negli ultimi anni i grandi costruiti e palazzi sono stati restaurati. Non c’era interesse per la conservazioni delle infrastrutture tecniche che erano di vitale importanza per l’esistenza dei nostri antenati. Oggi, il mulino è un esempio eccellente di un piccolo complesso industriale ecologico, in cui una famiglia si ha guadagnato da vivere dal mulino, dalla fucina e dalla segheria. Alcuni dei macchinari sono molto vecchi ma gli altri datano da più recente periodi nella prima parte del ventesimo secolo. L’ultima volta che il mulino funzionava era durante gli anni sessanta quando Federico Marchesi (1890 - 1977) e sua moglie Eugenia Marchesi-Cortesi (1911 -1990) l’hanno vissuto e lavorato. Adesso è stato restaurato in funzionante e si può organizzare un giro per l'ufficio turistico a Poschiavo. È un vero esempio di lavoro rurale al’inizio del ventesimo secolo e si vede quanto importante era il fabbro, il mugnaio e la segheria ad una comunità e un'economia rurale.

Tutti i macchinari sono guidati dalla ruota idraulica nella piccola scanalatura che parte del fiume Poschiavina. C’è un sistema complicato delle cinghie che fa funzionare le macchine differenti. Non se si occupava della sanità e sicurezza in quei giorni perchè non erano una priotità importante come oggi. Si pense che il nostro antenato, Giovanni Pietro Marchesi (1849 -1905), il padre di Federico, abbia perso la sua vita in un incidente tragico nel mulino ma non conosciamo i particolari di questo.

Accanto il mulino è il lavatoio dove le donne locale hanno lavato i vestiti nella scanalatura del fiume. Alcuni dei nostri parenti possono ricordarsi di questo, quando i ceneri erano usati nel processo di lavaggio per pulire i biancherie. Ciò è un metodo molto vecchio.

È probabile che i bambini di Giuseppe Marchesi e di Anna Maria Gaigher, figlio di Gioan Antonio e sua moglie, erano allevati in questa casa, incluso Federico Antonio Marchesi (1839 -1922) che più tardi è andato in Australia con tre dei suoi fratelli. (Veda la pagina “Emigranti” sul sito web). Giuseppe Marchesi è morto nel 1889 e eventualmente, Giovanni Pietro Marchesi ha rilevato l'intera proprietà dai suoi fratelli.

Il mulino era operato dai Federico & Eugenia Marchesi-Cortesi negli anni sessanta e nella foto si può vedere loro lavorando nella macina. Mio padre ed io abbiamo incontrato Federico mentre camminavamo vicino al mulino nel 1969, quando era seduto a lato della strada affilando la sua falce.

Federico è andato in Canada e negli Stati Uniti negli anni trenta, ma è tornato a San Carlo quando sua madre era malata. È morta nel 1938 e Federico aveva l’intensione di andare di nuovo in America, ma si era sposato nel frattempo e così è rimasto a San Carlo. Durante gli anni trenta, installo alcuni macchinari che oggi si può vedere funzionando nel mulino.

Maria Orsola Marchesi, (1856 - 1934), l'unica sorella con otto fratelli di Giuseppe e Anna Maria Marchesi, ha sposato Carlo Lanfranchi ed oggi, il loro nipote Arno Lanfranchi, era uno storico, che era associato con il progetto di restaurato il mulino.

John Marchesi. settembre 2006.

Fotografie.