The “Crotin”

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Calosso discovers its tradition revealing a suggestive journey through the ancient tufo caves.

Walking through the alleys of the historic centre, climbing the top of the hill to admire the massive church and the medieval castle, climbing the staircases or reaching the panoramic viewpoint upon the top of Crevacuore hill to treat oneself to a breathtaking sight of the panoramic landscape carachterized by wide valleys and harmonious hills, enjoying relaxing walks following the countless tracks among vineyards and then taking a seat at the table to taste the delicious variety of traditional dishes paired to the finest local wine. Calosso has been offering these pleasant activities to its visitors for a long time, relaxing moments that until 15 years ago they were enjoying without being aware of the stunning reality laying under their feet, waiting for being re-discovered and ready to tell their lost-in-past history.

Everyone in Calosso used to know the existence of tunnels and caves dug in the subsoil during medieval age but what surprised people living here for many years and especially younger haps was discovering that almost each house located in the historic centre was provided with crotin, infernot and giacere. In 2000, on occasion of the first edition of the Rapulé Fair, this suggestive journey  settled up in the subsoil has been presented for the first time: the ancient tufo caves first opened their doors to visitors. Tasting typical dishes and filling their glasses with the finest Barbera and Moscato, hundreds of tourists admired those small and dark holes, testimony to the wise work of old peasants hands.

Of course, the first astonished reaction was followed by the arise of obvious questions about their age and, above all, their purpose. According to historical records their traces bring us back in time until 1000’s when Calosso was firs mentioned for the huge water cistern underlying the small square in front of the Church. However we need to wait until late 700s  to see first crotins appearing under the buildings: being built by peasants, we have no other written records than the dates carved into their tufo walls that let us fix their birth around early 800s. Expanded on further steps during winter periods, they represented the expression of the intelligence their creaotrs resorted to in order to find a proper solution to keep food and drinks fresh and safe from the warm temperature of summer days. Various sizes and a wide range of different features made their role changes from the original purpose they have been built for. The discovery of natural springs inside a couple of them persuaded owners to turn them into water cisterns, creating useful water provisions to be used during summmer months while in other cases, as the considerable depth allowed to keep low temperature, someone started to amass snow on the lower stages creating rudimentary ice-houses then isolated using straw or wheath husk. We can say that our ancestors’ genius gave birth to the first model of fridge.

During the last 15 years the tourists turnout at Rapulé Fair has definitely increased and the discovery and recovery of new crotins came under a reasonable evolution: from the small number of caves recovered on occasion of the first edition of the wine fair, we could count over 15 crotins during the 10th anniversary of the event in 2009, three of them seeing their debut within the popular itinerary.