Abruzzo Citeriore in the early 20th century
Excerpts from Abbate, "Storia d'Abruzzo", published 1898; a traveller's and historian's evaluation of the conditions of the Province of Chieti which a major part of the population were about to leave, most of them never to return.
Professor Abbate could not yet see the signs of emigration, and gave an evaluation of an economy based on agriculture, sheep raising and small crafts, which had flourished for centuries and was just about to collapse forever in the dawn of the evils of the Industrial Revolution on farming areas of the South.
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The province of Chieti was called "Citeriore" since it was situated to the right of the Pescara river and was "this side" with reference to Naples, the capital of the Kingdom. The Pescara river separates it from the province of Teramo, the Apennine Mountains from the province of L'Aquila, the right shore of the Sangro and the Valicella of the Varrino from Molise. The territory includes mountainous features, the group of the Maiella, and 72 km of steep and rocky coast, along the Adriatic sea. A good part of this province is occupied by hills, especially the areas of Bucchianico, Orsogna, Casoli, Atessa and San Buono. The wide lowlands include Pescara, Ortona, the Sangro and Vasto.
The climate varies according the maritime or mountain areas: in winter, the temperature drops to minus 7° Centigrade, and as low as minus 23 on the Maiella; in summer the maximum temperature might reach 37° Centigrade.
"Hard-working and sober is the farmer of the Chieti province, fond of his land, where he was born, a land that for the mixed nature of the soil and the climate is good for any cultivation and produces seeds, oil, wine, maize, flax, take snuff and licorice in abundance...". Products of great quality are considered the hard wheat of Vasto, the tender wheat of Atessa and Orsogna, the oil and wines of Vasto, Chieti, Francavilla, Bucchianico, Lanciano. Every municipality could boast a large number of vineyards and olive groves, the latter ones above all on the hills, in dry places.
Sheep farming relies on good pasture-land, where more than 150,000 sheep lived in the late 19th century, nearly half of them in the district of Vasto. "All this sheep that every year are improved for the quality of the wool, support the agricultural industries, where a great part of the population work and where cheeses and dairy products are made; the horses are more for burden and wheelbarrow that for the saddle or carriage; the greatest part of the mules and of the donkeys are used in the mountainous places".
Part of the population of the Chieti province worked also in the factories of cloth, gloves, hats, stockings, glue, matches, soap and dye-works in the city of Chiety; in the woolworks in Lama dei Peligni and Taranta Peligna "a village below the Maiella, whose cloths are called Tarantole or Peluscie"; in the manufacture of harmonic chords in many villages; in the factories of "wine spirit", of fabrics, cotton, soap in Lanciano and Vasto; in the industries of "centerbe" liqueur in Tocco da Casauria.
Trade began to develop above all along the coast where small naval ports already existed: Francavilla al Mare, Ortona, San Vito Chietino and the harbor on the Pescara river.
The population of this province passed from 344048 in 1881 to 387604 in 1901. The illiterates in 1881 included 82% of the inhabitants, a percentage that dropped to 55% in the city of Chieti. "The public school is more attended, but elementary schools are insufficient and ineffective both because of the obstacles caused by the countryside conditions, and because of the abandonment where the farmer and his family are left by the municipal administrations".