Until the beginning of the mid-twentieth century the cultivation of hemp was a widespread practice, popular in the entire region of Umbria, both in the valleys and in the mountains.

Until the beginning of the mid-twentieth century the cultivation of hemp was a widespread practice, popular in the entire region of Umbria, both in the valleys and in the mountains. In Valnerina area, the hemp was planted along the Nera riverbanks in the so-called “Canapine”, where the hemp was cultivated, or in the mountains, such as in Gavelli, Monteleone di Spoleto, Castelluccio di Norcia.

Depending on where the seeds were grown the date of planting could oscillate from March, 19th in Bevagna and Foligno (Festival of Saint Joseph) to May 23rd  in the whole Valnerina (the day after the important regional festival of Saint Rita).

The inhabitants of these territories not only decided when to plant the seeds, but also they established the harvest time and the modalities of maceration and desiccation. The plants were macerated in flowing or stagnant water to aid decomposition. The drying of the plants also took place in the sun and in ovens after bread baking.

For the hemp processing and its transformation into textile fibre it was essential the aid of the so-called “canapari” or “funari”, craftsmen specializing in hemp carding and combing, especially in its transformation into ropes.

The hemp was an essential resource for the local community, in fact it was called “il maiale vegetale” (“the vegetable pork”) because it was used in its entirety, nothing was ever thrown out (the local diet was based on pork meat and people used every part of the animal). Hemp roots were useful to light a fire, the “canapulo” (hempwood) was impregnated with sulphur and used to produce matches, while the hemp seeds became food for livestock. The fiber instead was used to make fishing nets and ropes, necessary for various agricultural activities. It was also used for textile production such as packaging for fine linens, flour sacks, family clothing and the trousseaus of daughters, who were of marriageable age.

A linguistic curiosity

The hemp, cannabis sativa, probably comes from Southern Russia, identified by the Greek historians as “land of the Shiites”.

The word “cannabis” is not Indo-European, it could be borrowed by the Anarian language, which was widely used in the 6th century BC. The Greeks adopted both the name and the product as its use spread through trade routes.