The Mills in the Dolomites

The Mills in the Dolomites

Pietro Franco Deltedesco is one of the last active millers in the Dolomites. His passion keeps the mill of Andraz in the Livinallongo Valley going. The few farmers who still have some crops, just enough for their families have their rye or barley milled here because they get back exactly what they brought, instead of going to a big industrial mill where everything disappears in the mass.

Shrugging his shoulders, Deltedesco says“I try , to keep it going until I can. But when I’m not there anymore…".

Before World War I, almost every village had a mill owned by several families, where they brought their share of crops to be milled. It was measured by volume, so there was a big difference where the crops grew.

There was not much growing on the steep slopes in these high, narrow valleys in the Dolomites. Each family brought rye and barley, barely enough for the whole year, to mill. Each village also had a public oven. Bread was made twice a year, in spring and fall. This was a big event for the whole village to gather for the whole night, grown-ups and children, everybody with his own task.

The bread was put on a wooden grate to be dried and had to last for the next months. It was cut into chunks and soaked in the soup, so it could be eaten.

Water powers the mills, running over the large wooden wheel that makes the big, heavy mill stone turn around. The whole mill,including all wheels, gears and containers, is made of wood on a rocky base. Dust flies around, illuminated by the sun that falls through the little window in the wall, as the heavy grindstone makes its slow, steady turns, the sieve moves back and forth, and the freshly ground flour falls through.

All this is accompanied by an incessant, rhythmic “toc toc toc” that becomes a song as it melts with the music of the flowing water.

Until winter comes, and with it ice and snow. Then everything falls silent.