The ancient water mill on the bank of the stream Astico, in the small village of Cùeli, used to be a bakery.
The bread was cooked between 180° and 250°. After that, it was left cooling in a dry place, letting the humidity evaporate so to leave the crust crunchy. In this way, the bread was ready to be sold and eaten.
The mill, named “Mulino dei Pistori”, had an external vertical wheel: the water came from above and made it turn. The wheel took advantage of the weight of water that fell on the blades (moulded as boxes). This type of wheel was very productive as water pushed it for part of its circumference. Although it did not require a great amount of water, it had to be installed in line with the flow.
Thanks to the rotation, the waterwheel run the horizontal gear. To transmit the movement to the mobile millstone with vertical axis, the gear was connected to a mechanism consisting of a crown with pegs (called “cammi”), which in turn was attached to an instrument rotating around an axle.
This mill had two grinding mechanisms, for such reason it worked with two different driving wheels: the bigger one was connected to the mechanism to grind wheat and corn, and the smaller to grind barley.
The wheat/corn grinding system
The mill was equipped with two millstones: one fix and the other mobile. The corn fell from the hopper on the mobile millstone placed above to be grinded. The miller, according to the type of wheat they were producing, decided the distance between the mix and the mobile millstone. The grains were crushed and collected into a sieve. In this way the grinded product could be divided based on the size (thin, medium-thick, thick). This system was used to grind wheat (white flour) and corn (yellow flour).
The barley grinding system
Grinding the barley required a different system: grains were placed in a stone container and two stone-wheels turned inside the container. The revolving movement crushed the product. Once the grains had been grinded, the miller stopped the machine and with a shovel (“sessola”) pulled out the flour; after that the flour was sifted manually.
The flours of the mill
The common use of term “flour” indicates the flour of soft wheat. However, in this mill, different types of flours were produced: wheat, barley, rye and buckwheat flours. Some cereals like wheat, barley and grain proceeded from the plain of Veneto, while rye and buckwheat were produced on our mountains. Families used to buy corn in the plain and grinded in this mill, so to have the flour for the “polenta”. In the same way, the producers of rye and buckwheat brought their cereals at the mill to obtain the flour to prepare baking products.
Bakery: from the dough to the tasting
The mill’s owners used to prepare small breads. At the beginning, the entire production of bread was handmade. From the 30s they began to use a mechanic mixer with two millstones activated by the waterwheel. The most common shapes of bread were four: “la spaccata”, “il montasù”, “il gramolà” and “i panini dolci all’olio”. The first two didn’t imply any difficult procedure, whereas “gramolà” had to be mixed with a special instrument (called “gramola”), which cut the fibres so to homogenise the dough. The latter “panini dolci all’olio” were the favourite of children. For Christmas and First Communion, the miller would prepare a “Brazidel”, a special sweet bread with raisin and covered by sugar.
Nowadays, “Antico Mulino dei Cueli” is a museum, open to the public.
It is a place of interest along the Sentiero dell’acqua , which starts in Carbonare.
Leonarda and Lucia, heirs of the last miller, tell the story of the family’s mill, its activities, the way mules brought cereals to the mill, the sleepless nights at the sound of the millstones, the fear of the floods and the smell of freshly baked bread.
Lucia still keeps the ancient art of bakery alive and teaches how to prepare the perfect bread-dough, so we can bring our handmade bread at home.
Info and bookings:
Visits available previous booking
Cell. +39 349 7153679