Traditional mid 19th century kitchen from Northern Italy

These days we are used to high tech kitchens with dishwasher, microwave, fancy cupboards, funky big American fridges and we take it for granted. But not long ago it was so incredibly different.

My grandparents who were farmers, like the majority of Italians up to the 50s had a very different model of kitchen.
What you see here is a traditional Northern Italian kitchen dating from circa 1850 to the 1950’s with a sink made of stone, carved from a single block, supported by two bases in masonry or brick, on a shelf with hanging buckets. My grandmother still has a sink like that which is primitive but so hard it will never crack if a heavy pot or plate falls on it.

19th Century Italian Kitchen - stone made sink

This is a traditional wood stove (still much in use these days). Of course there was no gas or electric stoves then, only wood or coal was used for cooking and warming the house up.The large pot on top is being used to make polenta and the wooden stick was used to stir it. My mum still does it in this way! The staple crop was corn used to make the weekly polenta in large batches in order to feed the family; bread was too expensive.
Back then there was no such a thing as a ready meal, everything was made completely from scratch, which included sowing the vegetables and planting maize (corn) to make polenta.

19th Century Italian Kitchen - wooden stove

19th Century Italian Kitchen - wooden stove

19th Century Italian Kitchen - traditional kitchen from Friuli

basket with corn for polenta

Corn was the main crop in the North East of Italy

Traditional dress from Friuli Venezia Giulia

A traditional dress from Friuli Venezia Giulia

Every family would rear their own cows, pigs, poultry and rabbits and make their own butter and cheese in order to feed the family. So much hard work but I suppose there was no wonder whether the food was organic or not! 🙂 people were just happy to put something on the table and be able to feed the family.

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9 Responses to Traditional mid 19th century kitchen from Northern Italy

  1. My Italian Smörgåsbord

    what an amazing post!! are these pictures from a museum? so interesting! and we really are on the same wavelenght: I am also looking to the Italians on the past to find inspiration for a more healthy and rational way of eating. There is so much to learn! buona settimana, Barbara

    • Alida

      Ciao Barbara,
      They come from a village festival display I went recently. Take care X

  2. Mich Piece of Cake

    This is really interesting history. Thanks for sharing!

  3. la cucina di Molly

    Una volta tutto era più semplice e il cibo povero e genuino! Oggi con le nuove tecnologie è cambiato tutto abituandoci a un nuovo sistema di vita! Belle le foto, ci ricordano il passato! Ciao

  4. Velva

    These last couple of years, I have turned to my organic garden plot to take care of my family’s vegetables needs. One of things that I have learned is the hard work people put into producing food for their families. Mother Nature is not always cooperative and when you grow, clean and prepare food for your family you have a real appreciation.

    I don’t wish to turn back the clock. I enjoy the modern conveniences but, I do think we need to teach our children where their food comes from and develop a real appreciation for a good meal.
    Great post!

    • Alida

      You are right. Life has become much easier with modern conveniences and we are lucky to have them! On the other hand it is essential to work a little harder to make a better and tastier meal.

  5. Suzanne

    I always love reading your posts about the history of Italy and your family. Even though I enjoy modern conveniences, I still love chopping, grating, and blending ingredients by hand. It feels good to be involved in what I’m cooking.
    Great post!!!

  6. Madreselva

    This is a lovely post. I am from an Italian family, and I am currently writing a novel set (partly) in Emilia Romagna just before WWI.
    This is priceless. I will come back to research some more interesting facts.

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