Nikolakis M. Pichtos posing between his brothers Konstantinos (left), rich tradesman and banker in Alexandria and Theodoros (right), landowner, who studied agronomy in Paris and was a banker in Trikala. (Archive of G. Plataris-Tzimas)
During the 18th century, many Vlachs abandoned animal husbandry and semi-nomadic life to take up commerce. Initially, they settled permanently in their mountainous villages, but they gradually started to migrate and establish businesses in cities such as Venice, Naples, Trieste, Marseilles, Vienna, Bucharest, Moscow, Odessa, Istanbul and Alexandria.
A system of paying calls is especially characteristic of Vlach life. A call can be made at almost any hour either in the morning or afternoon, and on any day, but a Sunday or a holiday is more normal. One rarely goes alone to pay such calls, but four or more go together. On entering the house they are welcomed by the householder and his family, and leaving their shoes on the threshold, if they are dressed in the Vlach national costume, are invited to sit on the rugs laid either on the built wooden bench running round the wall of the living-room or on the floor in the place of honour on either side of the hearth. Recently, […] chairs have begun to take their place among household luxuries and as seats of honour especially for those dressed a la Franca, for it is asserted not without truth that those who wear trousers find it uncomfortable to sit with crossed legs tailor wise on the floor. When all are seated cigarettes are passed round and then the usual refreshments are brought in on a tray and handed round by the wife or elder daughter. They consist of a spoonful of jam or a lump of Turkish Delight, a glass of raki or some similar liqueur and a cup of Turkish coffee
(“The nomads of the Balkans: an account of life and customs among the Vlachs of Northern Epirus”, Alan J. B. Wace – Maurice S. Thompson, Methuen, London, 1914)
Travellers to Metsovo in the early 20th century wrote that Vlachs were known for their heavy drinking, consuming large quantities of wine especially in the summer. Thanks to Metsovo’s significant wine production, the drink was not a luxury but more of a widely consumed product. Travellers staying in caravanserais (inns) further boosted local consumption. Shipments of wine also passed through Metsovo to reach other regions of Epirus and Macedonia.
When at home, the men of Metsovo wore woollen socks knitted with yarn the women themselves had spun and dyed.