Don't know much about what people were using in Southern Italy for transport but in Northern regions they were carrying any kind of thing just like mules: hay, stones, fruits/vegetables/goods to sell, firewood, grapes, belongings, etc. etc.
In these links you can see different kinds of those baskets that in Italian we call "gerla"
Mountain and Country Life
Sorry but the first is in Italian and the second in Italian and Friulian, no English but the pics show well how hard was (and is) life in the mountains.
I know the movie "The tree of wooden clogs". I know that people (in the country) were using clogs but also were just barefoot. Shoes, or something similar were used to attend Mass or special occasions.
Of course in big towns life was different and surely better. Here are some pics end 1800/beginning 1900 up to the middle of 1900.