This morning I visited Mastro Santi (Santi del Sere), a maestro in cabinet making and woodwork – in wood carving, inlaying, gilding, and restoring antique furniture. As one of only a handful of remaining artisans in this field, Mastro Santi is keeping alive a centuries’ old Anghiari tradition. (In future blogs, I hope to talk about other people who are keeping alive local traditions.) He also works in ceramics, and he is a member of a local group of musicians and singers who perform traditional songs, and he writes. (He has written a book about his own story in woodwork which gives a detailed account of his materials, tools and techniques. Other autobiographical writings are held in the national diary archive located in the nearby town of Pieve Santo Stefano.) Continue reading Master woodworker
Yesterday, after days of very bleak weather, there was sun. Everyone I ran into, in shops, in the piazza, in the bar, said, ‘oggi c’è il sole!’ People were out and about, even if not pausing for long in the piazza, as the temperature was still well below zero. It was very likely to be the last day of sun before I left Anghiari, so I decided to go for a walk. (The weather has precluded the possibility of walking for some days now.) Continue reading Sun, and fire
The Talozzi family run a restaurant here in Anghiari. Although relatively recent arrivals (having moved here from Siena in the 1960s), they are passionate about this place. They are also passionate about offering a welcome to all, a welcome to ‘i stranieri’ (foreigners, strangers). Continue reading The Talozzi family
More and more I am appreciating the importance of ‘buongiorno’ (which becomes ‘buonasera’ after lunch). From the moment I set foot in the street, I share this greeting with others. And it feels like stepping into life. Continue reading Buongiorno
This is going to be a short blog, about an ordinary everyday encounter. One morning last week I went down to the pharmacy to buy some band aids. I’d cut my thumb the night before in an absent-minded moment. With great care, the pharmacist, in a white jacket, took me around to a seat behind the counter and asked me to put my thumb on a bed of cottonwool so that she could look it. When I was going on about how stupid I’d been, she said, with understanding, ‘it happens’. We laughed about the state of ‘being in a hurry’. Continue reading The Pharmacist in Anghiari
Santo Stefano, the day after Christmas day, is a big day for visiting presepi. If there is a lot in these blogs about presepi, it’s because they are a very important part of Christmas festivities here. This will be my last blog on presepi, I promise! But, I do find myself drawn to them.
Simona, from the tutto shop, arrives punctually at 9.40 to take us to Il Carmine for Christmas mass. In the car with her are her mother-in-law, and her daughter, Irene, who tells me that she is attending the music secondary school at the top of the old town of Anghiari. She is learning the flute, the piano, and also conducting, for the school has an orchestra.
There is still mist in the valleys but everyone hopes it will be a sunny day. Continue reading Christmas mass at Il Carmine
It is Vigilia, Christmas eve, and, in every shop and bar, people are exchanging ‘tanti auguri’. At the panificio, there is a plate of pastries on offer for customers waiting for the next batch of bread to come out of the oven, and for cakes to be wrapped. The butcher prepares a capon for me – a Christmas day speciality around here. The Christmas eve meal, on the other hand, is ‘di magro’, without meat, and with sweets consisting of dried fruit and nuts. For this meal, he has a vegetarian lasagna on offer. Continue reading Christmas in Anghiari
My Italian blogs tend to focus on meetings with other people. This makes sense given the wonder of communicating in another language. But, in fact, my daily routines here typically involve walking in these hills, the foothills of the Apennines. And so here is a blog on my first walk on this visit. Continue reading A walk in the Sovara valley
The piazza, like the bar, is ubiquitous in Italy. It is a space where people pause and meet, a punctuation in the logic of linearity. And, perhaps the most familiar sight associated with the piazza is that of a group (un piccolo drappello) of what is, usually, but not exclusively, men just standing around. The expression for this phenomenon is ‘stare in piedi’ – to be in a state of being on one’s feet. It is not simply the ‘stare’ (being in a state of …) that is resonant in this phrase, but the in piedi, which suggests something quite different from, for example, ‘andare a piedi’ which means walking, going by foot. The preposition makes the difference. Continue reading The piazza