On the world’s most popular e-commerce site you can buy a humorous tee with this slogan joke: ” I don’t need Google. My wife knows everything.” If Amazon people were from Pretoro, a village in the Abruzzo region, they would change the joke into: ” I don’t need Google. Zi’ Tunin’ knows everything.” Zi’ Tunin’, age 84, however, is far better than Google and Wikipedia: not only does he master a huge amount of information, but he gives it to you with the openness and the simplicity that only wise men can have.
Zi’ Tunin, aka Antonio Palmerio, worked for years in a local firm as a carpenter (and as many more other things). Since childhood, he has always had a deep love for knowledge and he devoured all the books he could lay his hands on. Unfortunately for him, his parents could not grant him a higher education so he stopped shortly after primary school. This did not prevent him from becoming a living encyclopaedia. His longing for knowledge and books has made him proficient in many subjects, chemistry, architecture, art, literature. When he retired, he could combine all his passions together into woodworking.
Visiting his workshop on the highest “contrada” (city area) of Pretoro is something difficult to explain, half way between an art history lesson, a visit to a museum and a conversation with an all-around master.
He is fond of architecture and his hobby is to make toy models of the most famous Italian and European buildings: the Duomo of Milan, Notre Dame in Paris, Saint Anthony from Padua Church, you name it.
I asked him if he would like to visit the monuments he copies and surprisingly – to me – he said he would not. Except for a couple of trips to Switzerland, Zi’ Tunin has never moved from Pretoro. He is satisfied with his village and his hobby, he says. He can easily make copies of statues, bas-reliefs and human shapes, and he is one of the last artisans left who can make wood spindles for bobbin lace.
A talk with Zi’ Tunin is quite an experience. He can equally talk to you about chemistry and apple tree grafting – as far as I’m concerned I could not say anything sensible about either subject – without any hubris from his side: he is just happy to share what he knows.
Before saying goodbye, I asked him what he would have liked to be if he had had the chance to go on his education at school. I imagined that he wanted to be an engineer or an architect, because of his love for buildings and architecture. He took me by surprise and said he would be a philosopher because philosophy is the love for knowledge. All he knows he learned from books, and the process is still going on, even at 84.
The world may have lost a great thinker, but it has gained a life coach.