Made in Italy :: Zì Tunine, The Wikipedia Man

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’ (Uncle Antony), 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.

photos: ©MateldaCodagnone and ©GiuseppeMarone

Zi’ Tunin, aka Antonio Palmerio, worked for years in a local company 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.

photo: ©GiuseppeMarone

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.

photos: ©MateldaCodagnone, ©Lonza65 and ©GiuseppeMarone

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.

photo: ©GiuseppeMarone

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.

The “Pasticciotto” Ladies from Bomba (Abruzzo)

Some powdered sugar is all it takes... | photo: ©MateldaCodagnone

What happens in Bomba, a village of scarcely a thousand people in the Sangro area (Abruzzo), when a big wedding is on the way? Everybody is invited to the “ricevimento”, an informal party for friends and acquaintances to be held before the proper wedding party.

At the ricevimento, among the usual refreshments, a typical local pastry is served: the Pasticciotto. In order to prepare 800+ pieces of this tiny masterpiece, a team of hard-working ladies, busy from dawn to dusk, starts preparing the stuffing and the dough two days in advance.

The main ingredients for pasticciotto are short crust pastry and a filling of almonds, lemon peel and sugar syrup. Their making is a feast of its own, ladies gather around a long table and spend time telling stories, updating each other and, why not, gossipping a little. Activities are shared and scheduled as if on a (sweet and merry) assembly line.

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Pasticciotto First Lady: Luciana D’Intino

The Pasticciotto “First Lady” (i.e. the groom’s mom) surveys each stage of the “production”: divide the dough, put it into the cake tin, fill it in with the stuffing, cover the tin with some dough, stock the tins on the trays, carry the trays to the local baker’s for cooking.

I took part into the process –  as an unskilled labourer, I was assigned menial work, but greatest fun nonetheless – and even though I met these ladies for the first time then, I immediately got involved in their community, I perceived the delightful sensation of being a minuscule part of something “good”. And I am sure that every guest at the ricevimento will enjoy all the love and the fun the Pasticciotto Ladies put into the cakes.

Because when you cook, the first ingredient you need for a great taste is something that you don’t weight with a scale.

Closeup: Meet Enzo, the former alpine troop and poet from Guardiagrele

Meet Enzo Scioli, aka “Alonzo”, former Alpine troop and poet from Guardiagrele, (Chieti), Abruzzo.

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L’alpino e poeta Enzo Scioli, detto “Alonzo”…
Photo: ©MateldaCodagnone

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” ~Plato

APPETIBILIS VIDEO
Ascolta le poesie di Enzo Scioli, (ITA), Maestro del ferro battuto e 1a Tromba della Premiata Banda della Citta’ della Pietra, tra tante altre cose…

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Portrait of a Blacksmith :: Filippo, the one and only Iron Man 72.0

In these days the Adriatic coast around Pescara is flooded with 2000+ participants to the IronMan Italy 70.3. Someone who, in a reasonable time, can swim about 2k, bike for 90k and run 21k can be regarded as an “iron” man (or woman). But someone who handles iron as if it were modeling clay and is able to create a piece of art from some scrap iron, he well deserves the name of “Iron Man”, too.

Filippo Scioli - Blacksmith in Guardiagrele, Chieti, Abruzzo photos: © Matelda Codagnone and © Lonza65

I met Filippo Scioli in his workshop in Guardiagrele, (Chieti, Italy), a mid-sized village nesting at the foot of the Maiella massif. Filippo is 72 and, when I asked him to describe himself, he just said “I am a blacksmith”. However, it is quite an understatement, since from Filippo’s anvil and hammer unique masterpieces come out. His father was a farrier and his grandfather’s job was farming tool maker. His main feature is that his artistic works (be it a dog, a rose or an andiron) do not need soldering because he just need one single piece of iron to accomplish his idea. He just need to hold some scrap iron in his hands and he knows exactly what he can obtain from it.

He likes to say that he is a “cittadino della Terra” (citizen of the Earth) because he does not like labels or definitions. “We’re all citizens of the Earth”, he says. And that is enough for him.

photo: © Lonza65

His works can be admired in Texas, Canada, Czech Republic and many other places, his presence is required at the most important arts and crafts fairs and Filippo rarely says no.

Just like the real great artists, he is not jealous of his skills, he willingly teaches everyone who is interested how to forge iron.

His workshop frequently hosts classes of students of every age, but Filippo’s eyes sparkle when he tells me about the disabled students that, on regular basis, visit his shop. “I don’t care if they don’t hit the iron, I am happy to teach them the things I can do.”

Filippo is like a river in full spate. While we talk, he is busy forging a rose with his hammer. I immediately realize that there is no noise inside the shop, but sound. And indeed, the hammer falling on the anvil creates a rhythm that Filippo composes every time he forges a new item. He says “iron talks, the hammer sings”.

You might think that this man in his Seventies is a laid-back guy. Not in the least. He radiates energy and stamina in every single move, his favorite music is country music – two cd players work at full blast in the shop and his favorite singer is Johnny Cash. This larger-than-life blacksmith is a man of parts. Besides being a talented craftsman, a big-hearted man, a great entertainer, he’s a poet, too. When the rose is finished, before we say “arrivederci”, he says these words.

photo: © Matelda Codagnone

“Come vedete, questa rosa non ha spine. Questa rosa non appassisce, non muore mai. Potremmo dire che è una rosa perfetta. Ma ahimè, al mondo niente è perfetto, anche questa ha il suo difetto. Il difetto che ha è che non profuma. Comunque, io c’ho messo il mio cuore di artigiano per farla. Chi la compra ci metterà il suo profumo.”

“As you can see, this rose has no thorns. This rose does not wither, it never dies. We can say that it is a perfect rose. But, alas, in this world nothing is perfect, this rose has its flaw. It has no smell. Anyway, I made it with all my craftsman’s heart. Whoever buys it, they will choose its fragrance.”

Next time you see some scrap iron, try to look at it with Filippo’s eyes. It may conceal a rose. And a fragrance, too.

Contact: Maestro Filippo Scioli
Mobile: +39 335 6073140
Telephone: +39 0871 86349
email: filipposcioli@email.it
Workshop: Via Occidentale, 21 – 66016 Guardiagrele (Chieti)