Last week I went with Debra Kolkka to the Mostra Internazionale dell’Artigianato at Florence. You can read her views on it and look at her splendid photos over at her blog. I agree with her that its location in the Fortezza da Basso, a 10-minute walk from the Santa Maria Novella train and bus station, is impressive. She says quite rightly that the exhibition might be exactly what some people are looking for, but I was disappointed.
It looked to me as if the word ‘artigianato’ had been stretched way out of shape. According my Italian-Italian dictionary, artigianato means ‘Industria a livello domestico e tradizionale’ (work at a domestic and traditional level), and the show’s website translates it as ‘handicrafts’. With a few notable exceptions, the items on display at the show appeared to be executed in factories ‘in the traditional style’. How could an artisan have turned out so many uniform items (I didn’t think to take photos of these)? The artisans I know are eager to tell you about their work, but not these.
One exception was the antique furniture, some of it probably antique, but others certainly copies made by hand with modern power tools. It always amazes me how skilled the Lucca antique dealers are at creating, virtually overnight, exactly the ‘antique’ piece you were looking for.
Undoubtedly artisan were the Sardinian knives of Efisio Spiga of Cagliari. You could tell he had made them himself from the way his face lit up as he explained the origins of each style of knife and described in detail how he makes Damascus steel. I had to buy one.
Even more interesting to me was a line of stalls outside in one of the food courts representing Italian micro-breweries. Artisan beer has really taken off in Italy in the last five or so years, and much of it is excellent. I’m a good judge, because I lived opposite a pub in Cambridge and passed many happy hours sampling its beer.
Notice how all the true artisans are smiling?
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