Preserving traditions – choosing a simpler life close to home
In this week’s #NIAFblog, our guest blogger, Jenifer Landor – founder of Live and Learn Italian – offers an inside look into a typical day on her company’s travel program, which focus on learning about Italian language and culture.
Filippo learned how to work copper as a kid, playing beside his grandfather, in the workshop of his grandfather. In the 1900’s, the D’Aloise workshop made specialist instruments for measuring and weighing, gradually introducing copper, iron and brass-work. Agnone’s economy was very strong, and its hand-finished copper was much sought after due to the strict standards of its local guilds.
Today, Filippo continues to work in copper, brass and iron. Many of the shop’s articles are decorative, but there are plenty who really appreciate a copper casserole with a tight-fitting lid. Prepared in the copper casserole, the food is perfectly cooked thanks to the surrounding heat keeping the things completely uniform. They are truly little works of art.
Restoration work also keeps Filippo busy; there’s a current trend for taking inherited copper pots off the chimney breast and using them again, for cooking and making wine. Many of these items had been previously discarded – too bitter a reminder of poverty and struggle. Now, with a bit more distance, the beauty and craft of these hand-made objects are once again being appreciated. Local people are coming into the shop asking for ‘la tina di nonna’ to be repaired and polished.
This part of Italy has seen a long economic decline, and with the copper trade disappearing, Filippo went off to Rome to study engineering. He lasted two years.
His destiny was to be a ramai. No longer in higher education, he first had to complete military service, but he completed that in time to get back and work through his apprenticeship while his nonno was still alive. For the next 11 years, they worked side by side.
Over time, Filippo’s confidence grew, and he started to take the initiative, exploring new ways to keep the business healthy – building a website, for example. He did have to explain to his grandfather that no, he was not playing computer games, he was working – and taking orders from Japan! When nonno passed away in 2008, Filippo was ready to take the reins.
He is one of several young entrepreneurs in this small town finding a way to stay put. They know they are blessed to have inherited a artisan trade, and a family business spanning generations. Their children are growing up in a tight knit community with grandparents and cousins part of their lives. The beauty of their land and the pride they take in their history is keenly felt. To nurture and preserve these things for the next generation is their privilege.
LIVE AND LEARN ITALIAN offers language and culture holidays in the small historic town of Agnone, Alto Molise, far from tourism. Mature students of Italian come to live among a friendly community to practice, improve, listen and engage. Cook with the locals, visit family businesses, and discover the culture and history of a beautiful region.