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Friday, 16 April 2010

The Blacksmith Down the Lane

By Linda Chaput.

Florence, Italy - 2007

It was out of curiosity that my husband and I crossed the Arno River on the Ponte Vecchio Bridge to get to the south bank of Florence. We had been tourists for two days, having visited the Uffizi Gallery, the Accademia Museum and the gothic Duomo Cathedral.

Now we just wanted to relax and wander down some of Florence’s back streets to see what else we could find. We didn’t have a map, but knew the river was nearby.

Shortly after meandering down several small avenues, passing stores and boutiques, we came upon an unusual site. There, jutting out from the fading whitewashed wall above an old wooden door was a sign for a blacksmith shop. As we stood looking at the sign, much to our amazement the door opened and out came the blacksmith himself!

He was a rather short but stout man with graying hair and a strong body, probably in his late sixties. We could tell he was in a hurry as he locked the doors behind him and hopped on his small motor scooter parked against the wall to ride away. As he saw us standing there, we waved him down to talk to him.

“Buon giorno,” he said.

He didn’t speak English nor did we speak Italian, but we clumsily relayed to him that since my husband is also a "fabbro" (blacksmith in Italian), we were interested in seeing his shop. His eyes lit up and he immediately set the motor scooter aside and unlocked his doors for us to go in.

It was a small shop by our standards but well laid-out and it had probably been there for years. The blacksmith was full of excitement as he watched us walk around, eager to show us everything.

The room was cluttered with worktables, shelves and blacksmithing tools. In one corner was the anvil and forge. On the walls were hung forged scrolls, lanterns and leaf samples. We could see in his eyes that he was proud of his shop and thrilled to be showing it off to interested foreigners.

As we wandered through the narrow paths around his worktables, he tried hard to explain his work to us. He was very talented and his fine sculptures and craftsmanship showed off his creativity. Years ago, he had won several awards and he pointed to his certificates on the wall. My husband took several photos of his work and shop, and the blacksmith smiled.

It was hard to leave the blacksmith and his shop that day, hidden down a back lane on the other side of the Arno River. I could tell he was glad we came by, even through our inept communications. As we stepped back out into the street to continue on our way, all we could do was shake his hand and nod graciously.

“Grazie, ciao!” we said as we waved goodbye, and he rode away on his motor scooter. As we watched him turn the corner, we felt excited about having met him. Perhaps one day we will return to visit the blacksmith down the lane.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


nice story. I've been a jeweler for many years and always love to see other workshops.

What a nice serendipitous walk you had! we walked on the other side of the Arno too, but all we saw were gypsies.

What a lovely story, Linda...Thank you.

Aren't Italians the friendliest people?

We met a waiter in a restaurant in Florence. He did not speak any English and we speak no Italian. Did that bother anybody? NO! We had the most fun with him as we sorted out the food we wanted to order.

When we finished our main course (which he chose) he brought out a bottle of Grappa and 3 glasses. He sat with us and we drank our drinks and chatted with our hands and eyes.

I'll never forget that day, or him!

Impressive story.
I have a similar story but it was in France.
I am sorry to this day I didn't get the Frenchman's address so I could have sent some sort of thank you memento.
Hillary's got nutin' on us.

Wonderful post, a walk in time as it's rare to find craftsman or the apprentice any longer.

Dorothy from grammology

Meetings such as that are so special. Thanks for sharing it in such a way that I felt included in the meeting.

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