Having traveled through Europe, Mexico and many countries with skilled artisans, it takes a lot to impress me. In spite of the growing urban sprawl and copycat retailers in Europe, there are still talented folks making all variety of interesting things ... just gotta find them.
And so it was over the past year, I have come to observe a local artisan, in fact a builder of houses, aqueducts, churches and all manner of Tuscan architecture. He travels the region on a bicycle with his real estate in tow. Yes, he carries his houses with him. On a bike.
After studying him from a distance over a few months at the local Art Fairs, I decided it was time to engage this Tuscan builder. At first encounter, it is clear that Giuseppe is an artist, who above all is passionate about DETAILS. His precision in each piece comes from studying, measuring, and probably not just a little math. Each piece is unique and authentic in it representation. No, you can't just commission any old thing, he has to believe in your vision, the soundness of the structure, the materials and time. No, you can't have a larger water well, it has to match the scale of the building it is adjacent to. Giuseppe is at once particular and charming, and yes, stubborn.
We commissioned two houses to be built for our dining table back in February. Giuseppe was quick to tell us it would be at LEAST a month before they were ready to be transported via his three wheel bike from Marlia to Lucca. No, we couldn't dictate windows, doors, shape ... those things spring only from his personal imagination.
So, with great excitement I sought him out last Saturday to see if our houses had arrived! Yes, there amongst the grand gate of Monte Carlo and the Romanesque church with the curved nave were two diminutive houses ... as I had requested, to fit on our dining room table. In addition to the exquisite details like ladders and stacks of firewood, he had built inside each house a tiny "forno" or oven, into which could be placed a cone of incense, which when lit would emit a curl of smoke from the terracotta roofed chimney!
Thoroughly caught up in the excitement of the moment, I impetuously asked if he could make me a Torre Guinigi (the famous Lucchese tower with the trees on top). Right then, the moment the words left my mouth, I knew I had overstepped my bounds. There was a sharp pause, a stern look and an admonishment in Italian that you can't just commission something like the Torre Guinigi! It's "particular", it would require 3-5000 tiny hand cut stones and bricks, this dear "Senora" was not something you just decide. It must be "discussed", it must be "considered".
This is the genuine charm of Giuseppe, and makes the work he does all the more precious. We returned home, the proud owners of two beautiful Tuscan homes. Yes, we lit the little cones of incense, placed candles inside the houses and ate in the dark with the little pools of golden light emitting from the windows while the smoke curled lazily from the chimney.
I feel lucky to have met someone who is so talented and exacting in his craft.
Now I just need to think of a way to convince him that the Torre Guinigi would look perfect in our dining room.
You can find Le Casine di Giuseppe on Facebook at Giuseppe Marsalli.
And yes, he will ship to you.
If you can convince him you deserve a house.