14 Aug 2010

Can you believe that in Tuscany there are still people making agricultural tools with hammer and anvil? Or people making a living by making poles for vineyards? Well, there are. 96 of them to be precise.

“Antichi Mestieri”: Old Trades in Tuscany

It’s been a while since I last sat down and wrote about something. I have had a couple of busy weeks and I’ve also been kind of lazy… Today it’s pouring so it’s the perfect day to be inside and spend some time at the computer! The summer seems to have been shorter than usual this year. Except for the 3 dreadfully hot weeks in July, temperatures have been mild and the storms have started much earlier than usual.

I was reading the newspaper today and I found out about a really cool initiative by the Regione Toscana: an “albo degli antichi mestieri“, a registry of the old trades. The Region has essentially decided to census the people who are carrying on the tradition of some old professions. The list includes 94 businesses at present.

In our area there are several trades that are “threatened with extinction”, mostly in the inland areas around Massa Marittima or on Monte Amiata.

There are two brothers who still make coal out of wood like in the old times, with charcoal piles. I remember seeing the remains of those piles in the woods when I was a kid and it was quite rare back then already.

There are a few mills where the milling process is carried out with the same instruments as 100 years ago. Another farm produces chestnut flour the old way.

A family still breaks in horses in the traditional Maremman style and entertains people with extemporaneous poetry.

Others still press olive oil with the old stone wheels.

Two other guys make vineyard poles out of chestnut wood with old instruments.

But the workshops that fascinate me the most are those of a couple of other craftsmen who still produce bill-hooks, pruning-hooks and other agricultural tools by striking hot metals on an anvil as in the old times. One also makes the hafts in wild heath wood. My goal now is to go visit these places!!!

And there’s more!! In Tuscany, there are still people working tobacco leaves to make cigars; people working straw to make home-made chairs and baskets; people breeding donkeys to carry heavy loads where mechanical vehicles cannot go; people shearing sheep with traditional tools; people who still specialize in gathering pine nuts in the woods; people weaving on old high-warp looms; people who go around singing traditional songs in the various villages; women embroidering precious materials; craftsmen sculpting stone with old tools; people making knives like in the old times.

There is a website where you can see the list organized according to the provinces:

Antichi Mestieri in Toscana – Old Trades in Tuscany

I think it’s a brilliant idea, and I’ll try and make time to visit a few of these people as soon as possible as these old professions need to be supported or we risk losing a large part of our culture.


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