Tuscan old professions: the stonecutter

This time our journey throughout Tuscany and its colours is going to drive us into the past for discovering, or re-discovering, the ancient professions.
Have you ever thought about how different it was when the modern technology didn’t exist and almost everything was handmade? Actually in the past we have been able of great works, like town planning, architectural works, environmental reclamation just to mention a few, without neglecting the research field development, which has turned out the old pen and inkwell in a computer.

With new technologies and materials, we have put a part of our history on one side, even if our present life wouldn’t been as it is without that historical, gradual but necessary process that has taken us to current days.
Mankind’s personal identity wouldn’t exist without its cultural heritage. Protecting its own culture and traditions means saving a part of that personal identity which otherwise would be lost to the world forever. That’s why the Regione Toscana has issued a law (regional law n.15 dated 5th March 1997) which is supposed to protect and regulate all those productive, agricultural and rural activities that are particularly interesting – from a historical, cultural or demographic point of view – , but seem to be declining). Thanks to this law, present and future young generations will be able to tell their children how a common, wicker chair is made, as well as baskets where children use to put their toys; how edible or medicative plants and herbs (commonly found in lawn and gardens) can be distinguished from those we can’t even touch. Those, and other activities we haven’t mentioned yet, must be passed on so that the new generations of the future can be aware of the important role they have played throughout history.

During our past journeys through Tuscany, we spoke about Michelangelo, the sculptor of the Tuscan Renaissance par excellence. Those of you who have read our past stories, will surely remind of the young Buonarroti who, when only six, went to live with a nurse, her husband (a stonecutter) and her family in Settignano (a little village near Florence) where, according to Michelangelo’s quotes, he learnt to carve by sucking her milk. As well as Settignano, well known for its main activity of stone-cutting and for having produced several sculptors of the XV th century, many other towns and villages near Florence had, and still have, pietra serena quarries: Fiesole, Carmignano (and Mount Albano), Lastra a Signa and Impruneta just to mention a few. Even on Abetone, on the Cetona mount and in the Chianti area pietra serena quarries can be found, even if the town where this kind of stone is mainly produced and transformed is Fiorenzuola
Just a few centuries ago, those activities were very important, since the pietra serena was largely used for urbanization and for handmade products. We can more easily understand how important this kind of stone was to the local culture by looking at some of the most renowned Renaissance architectural works: the Uffizi Gallery, the Ospedale degli Innocenti – the Hospital of the Innocents in English -, Santo Spirito Basil and san Lorenzo church are all pietra serena buildings. Urban development, as well as the increasing works for towns re-organization and expanding landscaping
have been shaping populations and cultures rebirth from the end of the Middle Age onwards (especially in Tuscany, which was thus called the birthplace of renaissance), consequently intensifying all the activities related to this raw material.
A style-life and a social hierarchy thus began to mark the daily time of the workers who, from dawn to sunset, were supposed to extract and transform the stone as well as to produce the tools they used on the cave directly.

As a popular saying states, everything has a beginning, and those workers’ hands are the symbol of that beginning which reminds us of another saying stating: from little things, big things grow. That’s why we should be proud of remembering those people who have contributed to build our present up, stone after stone; that’s why we have the duty to pass those traditional knowledges and skills on.

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