L'Italo-Americano

italoamericano-digital-6-27-2019

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THURSDAY, JUNE 27, 2019 www.italoamericano.org L'Italo-Americano 2 W h e n , d u r i n g o u r holidays, we buy a curious or unusual souvenir, we don't think about the history it represents or contains, but only consider whether the person we are buying it for will like it, whether it'll look nice on that shelf near the TV or on the mantelpiece: souvenirs are nothing more than a long lasting memory of a happy moment. But there are objects (and their reproductions) that can tell us a lot about a place and about the skills needed to make them. When you take a vacation in Italy, you can truly go back home with a trunk full of treasures. Every corner of the country holds something that tells a story of local folklore, skills and traditions, or about the monuments of the area. In other words, those trinkets populating shop windows, so full of beauty and uniqueness and that immediately speak to us through their originality, are the essence of Italianness or, even better, of that varied mosaic made of 8000 or so villages, towns and cities populating the country. Inspired by our cover article, but also with the aim of reminding you of our "Unknown Sicily" Raffle (be quick: it's going to end in less than 40 days, with winners being announced on the 9th of August!), which, for only 12$, offers you the opportunity to see this beautiful island at the heart of the Mediterranean (yes, you read it right: only 12 $ to get a chance to win a flight and 8 fantastic days of traveling for two people, with plenty of guided tours to discover the historical, artistic and folkloristic wanders of Sicily!), we are going to focus on a textbook example. We are in Sicily and, depending on where exactly you are, you'll find them red, yellow or blue; decorated with geometrical decorations, religious figures or epic characters and knights, just like in the Palermo area or in Western Sicily. If, on the other hand, you're in the East, they'll be green, red and maroon, decorated with delicate and precise drawings dedicated to nature, including anything from butterflies to colorful fruit. Some 'll be very small and very easy to handle, like those depicted on small fridge magnets, others you'll see in real life: in this case, you could go for a ride or take a nice picture beside them. Italy's souvenirs hold pieces of our country's history From the director We are talking, of course, of the famous carretti Siciliani, which are way more than a trinket or an Instagram photo. They tell a piece of the island's history, of a lucrative activity, of outdoor fairs, local folklore and of a tradition that, today, is a form of art known for its quality and professionalism. Carretti speak of an evolution that started from practical, commercial needs, created prestigious jobs, became a cultural symbol and, finally, turned into an art product of high quality and great beauty. Some centuries ago, the streets of Sicily were mostly paths good only for mules and donkeys, not certainly carts. Moreover, the almost complete absence of roads had been penalizing local economy so, to diminish or even avoid commercial delays, trazzere began being built at the end of the 18th century. Trazzere were difficult roads to travel, but mule-pulled carts could certainly travel on them. These carts, however, needed to have sturdy, high wheels to give stability even in the most uneven of terrains. This is how the carretto Siciliano was born: a working and transport means, used to carry food and materials, but also people. The carradore and the birocciaio, the carpenter who created it and the man who drove it, are important figures, with the first choosing the right wood to make them, but also applying refined construction and decoration techniques, which were then passed on through the generations. Little by little, carretti became so beautiful and complex (with the carradore collaborating with other craftsmen, like turners, blacksmiths, carvers, painters and decorators) to turn into something much more complex than a means of transportation: they became works of art. Just like it happens today, when carretti are at the heart of local culture and passed from being a symbol of humble work and poverty to being trendy elements, even present of international catwalks. So, what does our carretto Sicilinano, the very same so often protagonist of local fairs and religious festivities (really, dear readers, don't forget to try your luck with our "Uknonwn Sicily Raffle" to get the opportunity to see it all for free) tell us? Even the simple and "commercial" act of buying a souvenir is an invitation to go beyond all appearances: underneath that curious little object, there is a long and rich history that tells us about the Belpaese and its cultures, of the thousand of artistic influences it received, of its local traditions and of the specialized craftsmanships that developed within the practice of its creation. And then, we shouldn't forget that these enchanting, unique pieces are just like colorful books filled with stories about of skills and charming legends recounted in front of the fireplace: a mesmerizing piece of Italian history. Simone Schiavinato, Director NEWS & FEATURES TOP STORIES PEOPLE EVENTS

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