Monday, September 25, 2006


Quite a while back someone began renovating a run-down building on the main street of San Venanzo. Our main street includes a little of everything: three small grocery stores, a hardware store, bakery, pharmacy, gas station, three bars, a purse shop, shoe shop, post office, laundry, bank, florist, two barber shops, a beauty shop, butcher shop, newsstand/gift shop and an all purpose five and dime where you can find just about anything. San Venanzo is only lacking two things: a central piazza and a pizzeria.

As we learned when we renovated our house, San Venanzo is also blessed with many, many artisans. The bricklayers, tile experts, electrician, plumber and the fabbro…the blacksmith who made our back steps, the banister for our stairs, and most recently, the iron bars for our kitchen window, were all from San Venanzo.

When the renovation began on the small building next to the gas station, Mauro’s men were doing the initial work, and Art, like many of the retired guys in town, enjoyed observing the progress. Because he knew all the workers, he found out that the building was going to be used by the fabbro as a showroom for his work.

The fabbro’s workshop is located down a very steep street, and when we had visited the workshop for various reasons we had seen some of his other work and some photo albums with pictures of even more items in iron….beds, tables, washstands, lamp posts, window coverings, fences and gates of every kind. We thought that a showroom on the main dray would be great for the fabbro and great for San Venanzo,

Months went by and the work continued in fits and starts. Eventually the rood was completed, the scaffolding came down, and various colors of paint were applied in test patches. Marco and Maurizio laid stones in the front of the building. A tenant moved into one of the apartments. But still nothing seemed to be happening with the storefronts at street level. We couldn’t even tell how many shops would be there…just one, or would the space be divided?

Before we left of the states in mid-March we spoke with the fabbro, Renaldo, about the iron bars for our kitchen window. We told him that we hoped he could install the bars at the end of May or early June, once we returned from the states. He said that would work out great for him, because he still needed to make and install the iron work for the doors and windows. Being a competitive capitalist American, I just assumed that the goal was to get the shop up and running before the tourists started to arrive in the summer.

Eventually the windows and doors went up, the interior tile flooring was laid, then…..nothing. We heard a rumor that the newsstand was going to move into the space. Our friend Giacomo inquired about renting part of the space, but the cost was too high. But still….WHO was going in there, and WHEN????

And then about two weeks ago the windows were covered with paper. By this time we knew better than to expect anything to happen quickly. So imagine our surprise when we walked by the building the other day and saw that the door was open and that people were working inside.

We stuck out heads in the door and there was the fabbro, along with a few friends, setting up iron beds and furniture! Renaldo told us that the grand opening was that night, starting at 7:30. He told us there would be lots of food and told us to be sure to come! Wow! A grand opening in San Venanzo! What an event!

We arrived not long after 7:30, knowing that there wouldn’t be many people there yet. Most Italians don’t eat before 8:00, even for grand openings. We saw the long table where the porchetta was being sliced and made into sandwiches, and there were other tables filled with food, but everything was still covered up. The really interesting thing was that the table was set up on the gas station property.

In true small town fashion, the gas station was partially blocked off so that people could get gas in one lane instead of two, but there was still plenty of room for the porchetta table. Some people just have their priorities straight.

The shop was absolutely beautiful! The beds were made simply but elegantly

and the various wrought iron tables were dressed with the congratulatory bouquets of flowers that friends had sent. Everything was so beautiful that I went back home to get the camera….why hadn’t I brought it with me in the first place???

By the time I returned more people were arriving and the food was being served. Art and I started with porchetta sandwiches, then had some farro

salad and beans.  I asked one of the women who was serving the beans who had cooked all this food and she told me that she and another woman had prepared everything. A separate table was filled with desserts, mostly crostatas, sort of like a pie shell filled with marmalade.

Renaldo was there, decked out in a wide burnt orange tie, and not getting a picture of him that night is my biggest disappointment. I did get a shot of the mayor, and we saw lots of friends and made a few new ones. We met a woman named Roberta who spoke English!! Originally from Modena, she’d married a man from San Venanzo and now they live here, along with their two young daughters. Her English was excellent, and we later found out that she works for the tourist office in Todi! No wonder she spoke such good English!

The later it got the larger the crowd got.  The grand opening was a great success as far as I could tell; now let’s hope the success continues for the shop itself. Too bad we don’t need any new cast iron furniture, but if you’re in the market and in the neighborhood, stop by and take a look.


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