Delightfully my friend, Rosemary, had arranged for an Italian lesson class on my first morning. I was a bit concerned how my jet lagged mind would react to such a quick and total immersion into the language. Allora, we bundled off in the early morning hour, driving the winding roads to the neighboring town of San Gennaro. Before I could say buon giorno, I was seated at the large table in the home of Professoressa Anna conversing with a handful of expat’s who had fallen in love with la bella lingua and the Italian life style. This was indeed a great beginning.
Next, down to what it was all about, the antiques market in Lucca. Every third weekend within the historic walls of Lucca hundreds of exhibitors from Italy gather to display and sell their wares. The mercatino takes place amidst an old world of squares, alleys and piazzas punctuated by crowds of strolling pedestrians hoping to discover a treasure or two. And yes, on this bright, sunny autumn afternoon, I found myself among them. This was part of my plan, to unearth and bring home bits and pieces of cultural history to repurpose. Allora, it was not as easy as I had thought.
A turn down a small street led us to discover the Carta d’Epoca. Housed in the Piazza dei Servi, this exhibition in its fourth year gives visitors an occasion to admire antique books and papers rarely seen outside museums. There couldn’t be a better place to hold an exhibition dedicated to antique printing than in the city of paper. The Lucca Paper District today houses 140 paper mills and employs over 6,000 people, providing the bulk of the country’s tissue paper and a large proportion of its cardboard, yet the city also has a long and illustrious history of paper-making, stretching back to at least 1400.
So a lucky accident brought me to my first find, a windfall of correspondence written in Italian with the most beautiful cursive handwriting. It dates between 1918 and 1919 and follows the lives of members of the Goti family who were located in Livorno. Lovely post marks, interesting sizes and clues to the history of the Goti family.
Anyone have relatives from that period in Italia? Hmmm….wonder what I can fabricate from these treasured papers……