The love for a craft work which turns into art: this is the story of a boy who has preserved an important heritage, guided by his grandmother.
The meeting is at the Retificio Mancinelli, in San Feliciano (Magione). To frame the garden there are the plastic circles of the larger nets, bundled on one side to indicate the industriousness of that villa on the lake, apparently quiet.
Andrea Mancinelli and his grandmother welcome us in the large and bright work room. The morning sun cuts it obliquely like a perfect diamond. On one side, stacked wooden chairs rise face to face with a particular hanger, which instead of cloche, shows some nets.
A room lost in the past
In a room with many windows, Andrea and his grandmother sew the nets. The Retificio Mancinelli could be reduced to this luminous box, where the boy learns an ancient trade and gives it new life. Andrea is guided by a person who is really well known in this area. It does not seem so out of place that table, dangerously similar to the teaching post, sandwiched between boxes filled with nets and covered with sinkers and needles.
A room that seems lost in the past, with the cotton models of the nets and the photo of the late patriarch to keep under control every element of a craft work that has its roots in the daily life of the Trasimeno fishermen.
To complete the scene, a sort of wooden stool placed above a cabinet – which I will later discover to be a support for the large nylon traps – and some pulleys hanging from the ceiling, to which Andrea immediately hangs a tofo.
While the photographers are unleashed, I observe the technical perfection of this creation, with its deceptions that trap the fishes. Andrea, meanwhile, gives us a practical demonstration of how the net is attached to the circles, counting the points one by one: every four points, he stops and makes a knot. This is suggests a rather repetitive work, which demands an extreme attention. What he calls the needle, is actually achecella, a sort of comb with only two teeth that Andrea uses smoothly and careful as if he were combing the hair of his beloved.
According to his grandmother, Andrea still has much to learn. I try to understand if she is proud of her nephew, and of how he has decided to preserve a craft work to which she has dedicated her life. Instead of answering me, she starts talking about herself.
Since 1955 this was her work, but for a year now it has been taking a break because of her health conditions. She has worked a lot and with passion, but now she feels that her energy is fading.
The worry for the health, as well as the difficulty of resigning herself to the inevitability of this situation, make her voice crack – but I do not need to tell her that she is a warrior and that we all would want to have a grandmother like her.
Accuracy and experience
From the demonstration by Andrea we understand that this type of work is extremely complex: it requires precision and experience, as well as an extremely high attention. Andrea deploys a trammel spreading it between the hanger and the window to the east: the nylon, initially a very light blue, seems almost to disappear, suspended between the dust and the late morning sun.
Now I understand why the room is so bright. It should not be easy, moreover, to remember the innumerable patterns of the equally innumerable types of the nets. Then some worn out notes appear, stored in the drawers of the teaching post: schemes, numbers, updates. All you need to build a perfect net is written there, on unfolded accounting sheets and notebooks, a humble looking heritage that is worth more than a rare treasure.
It is this knowledge that allows the construction of complicated trammel nets and similar hare hunting nets, or those used at the sea, for the sport, for the shop windows, for the restaurants and for children’s games. Those nets that generations and generations of fishermen have used as their work tools on the Trasimeno Lake, whose pastel green stands out discreetly at the end of the road.