The art of manufacturing is one of the traditions of Casentino, in the province of Arezzo. It comes from an ancient knowledge that the experts of the trade have handed down from generations since the Middle Ages.
There are secrets that it is hard for you to know unless you are doing this. Inside the laboratories of the Casentino blacksmiths, the metal is heated until it becomes incredibly malleable. In this way the masters of iron manage to bend it, twist it, weld it and turn it into masterpieces of the workshop.
As in the past: TheFerriera del Bonano
To recover traces of the first skilled forgers of Casentino you should go back at least a few centuries. The Ferriera del Bonano is a precious testimony in this sense.
It is located in a private farmhouse (unfortunately not open to visitors) between Salutio and Talla, in the municipality of Castel Focognano. It is a workshop of the Sixteenth century from which came mainly tools from peasants. Workers employed machinery that exploited the mechanical energy of the water of the Faltona torrent.
Think that it was active until the ’70s. It seems that those who inaugurated it in the Sixteenth century were relieved of the obligation to pay the duties for the use of water. So it was decided at the highest levels of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany to encourage this occupation.
Make an effort to imagine what it was like. An orchestra in which the sound of drills, saws and grindstones in action accompanied the crash of the hammer, a band with more than three meters of neck. The blacksmith moved the hot iron at will under the head of this instrument, weighing about 150 kilos. And the hammer, by repeated and quick blows, modeled it to perfection.
Stia, capital of art blacksmiths
But in the present? In Casentino there are many small handicraft companies that make pieces of furniture mixing tradition and innovative solutions.
I mean wrought iron is part of the identity of this valley. It is the reason why in the village of Stia, about 50 minutes’ drive from Arezzo, the European Biennial of Art Blacksmiths takes place.
Iron and Panno Casentino, the pride of Stia
Casentino is famous for being a peaceful area.An ideal haven of peace to spend a secluded uncrowded holiday. Life is slow and relaxed in the villages and towns of the valley. But, on certain occasions, these localities light up with voices and movement.
It is a liveliness that gives a lot to Stia, a centre with a past market and wool processing hub. You should know that textiles and wrought iron have always been the cornerstones of the local economy. In addition to the Panno Casentino, which has a really interesting history, the ability of local blacksmiths is a source of pride for the locals.
Also in the Divine Comedy the footprint of centuries of familiarity of the Casentino territory with iron has been recounted. During his literary journey to the afterlife, the poet Dante Alighieri meets Mastro Adamo. He is a famous florin forger who, damned in Hell, says he produced coins in the service of the Counts Guidi in the Castle of Romena, a jewel of architecture that you will see stand on a hill of Pratovecchio, a few kilometers from Stia.
The European Biennial of Art Blacksmiths in Stia
Every two years, Stia is filled with flashes. They are the sparks of fire and the flashes of skill that brings to the village the European Biennial of Art Blacksmiths. The event has two “dads”: Pier Luigi dellaBordella and Ivan Bruschi.
Have you heard of the latter? Have you had the opportunity to visit the house museum named after him? He is the collector who created the famous Antique Fair of Arezzo, the first open-air market in the sector in Italy. Two symbolic events for their respective communities have thus become the protagonists of a long-distance dialogue between Stia and the main city.
The number one edition of the European Biennial of Blacksmith Art was held in 1976. Since then, regularly, the best of wrought iron creations has taken possession of the most beautiful views of Stia, attracting an audience of all nationalities.
Different skills and styles meet in the old city centre of a small Tuscan town at the foot of the mountains. If luck has guided you in the land of Arezzo when this gathering is held, the Biennial has the right cards to climb the leaderboard of your favorite destinations.
You will see Stia dressed for a party, animated by the cheerful metallic thuds of hammers against anvils. It is the soundtrack produced by the artists of iron who meet here to update, inspire and compete.
The initiative also hosts the World Forging Championship and an international design contest. Challenges that are added to a contest of sculpture and one of photography. That iswhy the electrifying atmosphere that you will feel in the air!
Let yourself be conquered by this Casentino magic. You can walk among installations and inimitable works of art. Choose the events that fascinate you the most in the rich program of conferences, meetings dedicated to food and musical events.
Watching live an “old-fashioned” forging is a sight that steals the heart. Do not miss this show where craftsmanship renews its excellence. Only by participating in the Biennial or visiting the workshops of Casentino blacksmiths can you grasp the true meaning of wrought iron for the territory.
A “handmade” that borders on art, spokesman of a beauty unchanged over the centuries. The authenticity of Arezzo never tires.