Articolo disponibile anche in: Italian

Today, when you want something, you can choose the item according to quality and price. Not too long ago, it wasn’t like that.

All goods, for the person and for the family, were provided by people who later became artisans or “couturiers”. “Ganino” as a brand, Gaetano at birth, was a shoemaker who lived in Chianti and made shoes to order as well as making shoe repairs.

He visited his clients and stopped along the way with families willing to offer him space to carry on his work. He carried a large straw bag with all of his instruments inside.

My family was one of his stops. My grandfather first, and then my uncle Guido, had the proper instruments for a shoemaker: a bench formed like a horseshoe, wooden lasts, a stone to pound the wet leather, black tar, brushes and string, sqare screws and a shoemaker’s hammer with some sharpened cutters.

Gaetano usually came by a few times a year and stayed an entire day to repair shoes and clogs for all of the family, which in those years consisted of around 10 people.

Normally they were thick shoes, made of leather with robust nailed soles, things that would horrify us today. Since they invented rubber soles, nails were out of the picture.

After shoe repairs were made and the family had figured out its needs, measurements of soles and feet were taken for new orders. Ganino didn’t use a tape measure, but a piece of yellow packing paper.

He folded the paper, around 30 cm long, and measured feet for length and width. For each person, he made a cut and wrote down the person’s name.

He then continued to the next person. They could have been thick or thin shoes, of shiny leather, simple or fancy. When he brought them back, they always fit perfectly, since it was customary to make them a little bigger, especially for the children, for the winter.

If they were summer sandals, he would cut the point so that the big toe could feel the air.

If you kicked something, it would hurt in two ways: one for the toe, and the other for your parents complaining that you were ruining your shoes.

Roberto Borghi