Articolo disponibile anche in: Italian

Fabio Zacchei, 47 years old, has an enthralling exuberance, a passion for his job. He meets us in his new space, created a few months ago (and already growing), in Monti in Chianti.

Fabio is a blacksmith, a “bullettaio” as they are called around here. He is an artisan, an artist and a businessman. He is the author of the iron rooster which represents Gaiole in Chianti in the world. His is a fascinating story.

We go into town coming down from the Castello di Brolio: the panorama is almost breathtaking. Behind the vineyards you can see the church bell tower where the first pacts between the Florentines and the Sienese were signed. Raise your eyes and you will see vineyards and olive groves and, in the background, Monte Amiata.

The business consists of Fabio, Franco, historic helper reaching retirement, and Giovanni, from the Bernabeis of Fonterutoli, another historic “iron” name in the area of Sienese Chianti. He has recently joined his passion and know-how with that of Fabio.

Fabio arrives with his truck in a cloud of dust and enthusiasm. With a strong handshake and an open smile, he begins to tells his story: “I am from Castelnuovo Berardenga. I began doing this craft by helping my dad, Mario, in the family business when I was 18. We have been doing this for three generations”.

Blacksmiths here are called “bullettai” because they used to make nails: for horseshoes, fences and railroad sleepers.

“In Castelnuovo there lived 50 families who practiced this craft. They fought amongst themselves, and today there isn’t even one left” says Fabio.

For 12 years, Fabio tried to extend and modernize the historic workplace in Castelnuovo. Then, since he couldn’t break through, he found a carpenter’s shed and made it his home.

“I still have the old space in Castelnuovo, where I would like to create an exhibition area. I don’t want it to die. There is where my family history is”.

The new space is more functional, but Fabio is already taking us in the back to show us what he is building. “I will enlarge the shed and divide it into an industrial area (where all types of work are done, from gates to fixtures), from the artistic section”.

Here, behind a majestic oak, he wants to make an iron greenhouse in Louis XVl style, to “make it become a meeting place, a  place of debate. I have a dream for this space, perhaps increasing it to the farmland out front. I can already see works with Brolio and Cacchiano in the background. People will come to see them”.

It’s like seeing “Field of Dreams”, with Kevin Kostner who knocks down a field of corn to build a baseball field where historic greats of the past will come to play… and people will line up to see them.

Inside the large shed is an iron dragon, built in 2007 for a contest. It won. In many minds, it is the 3 meter iron rooster which comes to mind.

“I had made it” Fabio tells us, “for ProgettArte, an event born from the idea of putting a work of art on every street of Gaiole, to give credit to the craftwork of people, thus bringing movement to the town”.

“I made the rooster,” he remembers, “because it reminded me of its ties to the territory; then again, I don’t like small things, so I made it enormous. I would have made it even larger, but back then the space in Castelnuovo didn’t allow it. At the end of the exhibit, the locals wrote up a petition to buy it, but it wasn’t possible.  A patron arrived who bought it and gave it as a gift to the people of Gaiole in Chianti”.

While we speak, Fabio shows us his Mac and his many works in his office. This leads to anecdotes: “Do you see this gate? It’s from a castle in Switzerland. I was very young and irresponsible: I went to measure with yellow butcher paper in a Volkswagen Gti with a license plate from Rome. This attracted the attention of the police, who always stopped me. It had 6 doors, a huge job in terms of materials and logistics. I could have been ruined, but all went well”.

Then he shows us the cross from the Siena Duomo: “It is by Bernini, from the 1600’s. When they called me to re-make it, I took the original and carried it on my shoulders. People looked at me incredulous”.

Fabio’s stories mix with his dreams of the future. His work continues (“I donate at least two days a year to the people of Chianti”) between inspiration from Picasso and Gaudì.

“My sign is Taurus”, he says as he looks at his new house, “and I want to keep my feet on the ground. I want this place to become a point of reference where many people come”.

We say goodbye and make an appointment for when the new place will be ready. “And to think,” he says while we leave, “that I am completely self taught. I can have a design in my head and translate it into iron. It is difficult for me to put it on paper. In fact, mine is a love story….for iron”.

Matteo Pucci