It seemed like such a simple proposition - replace two sets of rotting, broken-down French doors and a small kitchen window. In my New World mind I envisioned them simply removing the old and installing the new. I had met with the falegname, or woodworker, while I was in Lucanella in January, who gave me work quotes and material options. We chose the color we wanted and gave the go-ahead to have the doors and shutters fabricated.
The muratore (stone mason) was brought into the mix because it turns out that removing old doors also means adjusting old walls. The three-feet thick openings are constructed of ancient stones, and peeling off the wood jams and frames revealed rubble and rotted lintels that would need to be redone. Fortunately for us, our friend Tonino, a building contractor, knew the right person to call.
Maestro Vito and his son showed up with the tools of their trade and shy smiles. They broke into the stone and pulled out bits and pieces of "filler" that had, at some point in the ensuing centuries, been stuffed into the walls, creating a lot of rubble on my floor. My first impression was, "What have you done to my house?!" but their constant calls of "calma, tranquilla" - and the fact that they were ever-so-patiently fitting stones just so into the cavities- calmed my nerves. They pulled out an enormous, blackened, rotting lintel. When I commented, "Gee, that thing looks like it's 200 years old," Maestro Vito responded, "I'd add another hundred to that number." So, you're saying you yanked out a hunk of building material that is older than my country? They were very amused by that thought.
They arrived early, worked hard, labored skillfully, and left sweaty. They respected my desire to leave the great thick depth of wall that led to the door openings distorted and uneven even though they thought me a bit loopy for that. It's a three-hundred-or-so old casa, I don't want it to be all perfect and even and new-looking. I won them over on the first day with a snack of mortadella sandwiches and beer. They won me over with their shy smiles and their amazing clean-up job. Seriously, men who create a mess and then clean up after themselves?! They even scrubbed the bathroom sink where they had been drawing water for making mortar!
Then the falegname returned to take final measurements of the openings and finished the fabrication process. He and his son came to install them, which, again, would seem simple, but was an operation that would consume twelve hours of their time. He had a heavy accent and a soft heart, and at the end of the day he changed my front door lock, helped me unload some heavy items from my car, and gave me a little discount on the price. He brought a new iron railing to place between my living room doors and shutters, "the old one was all rusted and ugly," he stated matter-of-factly. And he didn't charge me for it.
I was so impressed with these guys, all of them craftsmen of the old school who pride themselves on their work and their traditions, and who only reluctantly, shyly accept praise and thanks for their efforts. I have a habitable house...and thanks to their careful labors it feels ever more like home.