stone has practically been the sole construction material used in the
area, because it is plentiful, easily available, versatile and long-lasting,
and also economical. In fact, it is not only used for the square-cut,
dry-stone walls supporting the cultivated mountain terraces, but also
for the structural components of houses (walls, roofs, columns, architraves,
brackets, steps) and for decorative, finishing touches (parapets of stairs
and balconies, floors, chimney pots, garden walls and balustrades).
There are entire villages and isolated hamlets on the mountainous
slopes of the Alto Mugello - Scheggianico, Tirli, Castiglioncello,
Rapezzo, S. Pelligrino, Piancaldoli, Coniale, Caburaccia, and Cerreta
- that are constructed entirely from stone, everything from the paving
stones on the roads to the chimney pots on the roofs of the houses.
In these places it is not difficult to find exquisitely crafted details
- fine decorative touches and functional solutions to problems - that
bespeak long days of labour put in by dedicated master stonemasons.
Many items of furniture and other functional objects are also made of
stone, for instance fireplaces, tables, chairs, statues and fountains,
basins, vases, mortars; so too are tools or parts of work instruments:
knife-makers' whetstones, weights on scales, olive presses etc.
initial production of simple series of items was supplemented over time
by increasingly fine and artistic work, including the creation of cornices
and ornate objects; full-blown sculptures in the coats of arms positioned
on the facades of noble houses; or in the bas-relief friezes and decorative
geometric designs found in a whole range of sacred sculpture.
Each craftsman, whether he was an unknown stonemason or a noted sculptor,
had an individual distinguishing mark (normally a letter of the alphabet
or the stylised figure of a tool) that he reproduced on every piece
of stone that he worked on. The master quarrymen were able by sight to
distinguish between the mediocre and the best layers of stone, which was
called pietra serena.
Today there are about twenty stonemasons (scalpellini), now mostly
referred to as quarrymen (cavatori) - because they are mainly involved
in the first phase of their work, the crafting of stone now often being
conducted elsewhere, - operating in the Firenzuola area, grouped together
in a co-operative. Some of them work as craftsmen, making quality products
such as fireplaces, benches, etc. There are also stonemasons in other
areas, for example at Marradi, at San Bavello in the council of S. Godenzo,
and at Santa Brigida in the council of Pontassieve.
Translated by Jeremy Carden
Picture by Kee-Ho Casati