Visiting the “Shop-Museum” of one of the oldest families representing the traditional puppet theater in Catania.
Today, we are guests of one of the oldest families of artisans in Catania, who let us discover their “home” to understand more closely the origins of an ancient craft: “Il puparo”
To welcome us is Fiorenzo, the head of the family, together with one of his four children, Davide. As soon as we cross the threshold of the shop, now transformed into a real museum, we are catapulted into a past steeped in history, art, tradition, and love of this splendid family. It is a riot of colors, frescoes hanging on the walls, billboards, trinkets, tools of the trade, and right in front of us, a small stage set up for theatrical performances where their “puppets” come to life.
The feeling we unanimously felt was to find ourselves in the land of wonder and with wide eyes, the only words we could say were “how wonderful”! The workshop, home of the wonderful Sicilian puppets, was once inhabited by the family: grandparents, uncles, grandchildren, children, a core of artists, painters, craftsmen, actors, writers, and storytellers. We are immediately enraptured by the story of Fiorenzo, who with his eyes still full of emotion tells us how as a child he slept in a bed in one of the rooms, how he lived his childhood in that house and that despite today being a guest at the museum, it is as if nothing had changed over time and his ancestors were still there to support the family in carrying on this ancient craft, made up of a lot of work, sacrifices but also great satisfaction.
In a moment, it is as if we have known each other forever. Fiorenzo makes us part of the family history, starting from the grandfather who transferred his art to his children with wonderful results, to the grandmother, a strong and authoritarian woman always alongside her husband in managing the business, to her uncles, one of whom considered the family genius for his great ability to create complex and wonderful canvases, who unfortunately passed away far too early. He tells us about his mentor uncle, with whom he had a conflictual relationship for his being gruff and austere, but at the same time, he considered a friend and model to follow in order to “steal” his profession. And then of the father who, having received the inheritance of master puppeteer at a young age, worked tenaciously to continue the profession of his ancestors, transferring techniques and skills to his children, who today flank him with devotion carrying around the world the theatrical representations of Sicilian puppets. And again mother Italia, a strong, lovable, stubborn, elegant and wonderful woman, a woman of great beauty both inside and out, a woman who managed to reconcile the work of mother and wife with the professional one. In short, a true Sicilian woman and mother!!!
Davide, takes advantage of a moment of distraction by Fiorenzo to tell us the difference between marionetta, burattino and pupo, of which perhaps not everyone is aware – and even there everything becomes magic – but it is their voices and their story that makes it such. Meanwhile, listening to everything are the protagonists of the story, all in a row hanging here and there, of all ages and sizes: the beloved “Sicilian puppets”, the immense artistic and cultural heritage; and as we look at them it is as if they had a soul, the soul of each member of the family, who for generations has made the scenes on the stages of the whole world, in its past and present, wonderful works entirely built and painted by hand, covered with clothes made from ancient fabrics embellished with splendid embroidery.
And if today the Sicilian puppets are recognized all over the world and present in the UNESCO list of intangible assets, we must thank the puppet masters, who with love and dedication have made known the tradition and history of Sicily all over the world!
What can we say? Even today a day full of emotions, emotions that touch the soul, emotions that overwhelm, rock, and at the same time enchant.
Thank you for this dive into the family past and for showing us this jewel of art, history, and culture, located in the heart of Catania!!!!
We are ready for a new experience .. and you?