Sepino is a town of rich history with incredible beauty, but the people of Sepino are the true treasure of the town. We have been fortunate to meet a myriad of artisans and craftsmen from diverse backgrounds who take raw products and turn them into things of beauty.
The Mayor: Starting from the top down, Mena Zeoli, is the lady who makes it all happen. She has been Mayor of Sepino for one and a half years now and is making some progressive strides to revitalize tourism and build the economy of the town. With her doing, Sepino was labeled among the 208 most beautiful villages in Italy, I Borghi piú Belli d’Italia (The Most Beautiful Villages in Italy). Her efforts go above and beyond, as she toured us around the city and helped us meet many of the artisans around the town. I was amazed how kind she was to us and our children.
The Contractor: One of the first men we met in town was “Don” Guiseppe, Guiseppe carried the label “Don” because he is well respected. He was very nice and showed us a few of his current building projects, all with unique and differing elements to them. He also took us to his son Carmines home to show off his past work and offer us limoncello with some pastries and juice for the kids. Jay was able to pick his brain about construction. Their is a movement in Italy, much like the U.S. to restore property to its original state. In the 70’s and 80’s the buildings in Italy were covered over with plaster and made to look very plain. Now they are restoring the old rustic stone walls of buildings to their original state and creating more ornate decoration on the interiors.
An interesting fact that we learned is that not many people know how to work with wood. It is rare to build with wood here and it is very costly. Everyone is a stone mason, so there is tile, travertine, and marble everywhere. Even drywall is a new concept here and there are few people who know how to do it well. Don Guiseppe’s parting advice to Jay was, “You have a passion for this type of work, I can tell! You’d do well here, buy a house.” Not the kind of advice I was hoping he would give Jay. =)
The Weaver: One morning Mayor Mena took us to meet Paisano Pepe, who is the only artisan basket weaver in Sepino. The wood comes from a native tree whose limbs are flexible and strong. Paisano Pepe was very kind and showed us how he starts the process of making a basket. So simple, yet complicated in the same. It was truly art in the making. We were told that the peasants used to weave baskets in the wintertime to keep busy and sell in the spring. As we parted, he gave our kids each a basket and a larger one for the family.
The Dairy Farmer: Just down from the village is a local dairy farm with 11 cows. We met the owner Francesco and his wife. We were able to come by during milking times and watch the process. Their was also a baby calf in a pen that Jay and Stella gave some milk to. A good amount of his milk is sold to the local cheese makers, and the rest is sent off to be processed and packaged. He was very kind and sent us home with some fresh warm milk straight from the cow! Wow, was it delicious! He also has another property with more cows used for meat, which he supplies to the local butcher shop in Sepino.
The Knife Maker: Before we left on this trip, Jay said he wanted some handmade butcher knives. Well, much to our surprise, there was a knife maker in Sepino! His name is Carlo Buono, whose craft has been handed down for generations in his family. The raw metal used to form the blades and handles are shipped from his brother in Germany. All the metal comes roughly formed into the shape of a knife. Carlo then takes the raw metal and further shapes and sharpens it into a razor sharp work of art. All of the knife handles are cut and formed out of olive wood, oak wood and even some glass. It is a true work of art coming from a very simple workshop. Jay was thrilled to be able to pick up a beautifully handcrafted chef knife to start his collection.
Our time in Sepino, Italy was wonderful. The people we met there showed us a great deal of hospitality, friendliness, and kindness. Everyone was patient with us when we butchered the Italian language, and they also loved our kids, especially Romolo, who they thought was our little German boy because of his blonde hair. Thank you Mena and Sepino for your kindness! We can’t wait to come back again!