September 29, 2020
One day in August, a friend of a friend contacted me. Her name is Susan and she was going to visit Chiavari for a few days. Susan is an Ex-pat living in Tuscany. We chatted and decided to meet for lunch at Lord Nelson’s Pub, one of my favorite restaurants in Chiavari.
Not only does Lord Nelson’s have exceptional food and wine, it is right on the Lungomare. The day was dark and cloudy. There was a bit of a chill in the air. But we chose to eat outside.
When I saw her hair color, I knew we could be kindred spirits. We placed our orders and continued chatting. Actually, we were having such a good talk as we ate and drank our wine, I forgot to take any photos. Here is the type of food available at Lord Nelson’s (Shared from their website).
Freshly caught fish, always so flavorful.
Always vegetables in season and fresh meat.
Hand made Ravioli and Ragu.
Gorgeous, freshly made dolce. Susan enjoyed her meal so much that she returned a few more times while staying in Chiavari.
After our excellent meal with the sea as our landscape, we began to explore my town. We wandered through a portico or three, several piazze, and did some window shopping.
One place Susan wanted to visit was Franco Casoni’s shop. I hoped he was open. Franco is a famous sculptor but is even more well known for what he creates from birch wood to be used in many Italian kitchens, especially in Chiavari and Liguria—a stamp to make corzetti.
Corzetti are coin shaped pasta with intricate shapes on the coin. There are very few people alive today who make the stamps for this pasta. Franco is probably the most skilled and the most well-known.
Susan loves to cook and already had a couple of these stamps. She had bought them here a few years ago. Now she wanted to add one to her collection.
We found him outside his door, assisting children who were attempting to make the stamps.
Even though he wore a mask we could see the mischievous attitude in his eyes. Susan asked him if he could make a stamp for her and reminded him of her visit a few years ago. He welcomed us into his dusty shop and began to chat (in Italian of course).
Susan described the stamps she already owned and then expressed her interest in tall wheat to be on her new stamp.
His tiny, cluttered workshop was stuffed with every kind of wood, art, articles and magazines. It was almost overwhelming. My senses were struggling to take it all in. And he loved to chat. We stood in his little woodshop for 10 minutes just talking—mostly him chatting away and asking questions.
Before he would carve Susan’s Stamp, he took us next door to see his artwork. This space was organized just as any museum would be.
It is an incredible experience to spend time with him,
and listen to him explain how the ideas come to him,
how he works the wood,
How he uses Coke to help texture and smooth out the little cuts.
Above is his creation of an ancient shield made of wood. There were so many pieces. He told us that now he only works on commission. These pieces were from his own mind, his ideas.
After devouring these works of incredible art, we returned to his workshop and watched him create Susan’s press.
He created both sides of her Corzetti press and chatted throughout the process.
When he finished his work, he wrote down instructions on how to use it and what to make with it.
Below is a copy of one Corzetti press set.
Even after spending perhaps an hour or so with Franco Casoni, he walked around the corner with us and bought a coffee for each of us. What a very intriguing soul, this Franco Casoni. I hope to go there again soon and simply talk with him. He does not keep regular hours, however. But if you are in Chiavari you may find him at Villa Bighetti 75.
On the same piazza, we visited a local church, La Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista.
Inside we enjoyed a quiet moment
and the art.
This Romanesque Church of St. John the Baptist is decorated from top to bottom. It was a pleasant spot where we sat quietly in the pew for a bit.
After leaving this location and having coffee, I showed Susan where the restaurant Luchin, another gem in centro storico was situated. I could recommend It for the most traditional restaurant I know of here in Chiavari. We then joined the locals sitting in another large piazza where families played football and other games. Dogs visited us as did some of the footballs.
We ended our evening enjoying an aperitivo together before saying arrivederci. It was such a wonderful day, meeting Franco and knowing I would see him again. And Susan was a gift. I believe we have become friends and I look forward to seeing her again.
Being a single woman in Italy makes it a bit challenging to make friends. Susan made it easy to become friends. And we enjoyed our day of exploration in Chiavari. You can visit here too.
Until then, stay healthy, dream of Italy and enjoy life as much as you can.
Ciao for now!
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