Team Cotto

The crumbling stone walls needed a new cap and so the work began!

Alfonso asked us for a piece of the old tile to check the dimensions. We looked at each other with a shrug as Cheryl said, “il cotto vecchio non è qui, the old clay tile isn’t here.” Whoops! Since he was at a critical point in capping the wall, we jumped in the car and tore down the hill to Gionni’s salvage yard to pick one up. We hoped to get back in time before the cement set. Cheryl dialed the cell phone to tell Gionni that we would be there in 30 minutes while Em negotiated the twisting, narrow roads on the shortcut route.

Team-CootGionni was busy working his second job at the marble quarry, so he alerted his wife of our pending arrival. She dropped what she was doing to meet us at the salvage yard. The gate was open when we arrived, so we drove right in. Pulling up next to the rows of centuries old cotto, we hopped out, folded the seats forward to open up more space in the back of the car, which we have used on many occasions as a piccolo camion, small truck.

We decided to take as many as we could carry to minimize our total number of trips. After loading the 10th handmade piece into the back, we heard a loud pop, one had broken—our favorite piece with the rich yellow ocher patina. We each grimaced at the unfortunate loss and asked Gionni‘s wife to telephone him for advice on how to best load the car for a “break-free” trip home. His response was immediate: within seconds we had insight gleaned from years of handling fragile old materials. She turned to us and said, “Non così, not like this.” She uttered some sound of agreement to Gionni and then said, “In piedi, on their feet.” The simple translation was “on their ends,” (like a deck of cards) since the weight stacked one on top of the other would only result in breakage. We quickly rearranged things getting a total of 18 tiles into the trunk. We exchanged ciaos out the window and sped off toward the hills.


Rolling to a stop in our driveway, Cheryl jumped out of the car and took one of the tiles to Alfonso, who seemed to be standing at the fresh cement surface with hand outstretched—not even looking her direction. It was as though he expected her to be there. He casually took the tile from her hands and laid it into place. Alfonso took a step back to assess the dimension, then turned to his colleague, Ervis. Satisfied with the tile, Alfonso simply said, “perfetto, perfect!” We all glanced at each other and smiled. It really is a thing of beauty when a tricky plan comes together.

Note: You may also enjoy a related story about another very cool salvage yard—”Never Rusting On His Laurels.”




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