More Than a Barber

Lino finally went into pensione, retirement. He was the only barbiere, barber in the little hilltop town of Fiesole for over 50 years. That’s a lot of clipping, snipping and barber talk in the mirror. He gave the best haircut ever. After his heart attack, he rallied and made a comeback for another 2 years. But eventually, he just couldn’t do it anymore, as he was creeping up on 80 years old. It was his life. His son wasn’t interested in being a barber and went away seeking his own career. With no one to take over the family business, Lino simply rolled the shutter down one day and walked away.

I Would Have to Hold My Ear for Lino

Country barbers are my preference, but finding a good one these days is a challenge, especially when you’ve been spoiled by Lino. I remember in his last days at the shop, his left hand couldn’t grip anymore. He asked me if I would hold my ear down while he trimmed around it. It was my pleasure.

My first impulse was to try the lone barber in Santa Brigida, just across the valley. I had seen him in his single room snipping away. So I drove over one morning on a scouting mission and was surprised to find that his shutter was also closed tight with no sign of life. I asked a man sitting outside the coffee bar what time he opened. He said, “Il barbiere non c’è più”, the barber isn’t here any more. It turns out that his shop had been closed for about a year. It reminded me of when we first moved here, we went to Santa Brigida for gas, to find that the station was not only closed, but had been completely removed many years ago. Driving back out of town, we noticed that the sign posted at the end of the street was a tad bit rusted and teetering on its wooden post—a clue we didn’t pick up on. Oh well. Apparently someone just forgot to take down the sign.

Borgunto Central

The little town of Borgunto held some promise. It’s close and the local barber shop is always busy, which is a good sign. The door is right at the skinny part of the road, where you have to watch your step or possibly get sideswiped by a passing Fiat. The Borgunto barber’s name is Simone—a really nice guy. As he was clipping away on my hair, I asked him a question about the town. My question inspired him to go into the back room and come out with an ancient history book full of pictures. He asked if I wanted to take it home to read. I said no thanks, not wanting the responsibility of that Borguntonese heirloom in my possession. He did a good enough job on the haircut, but I still missed Lino, so I decided to continue my search.

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Gabriele’s place

Sieci, the town down the hill has a barber I went to a few times, but eventually became disillusioned with the cut. He was the last country barber in the “neighborhood,” so I broke my own rule and ventured to the outskirts of Florence. We had often passed a shop that looked friendly and inviting, so I decided to give it a whirl. It’s really “up-town”. Not only are there two chairs, but TWO barbers. That’s a bit intimidating but I didn’t let it scare me away. Piero is an older man. He’s interesting to talk to and gives a really mean haircut. His little finger waves in the air as his scissors make that chattery clicking sound. He even does this fancy thing with his hands before going in for the cut, as if he’s rolling a ball of yarn. In some ways it’s like a magic act. He reminds me of Edward Scissorhands. Yet even with the artistry and drama, he’s still no match for Lino.

Hmmm. Maybe I’ll explore the little nearby towns of Caldine and Pian di Mugnone. It’s either do a little more searching or perfect my Willie Nelson braiding skills.

Gotta go. It’s time for my haircut.

Note: You may also be interested in two other barber stories called—”Life On the Cutting Edge,” and “The Gift of Belonging.”


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