Venetian Plaster - a purist point of view.
Venetian Plaster a purist point of view. By Anthony J Fiocco
I distribute a product called FirmoLux™, a collection of Italian lime plasters and material imported from Italy and sold internationally. I decided to start this blog mainly in an attempt to bring attention to something I feel passionate about. My intention is to bring a level of quality and craftsmanship back to a trade built on generations of talented individuals that created an industry out of their hard work and gifted abilities handed down to them by their ancestors over generations. I hope this blog begins a dialog that will help us shape relationships with applicators/artisans that share in the enthusiasm of using traditional natural Italian lime plasters.
I'd like to write about the first plasterer I ever knew, my grandfather Antonio Fiocco. He was a man that made an impression on me at an early age and who immigrated to America from Villa Santo Stefano, a small village in southern Italy an hour south of Rome. He left a country on the verge of World War I and during a time Northern Italy was rapidly being industrialized. Many ordinary northern Italians saw a rise in their standard of living; while the south remained poor and somewhat backward.
Without the promise of a good education and lacking opportunities, his future in Italy seemed bleak… so he and some other young men from his village boarded in Naples, the steamship RMS Saxonia I (1900-1925) and embarked on a journey that would change the rest of their lives.
Being 17 years old, I can only imagine the excitement and fear he was experiencing, but I'm sure his decision to leave was an easy one. He traveled to America and with him brought dreams and aspirations for a better life; one that allowed him to earn and benefit from his hard work and labors in a land where "the streets are paved in gold". He was welcomed to Ellis Island 101 years ago last month with only $27 in his pockets.
Like many that journeyed with him on those ships crossing the Atlantic, they assimilated into the American lifestyle and culture. They were proud of the heritage but thrilled about their new beginning and country. Some achieved greatness because of their determination, old world craftsmanship and an inner strength to become the best at what they did. He used to tell me that he was a painter… and this was always confusing for me because I never saw him with a paint brush nor did I see him paint. It wasn't until years later while on a trip to Italy that I discovered that the craftsman that applied plaster (called "stucco" in Italy and pronounced/stew…koe/ in Italian); were referred to as painters and proudly wore long white lab coats with white paper style hats… a uniform and icon of their trade then and still today. I still have a vision of him with his white lab coat… a doctor of plaster.
He found his way to the honeymoon capital of the world, Niagara Falls, a city brimming predominantly with Italian and Polish immigrants and a sprinkle of Irishman to make things interesting. Niagara Falls was also enjoying the boom of the industrial revolution and there were plenty of jobs for the boat of immigrants that arrived. There were chemical, automotive, and steel factories working twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week… and as a result created a construction boom that swallowed up the talents of a man like Antonio.