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Watch “The Book Doctor”

Master book restorer Pietro Livi couldn’t find the right equipment to save large numbers of Italy’s priceless, flood-damaged texts. So he created a “Renaissance workshop” of experts from a variety of disciplines, and designed his own.

Italy’s Book Doctor

In the city of Bologna, home to the world’s oldest university (as well as some of Italy’s finest cuisine), Pietro Livi has developed an unusual machine shop. Part artisanal and part high-tech, his operation is a kind of Renaissance workshop, built to restore damaged ancient texts to their former glory. And then came Venice’s historic floods of 2019.

By LUISA GROSSO

The World’s Greatest Goldbeater

Marino Menegazzo spends his days hammering gold leaf into sheets so fine that your slightest touch will make them dissolve. His workshop—a simple brick building hidden on one of Venice’s myriad piazzas—was once the home and studio of Titian, Italy’s immortal Renaissance painter. Come visit with the world’s last true master of handmade gold leaf—an ancient craft where the hand can still beat the machine, every time.

By ERLA ZWINGLE

Listen to “The Soul of the Italian Shoe”

In Venice, Italy, a city built for endless walking, a determined young woman named Daniela Ghezzo has mastered the rare art of simultaneously beautifying and comforting the human foot.

Listen to “The World’s Greatest Goldbeater”

Marino Menegazzo hammers gold leaf by hand into sheets 200 times thinner than a human hair. He works in the same studio where Titian, one of Italy’s great Renaissance artists, once lived and painted. Now Menegazzo’s craft, where the hand can still beat a machine, is on the edge of extinction.

The Hidden Powers of The Forcola

How can a single oar give orders to a 36-foot boat that weighs 350 kilos (772 pounds) and why does the gondola obey? The answer is the forcola (FOUR-koh-la), the gondola’s oarlock, which is characterized by a unique, serpentine shape and is made of nothing more than wood. Each rowing position on each type of…

View “Building a Gondola”

Venice, Gondolas, and Black Magic

After suffering a year of twin terrors—historic floods and the Covid pandemic—the makers of Venice’s legendary gondolas are struggling to survive. To understand the unique design, history, and mystery behind this much-loved boat, our correspondent spent a year with Roberto Dei Rossi, one of the city’s last master gondola makers.

By ERLA ZWINGLE

Watch “The Violins of Cremona”

Since the 16th century, Cremona’s luthiers—including Stradivari himself—have been using a particularly resonant wood from Paneveggio, known as Italy’s “violin forest,” to handcraft the world’s finest violins. Then a 2018 storm decimated the forest. A band of experts in Cremona is now rallying to save this iconic tradition.

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