The spirit of the Italian Lakes
The puppet makers
On the other side of Lugano is the tiny hamlet of Bedigliora, built higgledypiggledy along a winding road next to a 17th-century church. Just across the square, down a cobbled alley, is a house with frescoes of Italy’s most famous puppet, Pinocchio, painted on the plaster walls. This is the home of identical twins Giannina Tenti and Angela Leuenberger- Tenti. They open the door together – two identical ladies complete with identical neatly bobbed hair and identical broad smiles of welcome. Seven years ago, in a coincidence that seems to be common to some twins, Angela and Giannina suffered serious illnesses. They retired to pursue their shared dream of making puppets. Fantastical examples of these – fairies, goblins, mermaids, even a puppet of the Dalai Lama – hang from exposed and painted wooden beams in their living room. Beside a crackling fire, Angela and Giannina are hard at work sculpting, trimming, painting and sewing. Bedigliora, the cottage and the twins all look like something from a fairytale. ‘Every puppet is like a baby,’ explains Angela. ‘We can’t make two identical – even with us being identical twins!’ ‘You can tell who made which puppet,’ adds Giannina, ‘because they reflect our personalities. Angela’s are cheerful and outgoing, while mine look a little shyer.’ Angela and Giannina’s workshop contains a personal history of Bedigliora. Many puppets represent local characters, friends and family. In the village’s pretty church, the twins get out identical guitars and perform Amazing Grace in Italian, Swiss-German, English and Ticinese. ‘Welcoming visitors with music is a Bedigliora tradition,’ Angela explains. It’s one that everybody seems happy to keep going strong.
The Church of St. Roch in Bedigliora, consecrated in 1644, is open to visitors (Municipio Bedigliora, Bedigliora 6981, Lugano).