The spirit of the Italian Lakes
Further around the shore and up again towards the Ossola valley, another of the region’s historical industries is flourishing. Candoglia marble – a distinctive pink and white stone streaked with grey – has been taken from the hills here for centuries. In 1387, the Visconti family declared its quarry the property of the Duomo, the cathedral in Milan then just beginning to be built. After an impressive 579 years of construction, the final gate of the Duomo was opened in 1965. The cathedral now requires constant maintenance. In the village of Candoglia, Lino Rossini has pieces of the Duomo’s Gothic embellishments lying around his atelier. There is a length of one side of a 200-year-old arch turned black and porous with pollution. What once were precisely carved vine leaves are reduced to charred, indistinct lumps. ‘See this?’ says Lino. He takes out a chisel and taps lightly on the old piece. A brittle lump splits off as if it were moulded from sugar. Lino crumbles it easily in his hand. ‘Don’t worry,’ he says. ‘I will make a new one.’ He gestures to a new block of marble, half-carved into a perfect replica of the old arch. New, sharp-edged vine leaves emerge from the stone as if they had just grown there. Drifts of sparkling white marble dust surround the block. In the warmth of an Italian day, it looks incongruously like freshly fallen snow. ‘The Duomo is like an illustrated sculpture book,’ he says. ‘In its design you can read the history of Italy.’ He points to a sculpted panel of a pumpkin. ‘When new things were imported from America for the first time in the 15th century, they were commemorated with a panel in the Duomo. There are exotic flowers. And potatoes. They were very exotic then too.’ Lino has been working with marble since he was just 15 years old. And now, half a century later, he appears to have lost none of his enthusiasm. ‘I love everything about my job,’ he enthuses. ‘Each restoration piece is different. My son Nicolao works with me now. He will keep the Duomo looking beautiful for many years to come.’
Guided tours are available of the Candoglia quarry, which is situated 9 miles from Stresa (Antica Cava di Marmo, Ornavasso).
See Lino Rossini's sculptures first hand by visiting the Duomo di Milano (Piazza del Duomo 20121, Milan).