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Mastri d’ascia of Aci Trezza

A true story Massimo Vittorio

Places where memories and emotions are imprinted are typically called places of the soul. The Shipyard Rodolico is one of these, a place of the soul of a family that for five generations has been an essential part of the seafaring town of Acitrezza. A place where every object: tools, pieces of wood and even sawdust is saturated with passion and desire to work. Draftsman, marine engineer, carpenter, woodworker but also, and most of all, artist… This is the real description of a “Mastro D’ascia”, a shipwright.

An almost extinct profession, just like the wooden ships they build, but one that still tries to endure, with perseverance and passion. Despite the extraordinary technical preparation and prowess needed to fulfill the role of the Mastro D’Ascia, their services are less and less sought-after; due to a 90’s european legislation, licences for fishing permits are limited and, as a consequence, orders for ships have decreased.

Shipyards that use wood as a construction material for high quality boats still exist today. Here the Maestri D’ascia take care of the most delicate parts of construction and maintenance of the hull.

Only a few italian towns still maintain, with difficulty, their maritime traditions, such as Molfetta (BA), Manfredonia (FG), Monte Argentario (GR), Piano Di Sorrento (NA), Marina Di Cassano (NA) and Aci Trezza (CT).

In these places the smell of timber is still present, like it was at the times of the Malavoglia, characters from the novel set in Aci Trezza by Giovanni Verga. The history of the Rodolico family is intertwined with the identity of the land, and already a part of its historic memory for five generations. They built ships just like the history of this country was built, from small boats all the way to the simultaneous construction of six great ships, in the ‘80 and the first half of the 90’. And today?

Today the market has been significantly reduced, they consider taking on a few small maintenance projects on small crafts, the so-called “ratteddi” in the Sicilian dialect. The art of the Maestro D’ascia even puts itself at the service of building rocking horses for children. They aim at survival, resisting (in their spaces) by diversifying the business. For example, by welcoming groups of tourists as they linger, fascinated, admiring an art that was and still wants to be. They walk inside the shipyard and, while looking at every tool, they listen to the Maestro D’Ascia narrating its (own) history. Inside the shipyar the light is faint, it casts shadows, it draws arches and curves; but the smell of timber enters the nose and awakens memories. The wood has always been the life partner of the Maestro D’Ascia Turi Rodolico, with a relationship made of passion, effort, tenacity. Embracing profound values like friendship, family, hope. The wood is the essence of the Rodolicos and I, through these photographs, wanted to pay tribute to who, although with many difficulties but still with dignity, doesn’t give up on keeping the traditions that make Aci Trezza, our place of the soul, unique in the world.