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Cinnabar red

Let's discover the Sicilian cart

[Tripper: Paola]
ITImpara l’arteRagusa Ibla, Sicilia

Cinnabar is a mineral consisting of mercury sulphide, from which a bright red pigment is obtained.
Don't worry, we are not in a chemistry lesson, we are talking about it because cinnabar red is one of the colors of the tradition of Sicilian carts. It is no coincidence that the company of the carters Damiano Rotella and Biagio Castilletti bears this name.

Pigmenti di rosso cinabro

Cinnabar red pigments

Damiano e Biagio

Damiano and Biagio


We went to visit them, to re-discover a story that is worth not losing. It is a long story of love, care, mastery, handed down orally as a witness from generation to generation.
The cart was a means of work, nothing so noble, nothing particularly sophisticated. But the role in Sicilian history has acquired the role of a true storyteller, a transporter not only of goods but also of culture. The carters were proud to show off their art around, proud to renew the amazement as they passed. With a spirit of competition we tried to do more and more, to do better and better.
The cart was a means of work, nothing so noble, nothing particularly sophisticated. But in Sicilian history it has acquired the role of a true storyteller, a transporter not only of goods but also of culture. The carters were proud to show off their art around, proud to renew the amazement as they passed. With a spirit of competition we tried to do more and more, to do better and better.
First the banks were decorated: artists, sculptors and painters represented moments of Sicilian life or epic or religious characters, and chose bright colors to be seen from afar. Cinnabar red was among their favorite colors and they used it, almost unaware of its toxicity: it penetrated under the skin of the hands, under the nails and when they ate, often directly in the shop, they did not curl of that color that ended up on the bread and on the cheese, so the mercury ended up in his blood.
Then the keys were also decorated, the cross parts that connect the two bars of the cart: first they were simple carvings in the wood, then they became increasingly sophisticated and colorful decorations. But it didn't end there. In addition to the decorations, the carts were also musical. Nothing was left to chance and even the metal parts necessary to join the axis of the wheels to the bottom of the case, were designed to emit a pleasant sound, which, together with the bells of the horse harnesses, produced, with the movement, the characteristic music.
When the cart passed, it somehow announced itself and everyone ran into the street to see it, to read the stories it was telling with their eyes.
Time moved slowly, to get from here to there there were no high-speed trains or low cost flights. It was the time when, to go from Catania to Syracuse, it took a whole week, and to learn a trade it took years. We went to the shop to be an apprentice, hoping one day to take the place of the master. And there were many skills in the carter's workshop: the carpenter, the blacksmith, the carver, the painter, not to mention those who took care of the horses.
Today, when we are in a hurry, it seems that few want to allow themselves the time to learn, to collect the secrets of the trade from the words of a master. Carts are no longer needed. There is no market, there is no demand, the end of the story.
But no, the passion that reaches you to listen to Damiano's stories doesn't have to end. A way must be found to give new life to tradition, to re-allocate it in this time and bring out all its value.
Luckily Damiano and Biagio from their shop in Ragausa Ibla have reached the whole world, bringing their art to household appliances, cars, bags. Their story has reached personalities from the world of entertainment, fashion and photography. So entering their site you will see a photo taken by Steve McCurry, the world famous photographer known to the general public for the photo of the Afghan girl; in the paper bags of Dolce and Gabbana you will see their workshop reproduced. Our advice is to go and visit them, to let yourself be fascinated by their narration and to carry it around, to make it live forever.

Damiano e Biagio

Colors

Esempi di chiavi del carretto

Examples of cart keys


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FAQScopri di più

Q. Where to park your car in Ragusa-Ibla?
A. To visit the historic center of Ibla you can leave your car at the Giardino Ibleo parking area or, more easily along via Avvocato Giovanni Ottaviano, before arriving at the car park of the same name, which is a good alternative but more distant.