As a nation state, Italy has emerged only in 1871. Until then the country was politically divided into a large number of independant cities, provinces and islands. The currently available evidences point out to a dominant Etruscan, Greek and Roman cultural influence on today's Italians.
So I've discovered that my great-grandfather Giovanni Mangani (b.1870) was a shoemaker (calzolaio) in Chiaramonte Gulfi, Ragusa, Sicily. I've tried looking online but it's hard to find things about the lives of people in particular occupations, let alone in a particular place. I don't need specifics, but would anyone know where I can find some information about the life of a shoemaker in southern Italy during the mid/late 19th century?
I've been researching my husband's family for several years (Cafarelli from Basilicata) and have found that most of them were shoemakers also. So, I share your interest in learning more about what this might say about the life and status of the family.
I was also curious to find that there was a break in the tradition when one son (my husband's 2nd ggrandfather, who lived 1821-before 1876) became an arms maker (armiere). I haven't seen this occupation very often in records from Ferrandina and am interested to know more about this life as well and why ther son might have branched out into another craft.
Thanks, Tessa from me, too, as I also enjoyed your postings since my great-grandfather was a calzolaio in Italy as well. I don't know what it was like over there, but in the U.S. he ended up working in a shoe factory -- which I guess turned out OK as he got jobs for several of his children there as well. It looks like he came to the U.S. with no baggage, so maybe did not have his own tools? I found some listings in the city directory for him 8-10 years after his arrival in NY and he was listed as a "boot black" which I read is an unskilled job. So it seems like he wasn't able to utilize all his skills right away.
My father spent a lot of his youth with the local shoemaker in Canicatti, where he went, as much as anything to get him out of the house, and by watching him he learned a few tricks of the trade.
He came to the united kingdom as a young man, and in order to save a few pennies bought the tools he needed and right up until I left home he repaired our **SPAM**, new heels, new soles, made waxed string which as children my brother and I helped with, getting tangled in the string and laughed a lot too He also stiched torn seams, and handbags too. I think he was very proud in his part time hobby, and was asked by many of the neighbours to repair their **SPAM** too, which he did as friends. I think it was a true craft back in the day, but now sadly has been replaced by disposable cheap **SPAM**, and quick fixes that dont last.
My dad, too, talked about visiting his grandfather as a boy. He'd fix their **SPAM** in his shop in the basement, the adults would have wine. Seemed like warm memorable visits. It is a shame that we no longer have things like that anymore.