Purely Tuscan words: mesticheria

I posted about this great shop recently, and want to dig in a little deeper on the roots of such a business in Florence.  Let’s focus for a minute on just exactly what kind of “paint store” is being advertised here and in a few other Florentine businesses.


From Wiktionary (https://it.wiktionary.org/wiki/mesticheria) we learn that the word mesticheria in italiano is a feminine singular noun and means the following:


mesticheria f sing

  1. termine prettamente toscano, indica una bottega dove si vende l’occorrente per dipingere o verniciare, e piccoli utensili per la manutenzione della casa (è molto frequente però trovarci le cose più svariate, come prodotti di giardinaggio o prodotti tessili)   A rough English translation: a purely Tuscan work indicating a shop wherein one can buy paints and small tools needed to maintain a home.


mesticherìa s. f. [der. di mestica], region. – Bottega di colori già preparati, di vernici e di tutto ciò che occorre a pittori, verniciatori, imbianchini, e sim.  Rough English translation:  Shop selling prepared colors, paints, and all that is needed for both. http://www.treccani.it/vocabolario/mesticheria/

The latter definition speaks more clearly of the ancestry of these Tuscan shops: for a flourishing fresco tradition to exist and develop, extensive site preparations are necessary.  In order to prepare for a fresco, certain agents are needed to make the colored paints adhere to and chemically interact with the plastered wall below them.

I recently had a conversation with Jeremy Boudreau, the head of the art history department at the British Institute in Florence, and he said that only in Florence does one find this kind of shop, or a meticheria, selling the materials needed to create frescoes.

My guess, though, is that if you walked into one of these shops, they would be hard pressed to provide you with the materials needed to prepare a surface for the art of fresco.  It has been a while, I would imagine, since the likes of Giotto or Michelangelo needed paint supplies for this specific art form!

And, again…call me crazy, but I wonder where artists and their assistants purchased these materials in say Padua or Roma?  Did someone have to go to Florence to buy artistic materials for frescoes?!


Small signs warning graffiti creators not to paint anything appear on many exterior walls in Florence.  Typically, the creators seem to obey the signs.  But, right on a major Lungarno street (street along the Arno river), someone could not help themselves and painted–in a beautiful graphic style, I might add–words that both support immigrants and denounces Fascism.

Immigration is a huge issue in Italy.  A week or so ago an immigrant was shot dead on the street that I walk on at least weekly and sometimes several times a week.  I happened to be walking down this street shortly after the murder.  Carabinieri and police were everywhere.  I didn’t find out until later that a man in his 60s was planning to commit suicide, but lacked the nerve, so he walked outside and shot the first person he saw.  At least that’s what I read.

There was a march last Sunday in support of immigrants.  It is such a sad story, all these displaced people from the middle east and northern Africa, whose lives are ripped apart by endless civil wars.

Despite the fact that this graffiti is forbidden, I can’t help but admire the creator who felt compelled to state his/her support for the downtrodden.  And, in such a beautiful style.