Legends, artisans, and stories of mechanics and resourcefulness: welcome to Pesariis, hometown of great inventions
Pesariis (Carnia, Friuli) – How many times have we been bored, sitting on a bench and waiting for a train or an airplane? How many times have we lifted our heads up and spied on the arrival and departure display, in the hopes that our wait would quickly come to an end?
In a few of these occasions, we could ask ourselves where those digital displays come from, with their numbers flipping by with the passing of the minutes. But our thoughts are already so many that they hardly have time to reach these topics.
Watching our third docu-web (after A Fisherman and A Mountain Man), many might find it very interesting to discover that their origin is Italian, from the region of Friuli to be precise. In the 1930s, Fermo and Remigio Solari invented the “number flip“, that replaced the classic clock hands. These two entrepreneurs descend from a great Carnia family of clock-makers that in the town of Pesariis, in the 1700s, founded the “Fratelli Solari”, “the ancient and renowned tower clock factory”.
Pesariis, that today counts 178 inhabitants, gives the name to the enchanting Val Pesarina, a valley that is green in the summer and white in winter, with woods and lawns that embrace ten small towns of tall narrow stone houses.
In the background you see the towering rocky walls of the Pesarine Dolomites that, at sundown, seem to light up in the fire colors of the alpenglow. Along the small winding roads, the story of this valley seems to unfold: the story of ingenious artisans that, from the 1600s, have been building all sorts of clocks.
“A Watch Man“, the third docu-web of Storie di chi, follows this story, with the images of the filmmaker Naù Germoglio and the words of Amanzio Solari, retired worker of the “Fratelli Solari”.
From the end of the 1930s, the business moved its headquarters to the city of Udine – becoming the “Solari di Udine” – but it was founded here, in Pesariis.
The legend seems to state that to set the beginning to this particular art was a pirate from the town of Chiavari, named Solari. He was sent to Carnia, from the Republic of Genoa, as a political prisoner. Unsure of the precise when and how, legend has it that the young man shared a very particular ability with the people of the town he arrived in: the ability to build contraptions to measure time. He may have learned this ability in Chiavari, where they had been building tower clocks for a long time, or in Germany, where many people from the Carnia area, upon order of the Republic of Venice, were sent to buy spices arriving from the East.
What is certain is that many houses in Pesariis seemed to manufacture a particular kind of pendulum clock already from the 1600s. The valley’s clock-making vocation then developed industrially from 1725, founding year of the Orologi Solari factory, and became famous worldwide especially for its tower clock construction. The business is still active to this day and specializes in the construction of digital clocks and displays: yes, precisely the ones that we rapidly consult when we are at the train station or the airport.
Val Pesarina is hence called, understandably, the Valley of Time, and the traces of its 400 year old history (and story) are wonderfully displayed in the suggestive monumental time-measuring machine walk.
The village of Pesariis, in fact, hosts 14 of these machines, between monumental clocks and sundials. The same retired workers of the Fratelli Solari factory built these original and priceless pieces of art that decorate the town streets.
The passion of these artisans, born and raised in the small and lively artistic center of Italian clock-making, is limitless. Many of them have even come to turn their garages and basements into actual pendulum clock workshops.
“Pesariis has always been in the service of Time. Even if Time seems to have stopped here”
These are the words of Amanzio, and he speaks the truth. The fairy-tale looking village and valley are motionless, undisturbed and wrapped in silence. The long story of Pesariis and of the Val Pesarina artisans is narrated in the Clock Museum, where you can find ancient time-measuring devices on display, from the very first pendulum clocks to tower ones, with the related illustrated evolution from the 1700s to 1950. To collect and tell this story are artisans like Amanzio Solari, narrator of this docu-web, and Renzo Martin, that we here see at work in his workshop full of machines and utensils for the construction of wall clocks.
Enjoy the viewing of “A Watch Man“!
WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY Silvia Zanardi