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Florence, Italy: Renato & Davide Olivastri- Masters of Wood

Updated on July 17, 2016

Student Work

Renato (R) and Davide (L)

Reincarnation, 16th c Lisbon, and a sexy alien come together to form a unique and suspenseful story

Intarsia Artwork by Davide

Wood Masters' Bottega

It Warmed My Heart Instantly...

Father and son working alongside in this cozy bottega tucked away in one of the side streets of the Oltrarno. Renato (the father, although he looks like the older brother) told me that opened the bottega in 1985, but he has been working as a Fallegname (Carpenter) since the age of thirteen.

Specializing mainly in restoration, Renato informed me that they also do intarsia (inlay work) and French Boulle technique. André-Charles Boulle was the French cabinetmaker famous for marquetry and perfecting the inlaying of brass and tortoise shell.

In fact, Renato was restoring a charming 18th century tortoise-shell clock when I arrived. Synthetic tortoise shell is used in place of the real thing today, of course, but you could not tell the difference once the restoration is done. I was surprised to discover that artificial tortoise shell has been around since the early 1900's.

Renato's son, Davide, was busily working as I spoke with his father. When I asked Davide if he feels lucky to be able to work in the bottega as a specialized artisan, he told me that he couldn't imagine working in an office cubicle or inside a bank. He enjoys working with wood and I was amazed to see some of his intarsia pieces hanging on the wall (yes, they're for sale!).

Renato offers classes to those who wish to learn intarsia technique. He takes on 2 - 3 students at a time and the class is about 40 - 50 hours total. In that time frame the students learn enough to make a small work of art. I was very impressed to see the student work (see photo) and almost tempted to take the class myself if I had the extra time. For those coming to stay for a few weeks, this is a great idea.

While there are a few pieces displayed in the window, this is not a showroom, but an authentic Florentine bottega, so do take a peek when you are in the area. As always, thanks for reading!

Renato Olivastri
Via dei Velluti, 21 r

C. De Melo
Author & Artist


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