Luca Rafanelli’s Oltrarno

Luca Rafanelli has been painting umbrellas and bicycles since 1994. Perhaps he paints life as its flows – precipitating from the skies, or pedaling away in the streets – in front of his workshop in Florence, in via de’ Serragli, in the Oltrarno quarter, where the river “flows in its flattest bed”, to quote local writer Vasco Pratolini, who was born in nearby San Frediano.

Rafanelli, born in 1959, has lived all his life amongst the umbrellas, bicycles and workshops of the neighborhood. As a child, he played in the streets with his friends while craftsmen worked in front of their shops to take advantage of the sunlight; he saw their movements while not really looking, heard their words while not really listening.

Florence was then the place where a child could learn about a craft while playing in the streets. It was the place where, at some point, a young boy could learn from expert artisans how to restore and design furniture, finally opening his own shop to transform, invent, paint and sell the objects that speak to him.

The Oltrarno is still alive with the voices and sounds of that boy’s youth: bronzesmiths, blacksmiths, restorers, antique dealers call each other by name and discuss, fight, mock each other, and work. They bring the quarter to life. With umbrellas and bicycles, now and then, going by in front of their windows.

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December 11, 2013

Luca Rafanelli’s Oltrarno

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