“Razors and combs, / lancets and scissors, / at my command / everything’s ready”, sings Figaro in “The Barber of Seville”. The voice of the leading character of Rossini’s world-famous opera probably ringed in the ears of the illustrious patrons of Antica Barbieria Colla, every time they put their looks in the trusted hands of the artists working here.
Stars of Italian literature like D’Annunzio and Pirandello, as well as masters of opera like Puccini and Toscanini, sat in the armchairs of this shop, founded by Dino Colla in 1904 and currently managed by Franco Bompieri. Patrons also included Pirelli, Falck, and other cornerstones of Milan’s industrial scene; singer-songwriters Giorgio Gaber and Enzo Jannacci; and director Luchino Visconti, who offered Bompieri the part of the barber in his 1960 masterpiece, “Rocco and His Brothers”.
Scissors and hot towels have become the symbols of this oasis of relaxation: here, the former have never been replaced by electric clippers; and the latter have always been used to restore skin after shaving.
Seneca, in “De brevitate vitae”, says that those “who are occupied with the comb and the mirror” waste their time in an “idle occupation”.
Here, however, an idle moment can restore your energy, like a balm for the soul.