Let’s start from Milan on a freezing January afternoon just behind the famous “giorni della merla” in Lombard slang that means the coldest days of the year.
A classic Mercedes van is waiting for me downstairs, to get me to Tuscany exactly within the historic area of Panzano in Chianti.
The C41 magazine crew accompanies me recklessly and casually as always. A blizzard welcomes us in the middle of the highway journey, the forecasts were not wrong this time. Giuseppe Verdi’s arias are on our soundtrack. Let’s make a stop in a service station, with such a crazy cold wind, grab a coffee, a packet of cigarettes and we’ll start off again. We are awake and hyper-excited to keep moving.
After a couple of hours of sleep, we leave the highway and we are entering the hills where the landscape becomes cleaner, all nature has been whitewashed, as in Fargo. In my imagination, Tuscany had always been an emerald sort of green, yet I don’t care, it’s beautiful. I’m not wearing the North Face de rigueur down jacket, but on the other hand, I do wear a beautiful Barbour blue one – that for the cold doesn’t provide me a fucking thing. Fuck.
Our driver (Carlo) drives with extreme safety and suddenly, after a bend, we arrive into the midst of a tiny village right smack on the provincial road. Panzano in Chianti. One of those anonymous and beautiful villages typical of the stages of the tour of Italy (a century-old annual cycling competition). And echo that movement a second time as quickly we overcome another bend and stop in front of a butcher shop and waiting for us right in front of his entrance, we find Dario Cecchini. He looks like a Czar dressed in his red colour with a fluffy furry hat on his head, stacked tall, plus his very thick eyebrows, ice cold eyes and a charisma so powerful that with his eyes alone he can mortify you.
I introduce myself, as the whole crew shows up. Timidly we enter into the butcher shop and Dario immediately makes us feel like we were always at home. Not even the time to take off our jackets before we’re sitting at the table with a flask of red wine (Chianti) in our hand and a hunk of grilled Florentine meat that I’m still trying to get rid of in terms of its cholesterol.
Dario Cecchini is a force of nature, he is the most famous butcher in Italy. He inherited his “stump” (a local term used to define the cutting board on which meat is cut) from his great-grandfather’s days.
A job, butchering, that Dario would never have imagined doing himself because initially, he wanted to become a veterinarian. But sometimes fate plays us tricks because his dad dies and then he finds himself behind the butcher’s “stock”. A strain that is over 100 years old and that today Dario considers as his altar, a place from which he never leaves, on the one exception if he is obliged to travel for work.
He knows by heart the verses of the Divina Commedia, “L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle” the last verse of Paradise that he uses to welcome his customers into his kingdom, the Panzano butcher’s shop.
A kingdom made solely out of deep respect for others, for all collaborators and for the precious animals themselves that are raised personally with each one being followed from birth until their slaughter. All part of a culture of Dario’s that has been handed down for three generations. Not just a job but a philosophy of life, about the flesh being a source of wealth and including an insatiable desire for humanity. W the meat
This story is featured on C41 ISSUE 8 Memory.