The sun also rises…..over an atelier in Bassano del Grappa

Bassano del Grappa is approximately one hour’s drive from Venice. It is chocolate box pretty and home to the high-end manufacturer of luxury writing instruments, Elmo & Montegrappa.

 

Montegrappa

 

A summer vacation touring the many famous cities of Europe was interrupted by a work related trip to Bassano del Grappa in northern Italy. But don’t misconstrue. This was no chore. My deviation from the scheduled bout of well-planned laziness was eagerly anticipated.

 

Bassano del Grappa is approximately one hour’s drive from Venice. It is chocolate box pretty and home to the high-end manufacturer of luxury writing instruments, Elmo & Montegrappa.

 

The town has borne witness to terrible battles and much tragedy. The beautiful Bridge of Alpini spans the River Brenta and has been destroyed and rebuilt on several occasions. Adjacent to the bridge, walls are pockmarked with bullet holes.

 

The name Bassano del Grappa was adopted in 1928 after the former name Bassano Veneto was discarded due to the sad loss of thousands of lives in WWI. It seems remarkable that the comely charms of the town remain despite the sad events of the past.

 

Montegrappa

 

The beauty of the town has clearly provided inspiration for the creation of the pulchritudinous pens bearing the Montegrappa nomenclature.

 

Elmo was founded in 1912 and operates from the same location today in a beautiful, historic building. Two Austrians, Frau Edwige Hoffman and an engineer, Mr Heinrich Helm formed the company Elmo. This would subsequently be called Elmo & Montegrappa, adopting the name of the local mountain range.

 

Montegrappa

Montegrappa

Montegrappa

 

Initially Elmo made pen nibs, diversifying into pens later. The company may have been founded by two Austrians but it is quintessentially Italian and now belongs to the local Aquila family.

 

It seems remarkable that this small town, home of Italy’s oldest writing instrument company should also have played host to great luminaries such as Scott Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos and Ernest Hemingway.

 

Ernest Hemingway was posted to the town in WWI as an ambulance driver. He would visit the Elmo factory to purchase nibs and pens to record his thoughts to paper. His first novel The Sun Also Rises was published in 1926; however it is his novel, “A Farewell to Arms” (1929) which appears to draw inspiration from his war time experiences in Italy.

 

Today the pens crafted by Montegrappa are highly prized by notable literary figures including brand ambassador, Paulo Coelho.

 

I am guided around the production facility and each process is explained to me in minute detail.

 

Pens are constructed from acetate, celluloid or precious metal. Acetate is delivered to the factory in long lengths of different coloured cylindrical tubes. The skilled workers cut the material to size and the involved process of pen manufacturing commences.

 

Montegrappa

Montegrappa

 

Acetate provides a pleasing appearance, but it is the vivid blush of celluloid with its iridescent allure which catches my covetous eyes.

 

Celluloid could be affected by temperature when received from the suppliers in Italy, hence the material spends nine months being dried in an oven before it arrives at Montegrappa. On receipt it is cut to length and then spends a further four or five months being baked at 40° C. It is only after these preliminary stages that the material can be fashioned into the magnificent pens which toy with light coquettishly.

 

Those seeking the ultimate luxury experience may wish to select a pen begot of solid gold and adorned with precious gems.

 

The adroit workers at Montegrappa patiently bring into existence artistic forms which will impart pleasure and loyal service for decades to come.

 

I have visited several watchmaking workshops and always marvel at the time-served trades, peerlessly practised. Case makers, engravers and gem setters collaborate in concert to make the timepieces which engender dewy eyed appreciation in this middle-aged man. I experienced similar emotions whilst visiting Montegrappa.

 

Montegrappa

Montegrappa

 

I observed with incredulity the matchless engraving of a pen cap. The faultless scribing of detail was free of defect or deviation. The intricate lines applied by the engraver’s hand bestow an emotional connection with the owner that no machinery could usurp.

 

A pen which I covet is the Alchemist. Hewn from solid gold, it features various inlayed metals representing the elements of alchemy. Thankfully, the representation of mercury is a substitute material, so users of the pen will not be afflicted with premature madness. But, all other elements depicted on the body of the pen are genuine.

 

Montegrappa

 

There is no sense of haste in the air as you survey the manufacturing facilities contrary to the national stereotype of high speed diction and gestures. Everything is the product of forbearance and even temper. The clip on cap perfectly aligns with the nib when affixed to the end of the pen. There are no compromises at Montegrappa.

 

The quality control is exacting. I watch staff test each pen to ensure the nib performs perfectly. All surfaces have been subject to pertinacious polishing to achieve a blemish free finish, born to delight.

 

Montegrappa

Montegrappa

 

As mentioned Ernest Hemingway was a famous patron of the brand from Bassano and his novel, “Farewell to Arms” is tinged with sadness and woe. In contrast I smile when I look at the pens of Montegrappa. They harness love and affection imparted by artisans. A pen leaving sunny Bassano del Grappa could be destined for a fortunate owner anywhere in the world.

 

Montegrappa writing instruments proffer the pleasure of capturing poetic prose for future generations in the most stylish way.

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