Intarsia: The Brothers Stinga ☆☆

Intarsia being assembled by the Stinga Brothers, Intarsia: The Brothers Stinga, Sorrento, Italy (Photo © Reid Bramblett)
Intarsia being assembled by the Stinga Brothers

The artisans of Sorrento part II: The Brothers Stinga

For the design of the cathedral doors, Giuseppe Rocco worked with the Stinga clan, which have been the first family of Sorrento intarsia since 1890.

Brothers Roberto and Franco Stinga are the third generation to make Stinga Tarsia (Via L. De Maio 16, tel. +39-081-878-1130, www.stingatarsia.com) one of the top artisan shops in Sorrento for marquetry. The Via L. De Maio address is the shop/display room, but I like to stop by their actual studio at Via degli Aranci 102 to watch the masters at work.

"It's a family business," shrugs one of the brothers—with gray hair and a weary look, a bulbous nose sprouting several hairy boils—as he slowly pieces together a trio of identical scenes. Like 60% of the intarsia works around town, it is a typical Sorrento seascape, showing with trees and a tumble of rectilinear houses atop a curving coastline.

I tell him I had seen his name on the Cathedral doors, which were very beautiful.

"Eh, si. Those... those are belli," he says, going on to explain that the panels on the Duomo doors summed up the entire history of Sorrento, ending with a visit by John Paul II in 1992. "This was a papal town, too, in a way," he glances at me over his spectacles and gestures as if tossing something over his shoulder a few times. "Way back, though."

Then the maestro returns to tediously mosaicking his trio of 10" x 6" landscapes, each of which would sell for a mere €25 ($28).

The woman manning an intarsia shop on Corso Italia explained the surprisingly cheap prices for wood inlay.

"We keep is low so people will buy. We do it so the artisans won't disappear." She gestured around her little shop.

"Tourists won't spend more, and if the works don't sell, young people won't go into the craft." She shook her head. "Too many traditions die out."

Then the shopkeep suddenly switched on a smile to welcome a pair of young American women off the sidewalk. They had been in the shop yesterday and now wanted advice on where to have dinner.

I hoped they bought something.