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April 14, 2023


Photography and story by Simone Batini

In the small town of Pescaglia, located in the Serchio Valley, immersed in the woods of the Italian hills of the Tuscany region, the Art of the Coalman is handed down. An ancient and very important trade in the past for this area, because coal was at that time the engine of every house and of many craft activities such as the ironworks present in this area.


Luigi Massei is nicknamed “the last charcoal burner” who still today, keeps this trade alive, which Luigi has passed on with passion to his son Arturo and grandchildren Diego and Fabio.

It is a hard and complex process that begins with the accumulation of wood, deposited outdoors in a flat area usually close to the forest. From here, the process to obtain coal starts, which develops in the phases of winding, shoeing, veneering, combustion, drawing, cooking, leavening and finally packaging.

A hard job, between sweat and smoke, no distractions are allowed for the entire process, where the charcoal pit is kept under control day and night.

In the end, the result obtained is an excellent quality coal, which today is no longer used as a lucrative activity.

At the end of a long day, in the main image above, Luigi's worn, and dirty hands hold a photo that has a very important meaning for him, between the hope and the feeling that this art will be preserved for many more years and generations for the Massi family.

Simone Batini’s SHADES OF THE COALMAN project strives to document the traditional trades and crafts that are slowly being replaced by industry and social changes in the Tuscany region of Italy. Through this project, Simone has done an incredible job of capturing the beauty of the hard and complex process of making coal and telling Luigi Massei’s story of passing on his trade to his son and grandkids. It is clear from this project that Simone wants to preserve and document this ancient art for future generations. To see more of these projects please visit Simone's portfolio and read his stories.

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and are not necessarily shared by The Pictorial List and the team.

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