Pietro Carabini Atelier

Between their flat on Via Ghibellina and Santa Croce, dark as the narrow street except at noon, lay a tiny shop that one day caught his eye. The simple facade consisted only of a tight entryway and a display window the width of his outstretched arms. It was the objects in the window that first attracted his attention, a half-dozen boxes, some quarto sized, others octo, each embellished with a different, whimsical illustration, a Victorian lady fending off a monstrous egret with her umbrella, a naturalist’s beetle like something from Napoleon’s Description D’Egypte, a cover from a paperback book Ernest Hemingway never actually wrote. It wasn’t until he stopped there three or four times that he began to wonder about the shop’s hours. Shops close in Firenze afternoons, but Pietro Carabini Atelier, charming as it was, seemed always closed. Stranger still, every week it seemed, the window display changed, as if on its own or by some other unseen force acting at a great distance–first the boxes; then a set of bottled potions, certainly magical; then six or eight pairs of ladies’ gloves, lace and kids’ leather and pearl buttoned; and on and on, like something from a dream directed by Joseph Cornell. It finally came to him with a certainty he could not have explained that what was really being shown at a Pietro Carabini  were not so much the curiosities just described, all of them of impossible provenance, but the shop itself, ever in the shadow, never open, and most very importantly, nothing for sale.

The Italian Novel


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