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Toni Venzo, is a great wood carver and a member of Energitismo, whose love of the female form, wine and nature go before him. Tony’s challenge is to bring great trees back to life through his carving.

Valdobbiadene is a hill resort in the heart of Veneto, in the centre of Prosecco country. This is a region of great tradition, in care for the vines and in production of the great Prosecco wine. One of those traditions is to give to boys, as they mature, a Britola, often home-made. This is the knife used in the vineyards to prune the vines and it is a much prized tool of trade for the grape grower and in every house. The traditional festival of the artisanal knife (Coltello Artigianale), the Britola, is held in Valdobbiadene in March. And there was something different and grand in 2014 that brought Toni and Valdobbiadene together – a great tree.

In Valdobbiadene, many years ago a great Cedar of Lebanon, from the Villa of Cedars, was felled and the trunk, that had witnessed several centuries of the local history was saved in the park. Enzo Dieni was captivated by the tree and sought a way to save the trunk and to link it with the work ethic and traditions of the Valdobbiadene area, ’so superbly groomed and prosperous’. The trunk was massive, a grand old man of cedars, 2 meters in diameter and, this section, 5 meters long. The dream of a memorial to the tree took form in the desire to create ‘the biggest knife in the world’, a britola without peer.

In December 2013, Toni Venzo entered the ‘camp’ and devoted 2 months to the creation of the knife handle. Starting with the chainsaw and then his hand tools, an intense and unique scent escaped from the tree, vapours that had been locked in for hundreds of years. The imperviousness of the tree was proven again when a nail was found, perfectly preserved after over 100 years hidden in the trunk – a nail struck by a great ancestor of Valdobbiadene. The handle is adorned with a bunch of grapes representing the famous natural resource of Valdobbiadene.

Meanwhile, blacksmiths Walter Fornasier and Giovanni Cenedese toiled through winter to create the traditional Britola shaped blade. The blade and handle have been brought together to create the Grand Britola. It was inaugurated on the occasion of the 2014 traditional Fair of San Gregorio in Valdobbiadene.

It will remain installed in the park of the Villa of the Cedars in Valdobbiane, where locals and visitors can continue to enjoy the tastes and aromas of Prosecco while admiring their Grand Britola, we trust without dreams of conquest.

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Gavin Tulloch

Scienziato e poeta. Ama la chimica, il vino, le donne e l’opera, ma non sappiamo in quale ordine