We have had at least two to three dozen workers on the palazzo over the past two years, whether electricians, plumbers, tile layers, painters, plasterers, stone masons, builders, not to mention our design team of engineers, architects and geometras.
What is a geometra? I’ll get to that later. Think of him like a contractor of various workers, but it isn’t exactly like that in Italy. Nothing really is what it seems.
Of these two to three dozen workers, probably about a dozen are here every day, kind of like the core team.
Three are named Gianluca. To say this gets confusing is an understatement. One Gianluca is a plumber and two others are tile layers who work side by side.
Fortunately one tile layer is Gianluca and the other tile layer is Gian Luca, but pronunciation-wise this does not help anyone, so my husband Arrigo and I refer to Gian Luca as “Gian spazio Luca”.
Spazio is the word for “space” in Italian.
We also have two Robertos. Essentially we are reduced to the early Middle Ages when no one had a last name except for nobles, and people were just known by the kind of work they did.
“Roberto said we need to move the door slightly to the right.”
“Roberto the Geometra?”
“No, Roberto the Builder.”
We have two Enrico’s. Enrico the drywall guy, and Enrico the son of Roberto the Builder.
Remember Erik the Red, and Leif Erikson? It’s kind of like that.
Actually we sometimes have three Enrico’s because Paolo our lighting guy thinks Arrigo’s name is Enrico and will sign off on his messages to me with “give my regards to Enrico”.
Things get confusing fast.
Just today they added another Enrico to the team. That brings us to four Enrico’s – three fully credentialed Enrico’s and then Arrigo who gets aurally mistaken all the time for an Enrico. One might ask why do they add people to the team? Well, painting happens at the end and the fourth Enrico (third credentialed Enrico) is a painter, so he’s come now at the end.
An American friend of mine, when I was describing this situation, said we should go completely medieval. Not just “Roberto the Builder” but something more colorful, something more impressive like “GianLuca the Horrible” or “Enrico the Conqueror”.
This would render probably even more pride in each worker. Who wants to be a builder or a surveyor when you can actually be a Conqueror or something more interesting.
Getting back to surveyor. In Italian it literally means “surveyor”. But for most Americans, surveyor has little meaning, it renders ideas of historic personas from three hundred years ago like George Washington. In Italy today, the geometra is a critical role for getting permits and giving design ideas along with the architect – although you don’t have to have an architect as long as you have a geometra.
In America, contractors pay the workers. In Italy, the geometra typically does not pay the workers – the client pays them directly. Geometras regularly make worksite visits but they do not work along side the workers – they check on progress, give guidance, and then update their plans back in their office.