"Either you know things or you don’t. It's all here, inside my head." Master craftsman Sergio’s reply when asked how he learned to work with tuff stone and Lecce stone is a true expression of simple folk wisdom.
His, in fact, is an ancient craft that is osmotically transmitted from father to son. Sergio himself began working at a young age, learning directly in the field all the skills that architects and restorers learn from books. His experience is an inexhaustible source of knowledge, a cultural heritage of artisanal expertise to be preserved.
And when he says it is all in his head and his hands he is not merely referring to the knowledge of materials or constructive processes, but also to the profound visual memory of the typical Salento architecture.
As he works, he explains the difference between tuff and Lecce stone: "Tuff is extremely ductile, but it is more friable than Lecce stone, which is mainly used for paving terraces. Over time it takes on a dark patina that makes it waterproof."
Tuff drains easily, so it is sometimes waterproofed with lime plaster. For joints also the ingredients are the same as in the past: ground limestone and tuff. The plaster is always lime-based, made by dissolving the limestone in water, triggering a chemical reaction similar to boiling.
These are ancient practices that have been carried out for hundreds of years; only certain tools have changed, such as the electric saw used for the stone blocks mined from local quarries, which were once cut by hand. Then the process continues using only a trowel and hammers. What has not changed is the amount of hard work involved, the arduous labour that knows neither seasons nor weather changes.
At Terre di Corillo the works have focused on restoration, conservation and improvement, recycling ancient blocks of stone to rebuild the missing parts of the buildings. "I love a challenge, and the more complicated it is the more I like it. Remember also that all this is part of our tradition, our history."