The Arrotino, Neighborhood Knife Sharpener

8 Oct

I was tipped off to this article today in The New York Times (grazie to my friend Elizabeth who is a food expert and journalist here in Italy) and it made me smile. I wrote about this phenomenon back in 2006. This is why I love Rome.

I invite you to read my original post on the neighborhood knife sharpener as well, which includes the more high-tech version that still drives around some neighborhoods in a car, with a loudspeaker attached. The incredible thing about that, is that there’s one standard recording that it seems every car, in all of Italy, uses. This is part of cultural lore by now. One can only wonder when this tradition will eventually die out, as highlighted in the NYT video. Hopefully not right away. I do get a bit nostalgic about these types of things.

Without romanticizing it, there’s no denying that these unique facets of Italian life do make up part of the reason why I choose to live here: the social and person-to-person contact that comes from these trades is something I missed when I was living in the States. It’s a wonder that these occupations still manage to survive at all. I feel like it’s becoming harder and harder to find original artisans or craftspeople on a daily basis in modern life, without intentionally seeking them out. It’s a shame that technology is pushing us to a more anonymous way of life, and a more disposable way of living, which does make me feel a bit of a heartstring tug for these types of things.


8 Responses to “The Arrotino, Neighborhood Knife Sharpener”

  1. ggnitaly84 October 8, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    I love the neighborhood knife sharpener! Ill never forget getting woken up one Sunday morning to the loudspeaker offering only the best in knife sharpening skills! lol. it was pretty hilarious. Though I make a living off of working in technology, I do see what you mean. You have to find that balance between your ‘online’ and more importantly ‘offline’ life.

  2. Erica Firpo (@Moscerina) October 8, 2013 at 9:59 am #

    I do love the arrotino and used to film him, but my video is lost. Here is my 2008 post

  3. Barbara Giacometti October 8, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

    Yes, I remember the knife sharpener passing in the streets in Rome while the ambulance was trying to pass, very early in the morning. I fe ll out of bed that morning. It seemed it was all going on right outside my window. I did what anyone else would do, got my robe, my knives !and ran downstairs. hehehe. Without my coffee this one morning, I could here the old lady next door say to her husband in the staircase, There goes that crazy american again as I passed by. That is why I love italy!

  4. Max October 8, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

  5. Michconnors October 8, 2013 at 2:03 pm #

    We used to have one of these in the Upper East Side/Yorkville when I lived in NYC a few years ago, he would travel on a bike. Now that I live in Boston there’s a woman that does “On the Edge” knife sharpening and makes the rounds at a bunch of farmer’s markets: Such a random thing to do but I guess useful otherwise all these people wouldn’t be in business.

  6. CQ (@loquensmachina) October 8, 2013 at 4:56 pm #

    I credit you with first alerting me to this phenomenon! I love it, and I wish more people would get into this sort of thing (maybe I should learn the trade so I can supplement my income so I can afford to stay in San Francisco?).

  7. Daniela October 8, 2013 at 6:26 pm #

    just few weeks ago, facing a drawer full of dull knives in the kitchen at my church and trying to cut up some food with them, I wished there was an arrotino nearby where I could have all those knives sharpened….
    Where does one take knives to sharpen in the United States? (probably nowhere, probably people donate their dull knives to churches)

    Daniela (a Roman in Cali)


  1. Favorite Reads on Italy this week - Oct 11 - BrowsingItaly - October 11, 2013

    […] The Arrotino, Neighborhood Knife Sharpener by Un’americana a Roma – We all love the arrotino. Read the post to find out why. […]

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