The boys of Sant’Elena Sannita

Sant’Elena Sannita: few houses, each one different from the other, 250 souls or little more and a bronze statue resembling a bygone knife grinder. Past Isernia, one turns at the road fork for Boiano and goes uphill, now like then, encountering Sant’Elena Sannita. The town lies over itself on a prominence at an altitude of 750 meters.

When at the end of World War II, Celestino Durante returns from conflict’s vicissitudes bearing physical recalls of his actions and roams through those road bends to embrace Father Giuseppe and Mother Lucia; the suburb he had departed from still consisted of 2500 people. The hard work of taking care of the land and a few cattle were and still are the only economic resources of the community of Sant’Elena. Nonetheless, many of those boys were very skilled.

Whatever they handled , from scissors to knives and any type of razor or blade, turned as good as new. Celestino gathered his few possessions and together with his newly become wife, decided to leave and go to Rome. Many others followed. Each on one’s way and pursuing his own dreams. Every one with a bicycle equipped at best. Luckier ones with a scooter, all moving far and wide through the city.

Quite soon the guys of Sant’Elena managed to manifest their talent. As time passed, sacrifices turned bicycles into shops. In the latter, together with the beloved grinding wheel stored in the back shop, they start exposing shaving soap sold by weight, hair lotions and some colognes. Years pass and the names of those guys embellish the most beautiful streets of Rome.

The knife grinders from Sant’Elena are now among the most important perfume makers of the Eternal City. Celestino and Luisa are now grandparents and leave Giuseppe, Luciano, Maria and Felice the possibility of doing on their own and of achieving what they believe in.

Commerce evolved, together with perfumery market. Globalization and standardization encumbered. The Durante siblings are no longer at their ease in such a context. They feel manipulated and no longer free in their own work. In 1996 they create “PRO-FUMUM ROMA” but this is a different story…

What you are now holding in your hands is a fragment of this story. If you visit Sant’Elena, and walk past the big bronze statue resembling a knife grinder, please stop for a while. There lay our roots.

Paolo Fadelli for Giuseppe, Luciano, Maria e Felice Durante