"Trimani or te ne vai?" [TN: play on the family name Trimani: Rimani o te ne vai? means ‘Are you staying or going?’] That phrase, confesses Giovanni Trimani, the outsider of Rome's oldest family of wine merchants, a robust, bushy-bearded, sincere-looking 40-year-old, “has haunted me since I was a boy. My friends used to tease me about my name: tre mani [three hands], or when we were out in the evening, they would joke: ma Trimani o te ne vai? I’d heard it for years and I ended up telling my gallerist about it – Velia Littera of Pavart Gallery – and it made her laugh and that’s how my latest exhibition got its name.”
“Trimani o te ne vai? That phrase has haunted me since I was a boy. My friends used to tease me about my name: tre mani [three hands], or when we were out in the evening, they would joke: ma Trimani o te ne vai? I’d heard it for years and I ended up telling my gallerist about it – Velia Littera of Pavart Gallery – and it made her laugh and that’s how my latest exhibition got its name".
Giovanni, unlike his siblings Paolo, Francesco and Carla, who run the family business, has chosen a different path: he is an artist. “We have a great relationship, but we do different jobs,” he explains. Trimani o te ne vai, I tell him seems to me to be an excellent marketing ploy, not to be outdone by ‘We wine better,’ which has become the family motto and which, moreover, was invented by the same Giovanni Trimani.
So I try to prod him a bit, to get him to talk about the company, about his siblings, but to no avail: on this subject, Giovanni is not very talkative. “I like wine, I enjoy a glass,” he says, “although, given the choice, I probably prefer beer.” At this point, I give up asking him about the company and I turn to other sources for information about the family history.
On the other hand, the Trimani's history is hardly a secret: they have been selling wine in Rome for about 200 years. They are a dynasty of wine, of wine 'kings,' a successful brand that Wine Enthusiast – the most widely read wine magazine in the United States – last year listed among the 10 most iconic, that is to say most representative, wine stores in the world.
They arrived in the Rome in 1821 from Abruzzo, and opened a buchetto [little place] selling wine and oil on Via di Panico, near Via dei Coronari. After 1870, they moved outside the papal walls to the Porta Salaria area, today Via Piave, in the urban area that expanded toward Esquilino and today's Termini Station, the growing Piedmontese district of Rome. Following the route of the city’s first tramway, the Trimani family ended up in Via Goito, near Porta Pia, where great-grandfather Marco, in 1914, just before the Great War, bought the building at number 20, where he set up the family home and a large mescita of around one thousand square feet.
Below, there was a huge wine cellar, which is essentially the backbone of the Trimani store as it still is today and, though inside it is obviously much changed now, it still retains the old counter and the Carrara marble fountain where the wine – which until the mid-1980s was still sold on tap – was kept chilled. They were hard years. “My great-grandfather,” says Paolo, in his early 60s, a wine expert who is now at the helm of the business and a bit of a family encyclopedia, “died at the age of 50 (probably of Spanish flu, the predecessor of COVID-19, ed.) during the Great War, without seeing his sons again, my grandfather Paolo and my great-uncle Francesco, one of the ‘boys of ‘99’ [TN: boys born in 1899 conscripted at 18 in 1917] who had left for the front.”
Since then, a lot of water – indeed wine – has passed under the bridge. Grandfather Paul, was a gruff fellow but, under him, the vineria (wine bar and seller) was transformed into an enoteca (professional wine store); they switched from earthenware jars to wine bottles, printed the first price lists, which also included vermouth, brandy and – in the 1930s – whiskey, champagne and cognac, illustrated in catalogs by the painter Maccari: little works of art. The company’s historical clients included the Quirinale, namely the King, the court and later the presidency of the Republic. The next turning point came in the 1970s, when ownership passed to Marco, the son of Paolo senior.
“My father,” recalls Paul Jr., “inherited a store that now has a certain reputation.” In addition, “he was friends with many artists: Maccari, Tito Balestra, Paolo Premoli. They would come for dinner, engage in endless discussions and drinking. And of Maccari, I remember the beautiful label with the three hands on the bottle and many drawings made often on the back of the wine store receipts. Then following the death of Paolo Gabrielli, 'the nobleman's wine merchant' a great friend of Dad's, we took over in the 1970s an extraordinary warehouse inside the Quirinale in a corner called lo Sperone [the Spur]. For me, as a kid, it was like Ali Baba's treasure trove full of precious packed bottles of Bordeaux.”
He was 40 when I was born, so when I was in my twenties, he was in his sixties. We were from two different generations. He did not approve of all my choices but he followed me. And I had wanted to be an artist since I was small, a passion that I probably actually inherited from him, as he was a great collector, maybe a bit disorganized but a big art lover
Giovanni also remembers his father well: “He was 40 when I was born, so when I was in my twenties, he was in his sixties. We were from two different generations. He did not approve of all my choices but he followed me. And I had wanted to be an artist since I was small, a passion that I probably actually inherited from him, as he was a great collector, maybe a bit disorganized but a big art lover. There was a lot of art in the house. There was Maccari, Vangelli, Gismondi, he knew Manzù, Fausto Melotti.” Marco ran the company for a long time, but as early as the late 1980s, the four children came on board very young, including Giovanni, who lives in the building on Via Goito, where he has a large studio, full of colors, canvases and where he has his workshop for welding iron, a great passion of his. “I worked for the business for 20 years, then I decided to do something else entirely, and in 2007, I took up my brushes and chose to be a professional artist. Although, I must say, we are all very creative in our family. Wine, cooking are also an art.”
In 1991, they opened a new venue called Trimani II, the first Italian Wine Bar, run by Carla, along with the restaurant on Via Cernaia, on the corner with Via Goito. “Instead of the usual Galestro and Greco di Tufo,” continues Paul, “we brought in new, interesting wines from small producers.” Today, the shelves in the large store display a vast assortment of wines: endless rows of the best Italian and foreign labels. The selection is impressive, around 6,000 bottles from all over the world, with particular care for local producers in Lazio. Paul is the connoisseur, traveling often to France to keep himself up to date, where, he says, “they teach you that it's good luck to urinate on the new vineyard before the harvest.”
And he also travels to trade fairs, such as Vinitaly, or to the more niche event in Merano, which he prefers; while Carla, a superb chef, has become a sort of hostess of the family. “Today production has changed a lot,” he explains, “In the 1990s, there were few producers and the trade press was barely a niche. Now wine is much more important not only to consumers but also economically. There are many customers interested in discovering and rediscovering. Wine is the noblest product on earth, spanning time and space and encompassing traditions and histories.”
What about Giovanni? After all, he was the first of the Trimani to intrigue me, with the small installation he left in an alley in Monteverde, in the middle of the street, in front of the place where he held his last exhibition. Passing by, you hardly notice it, hidden as it is by parked cars. It is a small wooden Pinocchio, standing at the foot of an iron spiral staircase welded to the trunk of a tree.
I had the idea of putting a Pinocchio in it, because it is a puppet that comes from a tree and because Pinocchio is the emblem of lies. And I think we are all liars, especially when we have to take a new, unknown road. Life always brings us to a crossroads that can change your life
Under the figurine is a sign, which reads: “Even the longest journey begins with a first step”: a simple little phrase that reminds me of the love notes you find in Baci Perugina chocolates. I ask Giovanni to explain the work and, this time, there's no reluctance and he suddenly becomes very talkative: “Right in front of the entrance to the exhibition was a small tree that had been cut down, and so I had the idea of putting a Pinocchio in it, because it is a puppet that comes from a tree and because Pinocchio is the emblem of lies. And I think we are all liars, especially when we have to take a new, unknown road. Life always brings us to a crossroads that can change your life. That's why I used a spiral staircase that you don't know where it goes... In the end, in these situations, we're all Pinocchios and we tell ourselves a lot of lies. I for one tell myself that I am handsome, charming and likable. Lies that I need to carry on and pretend that everything is okay...or will be okay. Woe if we did not tell ourselves lies in situations like these! Sometimes the lie serves more than the truth; it becomes a modus operandi.”
What about the exhibition? Giovanni picks up the catalog, leafs through it, and explains to me that his style is expressionist and that in many of his works, he outlines the colors with black lines that emphasize the pattern, a bit like what you see in Gothic stained-glass windows. And then he points to his preferred subject in recent years: “The chair, with the AssediA project.” “It all stemmed from a poem I wrote in 2016 the chair and the start of my reflections on this object,” he explains. “Then I began to create portraits of chairs, in which each chair tells a story. In my opinion, the choice of chair becomes a kind of choice of identity. I am fascinated by the English word chairman, with its literal meaning of chair+man, but actual meaning of president, someone who is his own boss. You start with chairs and end up searching for yourself, or for someone who is no longer there, that empty place. For example, when I go home, to my mother’s house, I always sit in the chair that I sat in as a child, I want to sit there. That's my chair, it was my place for all those years back then and therefore, in a way, it is me.”
14 settembre 2023
Fueling up at a gas station that is also a gourmet experience to be enjoyed, shared and told. High Italian cuisine, on the road, affordable, for everyone
27 luglio 2023
A root, the symbol of a geographical area and a historical brand. Journey through the "Giorgio Amarelli" Museum of Jonio calabrese
17 aprile 2023
Yotam Ottolenghi is a celebrity. His dishes are unmistakable, combining lightness and spices. His highly personal style is a blend of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and North African influences