Cut and pasted from somewhere else:
Yesterday morning, I arrived in Rome for a week of sports camp and vacation. Since our room wasn't ready, my wife, daughter and I set to wandering the city. This is our third summer here, and the city was familiar, but I thought that on our way to a stock up on food for the weekend, I would seek out Paolo Becker's shop. Musico and Becker was easy enough to find, since it was on our way and not far from the Trevi Fountain. When we got there, Mr. Musico was sitting in the front smoking a pipe and greeted us warmly. First, as you may know, he and Becker split some time ago, and while the shop still bears Becker's name and Musico was quite complimentary of Becker's work, they no longer have any connection. The shop itself is unlike any I have seen. It is just pipes. Cases and cases of pipes. Not even tobacco, and there are probably a thousand or more of them. If you have ever been to a good Italian haberdasher, the experience is the same. Mention one thing you like, and out comes a drawer full of similar ones. The four of us spoke for quite a while and my ten year old daughter got to watch Musico's son, Massimo, work on a bamboo shanked pipe while I looked at some interesting estate pipes. I was especially drawn to an early Musico & Becker silver mounted Prince that I almost bought. Instead, on the way out I changed my mind and bought a beautiful silver mounted two heart Paolo Becker full bent billiard with a saddle military mount and a fantastic cross grain.
After a nice lunch and shower, I dressed and went out to run some errands. I took my new (old) Becker and a baccyflap filled with House of Calabash Ancient Burley (two 50 year old tobaccos) and went for a walk. There were two minor mishaps. The shop where I was going for a repair on a handbag my wife had bought last summer was closed. Also, I had taken the wrong baccyflap and had grabbed the Lord Craven's Talone instead. Neither was fatal. My wife can call to headquarters in Milan for the missing part, and I was perfectly happy to fill the pipe with what I had, and decided to head back to Musico's. When I got there, it had turned into a mini clubhouse with a few customers/friends sitting, smoking and talking. I had a delightful time, especially with Massimo who, in addition to talking about the history of craft in Italy and England (we have different but complementary expertise) shared with me his dissertation length theory on the connection between Marvel Comic's The Fantastic Four and images of American empire, hegemony and decline. It was quite good, though I had to point out that he hadn't accounted for Alicia Masters. Of course, I also looked at a great deal of pipes. I had my eye on one in particular, but as I left empty handed, am typing on a blackberry and am finally now enjoying that bowl of Ancient Burley (in an Upshall Prince), the rest will have to wait.
Still in Roma. I found Paolo Becker's studio, but it was closed when I went by, and I am not sure I will be able to visit during his open hours. I do need to get back to see Giorgio and Massimo Musico. In the meantime, I lent my new Becker pipe to one of the people in my camp for a bowl of Lord Craven's Talone, while I had a bowl of Ancient Burley in a Van Erck Dublin. My hotel has a great garden, which is perfect for an evening smoke, of which I have been glad to take advantage.
Well . . . I did manage to visit Paolo Becker. I had some free time on a Thursday afternoon, when he was open, and stopped in. I am not sure whether it was good or bad luck, but he told me the Chicago show had cleaned him out. He had no finished pipes at all, so he instead show me the pipes he was working on and gave me a tour of the workshop. A beautiful flame grain pick axe was nearly done, with only the bending of the stem and the stamping to be done. Be on the lookout!! He has quite a number of morta blocks drying as well as lots of nice plateau and strawberry wood. He also showed me a set of huge sandblasts he had made for the U.S. market. Much too large for me to think of as anything but novelty pieces.
After some time with Becker, I went back to the Musico shop. That place is really a treasure and I urge anyone who gets anywhere near Rome to pay them a visit. Giorgio is a wonderful man with an encyclopedic knowledge of pipes. And as usual, I spent lots of time talking with Massimo, his son and one of the three (or four?) pipe carvers. Like his father, Massimo has a very definite appreciation for the classic pipe shapes and I was lucky to see three of their high grade pipes that had been finished that week. I also looked at a high grade prince, with a beautiful, elegant thin stem and a very wide fluted silver band. The Prince had been calling to me all week, but I instead bought a long shanked tall billiard with fantastic straight grain. In part, I chose it because it is rare to see such a classic shape aligned with such good grain, and in part because Massimo's initials were on it as the carver. For the record, it is a Musico Foundation, Floodlight, Triple, MM (brand, line, grade, carver). I also bought a silver banded, faux military shanked cross-grained pot from 1991 - the beginning of the Musico & Becker partnership. This was made by Brebbia.
So, in all, on this trip I bought a Musico, a Becker and a Musico and Becker.