Customs remain customs - even time does not change that. It has always been a tradition in San Nio that the men of the village spent Saturday mornings in Giacomo's shop. Giacomo ran the oldest and only barber shop in San Nio for seventy-one years. In his early twenties he took over his father's shop and since his children and grandchildren had no interest in the venerable profession of barber, at ninety-three he still stood in his shop with scissors and razor and coiffed the inhabitants of the village. One might think that the not-so-steady hands of a man in his mid-nineties would not be able to produce accurate haircuts or shaves with a bare razor, but far from it. With a steady hand and the utmost precision, he trimmed hair, parted hair, and shaved without the slightest hint of a cut. And this he did every single day of the week from seven in the morning until eighteen at night. Only on Sunday did his little shop remain closed entirely in accordance with Biblical regulations. Now it so happened that his clientele consisted almost entirely of the grown men of the village. According to tradition, the boys got their hair cut by their mama at home until they were twelve years old. It was not until their twelfth birthday that they were accepted into the circle of men and received from Giacomo their first haircut and shave, albeit mostly still symbolic. So it was now also for Mattia so far.
Mattia was a bright boy with insatiable curiosity and with a, for his age, very good grasp. His dad was Tommaso, the butcher of San Nio and a loyal customer of Giacomo. Mattia's twelfth birthday fell on a Saturday, like a sign. On the morning of his birthday, Mattia couldn't wait to be accepted into the adult circle and asked his father to take him to Giacomo's barbershop before breakfast. In return he was happy to unpack his presents after the visit to the barber shop. Since Tommaso didn't open his shop until nine in the morning, he good-naturedly agreed and the two of them set off in the direction of the old town.
Giacomo's barbershop was on the first floor of an apartment building and was not particularly large. The double-sided dark wood front door had the most beautiful stained glass windows Mattia had ever seen. Above the portal were the curved letters "BARBIERRE" and in the shop window one could already see the backs of the waiting customers' heads. Tommaso didn't even have to give Mattia a nudge, because he had already pushed open the front doors and disappeared into the shop. Inside there was a bustling atmosphere and even though it was just before eight in the morning, the people waiting occupied almost all the seats on the long bench. For a brief moment Mattia stood rooted to the spot, thinking he heard the men arguing. His dad, however, put his hand on his shoulder from behind, letting him know that everything was fine and the men were just having an animated discussion. Gently, he pushed him to one of the empty seats on the bench. While Mattia listened attentively to the conversations about politics, football and, above all, women, he gradually became aware of how fresh Giacomo's place smelled - of sour lemons, soap and fresh towels. Attracted by the smells, Mattia turned away from the conversation and watched the white-haired barber, who was calmly but firmly shaving with his razor. The old man wore a white jacket and bent over the lathered face of the customer, who lay in a leather-covered barber's chair with chrome handles and struts. This was also the only place for hairdressing and shaving, there was nothing else in the small shop. Opposite the chair was a huge mirror, under which was the white marble washbasin set into the counter. All around were small cupboards and shelves, behind whose glass doors were hidden countless vials, tinctures, pastes and perfumed waters. Mattia could not feast his eyes, and so he did not notice that his turn had already come next. The old man smiled kindly at him, tied a cloak around him and wet his hair with water from a spray bottle. It smelled pleasantly fresh and of a little lemon and orange - just as it did throughout the baby shop. Giacomo stroked his wrinkled and sun-tanned hands over his hair, taking individual strands between his fingers and clipping a small amount of the ends down. After finishing the haircut, the barber washed his face and head in the sink in front of him and now began to apply the shaving cream evenly to Mattia's face with a soft and warm shaving brush. The shaving cream also smelled faintly of lemons, but at the same time of fresh spices and herbs, a tiny bit earthy and a hint of flowers. Slowly, Giacomo slid the razor over the boy's delicate skin, parting the soft fuzz from his cheeks and upper lip. Mattia had never been so excited as he was now, and anxiously he followed every further move of the old man. After the last shaving stroke had been made and the remains of the shaving foam washed out in the sink, his face was rubbed with a wonderfully jasmine-scented towel. Giacomo reached for one of the vials from the cabinet to his right, initiating the final step of the initiation ritual. Burning, the liquid spread across Mattia's face and made him wince briefly. The waiting men, who had watched the last step as if spellbound, fell into peals of laughter and patted Tommaso fraternally on the shoulder. This made Mattia forget the pain with pride as warmth slowly spread across his cheeks. The tincture smelled like a combination of the smells before. It opened fresh, full of lemons and oranges, then grew spicier, smelling of fresh herbs, flowers, and became warm and woody as it progressed. A smell Mattia never forgot his life.
Mattia never forgot that day either, so enthralled was he by the whole event. And so it came to pass that a year later he began to help out in Giacomo's shop. Little by little, the old man introduced him to the venerable craft of a barber, and when Giacomo retired at one hundred and four, it was Mattia who, full of pride and dedication, took over the shop and has run it ever since.