Thinking about the golden age of Italian framebuilding, your mind goes to Milan for sure, and in Milan you can find a few left who are doing the same thing as way back when. And Daniele Marnati is doing his job pretty well I have to say.
In a tiny space in Via Delfico 26 – Milan, every year a really small number of steel frames are built in the traditional way by the skilled person who was the builder behind Benotto racing frames in the 70’s and the mechanic for teams like Scic or Gis, who Saronni rode for.
Something you maybe should know is that Daniele’s father Umberto was Fausto Coppi’s mechanic, it’s easy to spot him in one of the most famous cycling pictures , the one where Bartali passes a water bottle to Coppi. In the background in the jeep following then you can see 2 figures standing in the back, the one on the left is Umberto Marnati!
I had the chance to talk a little with him, and he shared all his concerns about the future regarding the traditional way to make frames in Italy. It has been a while since you heard the name of someone who wanted to learn how to build lugged steel frames. In Italy we were not good enough to support our school, there were many people that just didn’t care about the future of frame building. Japan and the U.S has more faith in the steel frame market and now they have many skilled and young builders to count on, but let’s remember that many learned how to do the job in Italy and many others were truly inspired by the Italian school. I don’t know, maybe it’s normal that new material and new building procedures are dominating the market right now but it’s just awful that this tradition might disappear one day.
Talking about Milan, in 5 years, there will probably be no one left of the old artisans, and nobody to replace them. It’s kind of sad, especially when you think about how it was in this city before the 80’s, people and professional cyclists from all over the world came here to get their custom frames.