Factory Tours of ITALY
Join us for a virtual pen tour, as Kenro visits Italy’s most important pen factories. Kenro has partnered with the talented photographer Michael Rubenstein for a special photo tour in Italy. Follow us, as we navigates our way through Torino, Bassano del Grappa and Venice, all while capturing the beauty and hearts of the artists, craftsman and the people who develop our fine fountain pens. Follow our stories on Instagram as we share inside peeks into the homes of Aurora, Montegrappa, Pininfarina and the all new Loclen.
You can also follow the tour on our Facebook Page
About Michael Rubenstein, the man with the camera:
Michael has been a photographer and director for more than 15 years. Professionally he photographs and directs advertising campaigns for some of the world’s largest corporations including Intel, Philips, Siemens, Nike, Budweiser, Verizon and Guardian Insurance among many others. With a background in photojournalism my focus on the stories behind the brands and the people who work at them has made me an in demand photographer for years. In addition to commercial work I also occasionally work for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Domino Magazine and NBC News. In 2014 Sony made him an Artisan of Imagery, one of less than 40 photographers in North America, representing their brand in professional and consumer circles.
In addition to being an experienced professional photographer Michael is also a fountain pen fanatic. He keeps a separate instagram showing off his pens, @iheartfountainpens. The history and current design and production of Italian fountain pens is a topic that is near and dear to his heart and absolutely loves to come and make beautiful images and video of these iconic brands.
Please feel free to visit his instagram and website to see his work with different brands that produce iconic products in the US. Rusty Surfboards, Martin Greenfield Custom Suiting, Horse Custom Bicycles and Walt Siegle Racing Motorcycles.
Montegrappa was the last visit of my 2019 Italian Fountain Pen Tour and in a lot of ways, it was the one I was looking forward to the most. The first pen I ever bought for myself was an orange celluloid Passione from the Fountain Pen Hospital and I had brought it with me so it could visit it’s home. I stayed in Venice the night before my visit so I had about an hour and a half worth of travel between my hotel and Bassano Del Grappa, the small town that Montegrappa is located in. Leaving Venice isn’t exactly easy. You can’t just go to your car and drive away. I had to get a water taxi to take me to the parking area in the far western end of Venice before I could even get to my rental car! After I got my car the drive was pretty quick, it was early and mostly highway so I got to Bassano Del Grappa early. I wasted an hour or so having an espresso (I’m sure you’ve seen a trend here) and a pastry and a quick walk around the Montegrappa factory. Montegrappa is still located in the same building it started in in the early 1900’s. Somehow they avoided the WWII bombings that forced Aurora out of their original building. Being in the same building that has produced some of my favorite pens over the years was really something special. Being in the shadow of the actual Monte Grappa, the mountain the company is named after, was pretty great too. When I finished my walk I walked into the Montegrappa building and was greeted by Giuseppe, the owner of Montegrappa, and given a tour. He showed me the limited editions they keep in their own room on the second floor and all the pens they have made for celebrities, athletes and politicians that cover two walls in the conference area of Giuseppe’s office. It was pretty incredible. Did you know that Prince Charles is an avid pen collector? I had no idea. After the tour, I had free reign. I was allowed to photograph anything I wanted throughout the factory, even the celluloid vault and ovens. I spent the entire day exploring the entire process. Everything from the Fortuna to an 800,000 Euro pen commissioned by someone in Paris that will remain anonymous, mostly because they didn’t tell me who it was!. Montegrappa has a tremendous operation. They have an entire wing dedicated to C&C machines, a quality control department and craftspeople who can paint sixteenth-century masterpieces on the side of a pen. Overall, it was a fantastic visit that I will recall every time I use my Passione, or any of the other Montegrappa pens I have in my collection.
I left Pininfarina in the early afternoon and started my drive towards Loclen. My hotel was about 20 kilometers away just outside of Treviso. I drove from Torino, around Milan, and into the northern countryside. I avoided the highway for much of the drive and passed through tiny villages, vineyards, and hills full of olive trees. It was a beautiful country. As I got close to Treviso the sky darkened and it started to rain a bit, after a few minutes it started to pour and then the wind picked up, the day turned to darkness and it hailed dime sized hail for half an hour. When I finally arrived at my hotel the hail had stopped but it was raining so hard that I was drenched walking the twenty feet from my car to the front doors, but I was near Loclen and I was going to photograph a tiny family-run workshop the next day. I was very excited. The next day started early with a macchiato and some breakfast and a quick drive to Spresiano to meet Carlo and his son. The workshop is in a small industrial park and was tiny. I love one person workshops where everything is crafted by one or two people. Where the product they create is a piece of art and every piece is touched by one person’s hands. Carlo makes every single piece of the pen except the nib, feed and the converter. Everything other part is designed, milled and polished by hand on manual machines by Carlo. There is no C&C, no automation, no day labor, no factory. It’s all Carlo. As I watched him work it was clear to me how much care went into each piece. How perfect everything needed to be before it was cleaned up and boxed by his son at the front of the workshop. The quality of these pens is incredibly important to Carlo and as I’ve used the pen he gave me over the last couple of weeks it’s been obvious to me just how much effort he puts into each pen that leaves his workshop. Loclen isn’t the biggest company, it’s not the most high-tech company, but you can be sure that one person put everything he has into the pen in your hand and that means everything to me.