Catching Up with Castelfidardo

Today’s New York Times has an excellent article on Castelfidardo, the longtime center of the Italian accordion industry. From Paolo Soprani’s shop in 1863 to the peak of accordion production in 1953 — 200,000 instruments built by 10,000 full-time workers — Castelfidardo has been inextricably linked to the accordion. There are still about 27 companies building accordions and parts there and, rather than compete with cheap models from Eastern Europe or Asia, they’re focused on building fewer, but higher-quality instruments.

“‘Our accordions are like bespoke apparel,’ said Francesca Pigini, a top manager for the company her grandfather started in 1946. ‘For us, it’s a pleasure and an enrichment to work and collaborate with artists and people who make music a big part of their lives.’”

Pigini is the largest accordion maker in Castelfidardo, making professional-caliber accordions ranging in price from $3,000 to $43,000. While China has long since passed Italy as the largest producer of accordions, the folks in Castelfidardo are confident that the best players will eventually find their way to Castelfidardo’s exceptional, hand-crafted instruments.

“We’re not pessimistic about the future because some young Chinese players will become professionals, and once they’re looking for more important instruments where will they come? To Castelfidardo.”

If you’re planning a trip to Italy and want to visit Castelfidardo, be sure to check out the International Accordion Museum, which traces the accordion’s evolution from the 19th century to present day. There’s also (of course) a big accordion festival there every Fall.

Beautiful Wood Accordion by Victoria

Acoustic wood accordion by Victoria Accordions

I’m not sure we can fit another accordion in our house, but I’d make room for this gorgeous acoustic wood accordion built by Victoria Accordions in Castelfidardo, Italy. Victoria was founded by Dario Dari and Adriano Picchietti in 1919 and continues to produce high-quality accordions today for artists like Richard Galliano, Coba (Yasuhiro Kobayashi), and Bjarke Mogensen. They also make wood diatonic accordions and bandoneons that are equally stunning.

(I found this photo over at Squeezytunes, which is one of our favorite accordion sites. If you enjoy pictures of strange and beautiful keyboard instruments — and who doesn’t? — check it out.)

Radio Squeezin’ on Valentine’s Day

Tune into San Francisco radio station KFOG 104.5 tomorrow morning around 6:50am, and you should hear SF accordionist Tom Torriglia playing some romantic tunes on Dave Morey’s morning show. If you’re outside the Bay Area, you can listen online at

Tom was also featured recently on a Canadian TV show called Careers TV, where they chronicled his passion for playing and promoting the accordion. (Look for episode #06-808 on their site for more info.) Maybe one of our Canadian readers can upload a clip to YouTube…

Let’s Polka’s Italian Cousin

Lo Zen e l’arte dell’organetto (Zen and the Art of the Organetto?) is a new blog on diatonic accordion music written by Gianni Ventola Danese, founder of the Diatonic Accordion Academy. While it’s best enjoyed by someone who understands Italian, there are plenty of excellent photos and videos that need no translation. Fisarmonica fantastica!

Learn a Tarantella Online

A few months ago, I wrote about an Italian accordion school (called Accademia del Mantice) that was offering diatonic accordion classes online. I couldn’t find any sample videos at the time, but I recently found this clip of a lesson called “Tarantella Riggitana”. It’s no substitute for a live, in-person accordion lesson, but it looks promising. If you can’t find a teacher in your area, this might be a worthwhile alternative.

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Castelfidardo Travel Tips

Tom Torriglia, accordionist for retro Italiano band Bella Ciao, just returned from a trip to Castelfidardo, Italy, the famous center of the Italian accordion industry. He passed along these tips for anyone making a pilgrimage to the area:

“I just returned from Mecca(castel)fidardo and offer up the following information for fellow travelers.

Castelfidardo is shut tight as bellows on both Saturday and Sunday.

I stayed at the 3-star La Fonte hotel in Osimo. It was 48€ per night and included continental breakfast. The room was large, very clean and had twin beds. There is a lounge/bar area where you can hang out. They also offer free parking.

In Castelfidardo, I met Dan from Denver who was staying at the only pensione in Castelfidardo and he said he was paying 40€ per night with no breakfast.

Osimo is a lot bigger than Castelfidardo and there is a real nightlife. I mostly hung out at the Silicon bar, a very popular place. Osimo is about 15 minutes from Castelfidardo by car.

In Osimo, there is a telephone place where you can call the US for 5 centesimi per minute — so 1€ gets you 20 minutes. It’s open late.

There’s an internet point in Castelfidardo called Media Place. Kind of down the hill a bit from the center of town. I think it’s on Aligheri. 1€ got me 20 minutes online.

I stopped at the accessories’ place, I think it’s called Carini, located at the bottom of the long flight of steps. There is no sign. It’s next to a little car wash. I got some nice straps with a backstrap included for 20€. Of course, there’s always Italcinte for straps.

The banks didn’t take travelers’ checks, but you could convert cash. There’s plenty of ATMs (bancomats) from which to get cash anytime.

Happy Traveling!”

Anna and I are planning to visit Castelfidardo next spring, so these tips are a big help. Thanks Tom!

Flickr Find: Castelfidardo Accordion Factory

from where i work
uploaded by otrocalpe
Last week we saw the inside of a 1960s era concertina factory; this week we get a glimpse inside a modern-day accordion factory. Flickr user otrocalpe took this photo, which shows a workstation inside the accordion factory where he works in Castelfidardo, Italy. (Castelfidardo is the legendary center of the Italian accordion industry and home to an accordion museum.) Apparently, this factory was built by his grandfather sixty years ago!

News from the Let’s Polka-sphere

My laptop is in the shop, so I’ve had a tough time staying on top of accordion news lately. Fortunately, some friends of the site have been kind enough to keep us up to date on the latest squeezebox happenings:

  • Tom Torriglia just got back from the 25th annual Reno Italian Festival, which was crawling with accordionists, including Michael Maffei, Ray Massa of Eurorythms, US accordion champion Anthony Rolando, Tom Serafini with Oro Puro, the accordionists from TDA, and Tom himself with Bella Ciao.
  • Skyler Fell’s San Francisco repair shop, Accordion Apocalypse, is hosting an eclectic, circus-themed show this Saturday night. Experience the gypsy/klezmer sound of Portland’s Vagabond Opera, acrobatics and juggling from Circus Finelli, the foot-stomping energy of One Man Banjo, and an appearance by the Accordion Apocalypse Circus Sideshow.
  • East Bay accordion guru Henri Ducharme pointed us to a “musical epistle” about a recording session he recently did for composer, Jorge Liderman. It’s a fascinating look at how a professional accordionist attacks a difficult piece. You can listen to a clip, and view a page from the (daunting) score, on Henri’s site.

Thanks to Henri, Tom, and Skyler, for sharing their news. Remember, if you have any accordion-themed news to share (an event, a new album, etc.), just let us know and we’ll spread the word.

Italian Family Festa in San Jose

Why not spend the weekend with the Italian family you never had? The Italian American Heritage Foundation’s 26th annual Italian Family Festa is happening this Friday through Sunday at Santana Row in San Jose, CA. There’ll be ample accordion entertainment, including performances by squeezebox legend Dick Contino, as well as the Silicon Valley Accordion Society. And like any good Italian festival, there’ll be plenty of food, a grape stomping contest, a tarantella dance contest, and a bocce ball court. We’ll be there Saturday, so say ‘hi’ and — assuming our faces aren’t stuffed with cannoli — we’ll give you some Let’s Polka stickers.

Back from the North End

North End Music
Anna and I just got back from a long weekend in Boston, where we enjoyed plenty of great Italian food, coffee, and hospitality in Boston’s North End. We also ran into a few accordionists in the neighborhood, including this guy who was playing on Hanover Street this morning. We tossed a couple dollars in his case and remind our readers to do the same whenever you see another accordionist busking. Support your fellow squeezers!

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