Giuliano Vagnarelli: Maestro Barbiere


by Sherri Peterson

The barbershop located on the piazza in Cagli, Italy hums with activity and conversation as four men patiently wait for a cut or shave from Giuliano Vagnarelli.

Giuliano, or “Brisigo” as his customers affectionately call him, runs a traditional shop offering shaves, shampoos and haircuts. No appointments are made as customers know to come to the shop when they need a cut. The warm summer day guarantees the shop will be busier this morning as customers seek refuge from the afternoon here to launch

Conversations vary depending upon the customer, but the usual topics include politics, sports and the local gossip. Today they argue about taxes and how much they pay. They pull out forms, gesture wildly and shake their heads in disbelief at the amounts they are charged.

Giuliano is all smiles as he busies himself about the shop, taking care of each customer yet joking and talking with everyone. The shop’s comfortable feel is reminiscent of a best friend’s living room. Some of the men who come into the shop stop by only to say hello and hang out while the buzz of the electric trimmer or the snip of the scissors create a gentle hum.

Giuliano opened his shop in 1975, and he says he is proudest that some of his customers have been faithful for 37 years.  When he takes a vacation, he doesn’t leave for too long, indicating that loyal customers wait for his return. For two years, he split his time between Cagli and the ocean side. While he likes the beach better, Cagli is home, and he now stays in Cagli and vacations at the beach. 

Giuliano studied his craft in Cagli, learning from a local barber known as Brisigone and eventually taking classes from a local school. While studying with Brisigone, he earned the nickname “Brisigo” meaning “little Brisigone” or “Brisigone junior.” Giuliano says his mentor retired and closed his shop approximately five years ago but never viewed Giuliano as competition. Instead, he is proud of Giuliano and the success that he has had.

The unspoken bond between Giuliano and his customers is strong. Giuliano cuts his own hair, and says with a smile that he occasionally asks one of his customers to cut the back. A photo adorning his wall – prominently displayed above the price list – has a caption that reads “Brisigo Fans Club” and pictures 13 men huddled with Giuliano in the center of the shop.

Giuliano says that his decision to become a barber was random, as Italians often choose early in their schooling. He adds with a smile that he liked cutting hair so he stayed. He enjoys the routine and the social aspect, and the work doesn’t require a lot of thought.

quoteWhen asked how his customers describe him, two of them shout out “maestro” or master. The men, a journalist and a music teacher, say Guiliano is the best. They think of him not as a barber but a good friend and joke that the sign out front should highlight the “bar” in barbiere. Giuliano says he wants to be remembered for the work that he has done and the great care he as given to his customers.  He hopes clients leave with a good haircut so they will come back, then corrects himself. Not good, he says humbly, but “good enough.”

It is obvious that Giuliano is doing something right as he beams with pride when estimating that his customers number near 400. They come not just from Cagli but Cantiano, Fossombrone and Milan because Giuliano has won the hearts of the customers and beaten out the competition in the bigger cities. Others come from small towns that don’t have a barbershop like Pianello, Smirra and Scheggia.

The second barber’s station in his shop remains empty. Giuliano does not teach as there isn’t a lot of money in being a barber. Instead, many young people go to beauty school, a higher-paying profession, he says.

Whatever work they choose, Giuliano urges young people to “work honestly. Anything that you do, you must do with passion and love.  If you have a boss, respect them.” He pauses a moment and adds, “If you don’t love the job, don’t do it.”

Giuliano confides that he is already thinking of retiring early, speculating that he may retire in the next five years. No matter when he decides to retire, men from all over Italy will be sad to see their “Brisigo” close his barbershop.



pix pix pix pix pix pix

Archives Explore our past stories

Contact Us

To find out more information about how
you can participate or support the Cagli project, contact:

Name: Shannon Zaranski
Phone:+1 509 - 313 - 3569
Director: Dr. John Caputo