Eros Santini: "Smoke" in Cagli


by Jill Tellez

The piazza of Cagli, Italy, springs to life as shopkeepers begin the daily ritual of opening their storefronts. Several caffè owners ready their tables and chairs for their early-morning espresso crowd.

For the past 15 years, Eros Santini and his sister Silvia have opened Antica Tabaccheria at 6:30 a.m. The shop is a popular destination for those seeking tobacco, magazines, and newspapers. Candid of ErosResidents of Cagli have relied on the Santini ritual since their father founded the store 25 years ago. What would espresso be without the accompanying daily news?

Eros grew up in Cagli where his family’s business was a permanent fixture in the bustling piazza that dates back to the 13th century. Eros has his finger on the pulse of the city and its residents. This familiarity allows him to greet his customers like family. His love of Cagli and love of people is evident – even with tourists who wander in asking questions in languages other than his own.

In keeping with the Italian custom of la pausa, the mid-afternoon lunch break, Antica Tabaccheria is closed from 1 to 3:30 p.m. This treasured break in the day allows Eros to keep balance in his life and enjoy time with his 7-year old son, Giacomo, and his 1-year-old daughter, Bianca. Eros also enjoys the Italian summer-holiday tradition. While his sister minds the store, Eros and his family travel to the Italian coast for fun in the sun. He also looks forward to the day when he can find more free time to take his son fishing at many of the lakes in the Marche area. 

Owning a family business can be stressful, he says, but Eros keeps life in perspective. He enjoys playing guitar, although his time these days is so limited he had to stop playing with his former band, Roogle, which plays electrified, heavy-metal music from Metallica and AC/DC. Depending on his mood, Eros likes to listen to jazz, rock and reggae. During the region’s more prosperous years, when Cagli attracted more artists, he met Paolo Conte, the famous Italian pianist and singer who was in Cagli to perform. 

“vivibile – peaceful – a good quality of life!”Eros’s heart definitely belongs to Cagli. When he describes the city, he says it is “vivibile – peaceful – a good quality of life!” Like many small towns, his has seen better economic times. When he was a child, Cagli had three cinemas. Today there are none. There also aren’t any taxis. But these are tradeoffs – unlike larger cities, Cagli’s traffic is mild, and the air and water quality are superb, he says.

Eros relates his love of being a business owner on the piazza of Cagli to the American film “Smoke,” where Harvey Keitel owns a Brooklyn smoke shop. The shop is the center of neighborhood activity, and the customers’ stories are all connected by their patronage.

When Eros saw that film, he says, he saw his “life in that movie.” A quote from Keitel’s character in “Smoke” resonates with Eros’s own life as he looks out from Antica Tabaccheria.

“People say you have to travel to see the world,” Keitel says. “Sometimes I think that if you just stay in one place and keep your eyes open, you’re going to see just about all that you need.”




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