Story and photos by Autumn Reagor
Antonella Maisano kneels next to a small, frightened girl. The girl, no older than 3, refuses to try on the glasses Antonella hands her. Promises of gelato from the girl’s mother and sweet cajoling from Antonella fail to sway the child.
In a final attempt, Antonella pulls out a mirror and makes funny faces. Soon the girl flails on the floor in a full-on tantrum. With a shrug of her shoulders, Anotella encourages the girl’s mother to return later for a second attempt. This small story captures one moment in the Cagli optical shop Stilottica.
As a young girl, Antonella dreamed of opening her own shop filled with rows of colorful glasses. She wanted to provide options for her future clients. To turn her dream into reality, Antonella enrolled in optometry school in Ancona. This required her to rise at 5 each morning for three years to travel by bus from her hometown of Pergola to Ancona.
During class, Antonella met Lorenzo Paioneini, a fellow optometry student. It was nothing less than love at first sight, she says. Antonella says the pair was inseparable from the beginning. Together, they attended class and shared the dream of opening a shop. When the time came, the two opened Stilottica in Lorenzo’s hometown of Cagli. Looking back on their 24 years together, Antonella says she moved for amore or love.
Now, the couple strikes a complementary balance, honed during the course of 19 years spent running a small business together. Both see patients for eye examinations, but the two specialize in different areas. Antonella arranges the many frame options and tends to clients in the front of the shop, while Lorenzo prefers the technical work of handcrafting each pair of glasses in the back lab.
No two days are ever the same in the optical business. Each day brings in new clientele with a fresh set of challenges. Mornings are spent preparing for meetings and client visits as well as restocking the display cases and making sure everything is clean and ready for business. Afternoons deliver waves of customers, some in search of sunglasses and others needing exams, glasses, or contact lenses.
“Because this is our life’s work, we make only the best,” Lorenzo says. The couple is devoted to their clientele. They’ve invested in state-of-the-art equipment that allows Lorenzo to make custom-tailored glasses with great precision. Both attend monthly classes to make sure they stay current with the latest trends since there are always new products and techniques to learn.
Cagli residents support their business, and the couple returns the love. The pair lives just two kilometers from their shop. Both agree that small-town life has many charms, including spending time down by the river or taking in shows at the local theatre. They like visiting for hours on end with their friends and neighbors in the piazza.
“The people of Cagli love beautiful things,” Anotella says. She diligently works to select a variety of sunglasses from vendors. The eyeglasses are all custom-made in the shop. After an exam, each client selects a frame shape, color and material. Then Lorenzo brings them to life in the back of the shop.
The pair is proud of the work they do. Lorenzo says that trust and communication are the shop’s foundation. They put great care and attention to detail into their work.
Antonella and Lorenzo have a daughter, Matilde. She helps out in the shop and loves playing with the other children when they visit. On a warm June afternoon, Matilde helps a teenage girl select new sunglasses. Matilde plucks a pair of sunglasses from the display case and carefully examines them. She proudly lifts them up for the teenager, who shakes her head “No.” Matilde picks out another pair. At the age of 4 1/2, she is already learning the family business.
Her daughter’s precociousness means Antonella has a new dream—that one day Matilde will carry on the legacy of Stilottica.