The Company We Keep is a column on the CN&CO blog that profiles some of the most interesting people in our networks. Here we share the details of the lives of people we know, showcasing the extraordinary diversity of our society and proving that people truly are at the heart of everything we do.

A husband, father to three daughters, a survivor of the war, a barber, a hairdresser, an Italian, a South African and the nonno (grandpa) of Emi, Michela, Stefano and Gianluca.

The above are just some of the roles and things that make up the life of Nonno Luigi Casiraghi. A man who has helped bring up and instil solid values in CN&CO’s two resident Italians – Emi and Gianluca.

Nonno Luigi is a passionate Italian/South African, who has lived here for over 78 years. His story is filled with experiences, people and lessons that relate to many of the values we believe in at CN&CO.
While enjoying a plate of Nonna’s hand-made gnocchi and a glass of red wine, Gianluca spent some time interviewing his nonno in order to share a brief reflection of his story…

Where were you born and what was your first job?

I was born in Italy in a town called Monza. Back then, in order to make money, at the age of 12 years, I became a barber. I learnt the trade from a mentor (a teacher named Corbetta) and went on to cut hair while helping to assemble planes in the Second World War. I did this in a town called Breda.

When did you arrive in South Africa?

I arrived in South Africa in 1950 via ship. It is here where I met my beloved wife Misia.
It is also the land where I learnt and developed a passion for women’s hairdressing. Through learning the trade, watching my mentors, and developing my skills, I went on to take over and own one of the biggest women’s hair salons (at the time) in the Southern Hemisphere, on the corner of Jeppe and Joubert streets in downtown Joburg. It took up the whole first floor of a building called Manor’s Mansion.

We had 32 cubicles and I had 30 hairdressers working for me at the time.

Nonno Luigi with three of his grandchildren: Michela, Emiliana and Gianluca

What did you enjoy most about your job?

I loved making people smile; being able to apply precision and creativity to someone’s appearance gave me great satisfaction. But above all else, I loved being around people, listening to their stories and sharing my own.

I made many friends through my job and it taught me many lessons right up until the day I stopped working in my mid 80s.

I am also proud to say my youngest daughter, Franca (Emi’s mother), has gone on to become a brilliant hairdresser.

What do you love most about South Africa?

Everything! Don’t get me wrong, I am a passionate Italian through and through. But SA is my home and my love for it has always been strong. I even gave up my Italian citizenship and convinced your nonna (granny) to give up hers as well.

What was your favourite hobby?

Music and movies. I loved a good Western, in particular by Ken Maynard. As a treat to my three daughters when they were young, I used to take them once a week to the bioscope to enjoy the latest films.

In terms of music, I’m a jazz man. I used to collect all the records and always invested in a top quality player.

What advice would you give a young person?

Travel the world and eat lots of good pasta!

What is your greatest pride?

My wife, my daughters and grandchildren. Everything I have done, achieved, experienced and the lessons I learnt were done in order to give them a fulfilling life. I am so proud of the people they have become.