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Jewel of Division Street

John Bucci and the 15-foot long replica Traveling Trevi
  A crowd milled around one large exhibit at the Houston Greater Southwest Food Festival as if it were a museum attraction. The Italian food section's centerpiece was a 50-foot long replica of the world-famous Trevi Fountain.

   With water flowing from the giant clam shell chariot seat of Oceanus and his trumpeting mermen atop powerful seahorses, the feature captivated the attendees and gave me the feeling of being at the Palazzo Poli in Rome.   

  Standing Greco/Roman statues and reliefs were being moved around by a spry, graying image of an Italian Formula One driver of the '60s. But this was the '90s, and I had to meet this man who was furiously arranging the Italian Exhibit. 
  By the end of the four-day event, John Bucci and I were friends. His art is just now being sold to private collections. I thought you’d like to know more. - jb 

Make a 'Trevi' Wish

By J.B. Blocker

  Thousands of coins have been tossed into the pool of the Trevi Fountain. The tourists, the hopeful, the lovers all come by to make their secret wishes and toss their change into the magical waters. Many times, they can’t resist throwing in a few more wishes with a few more coins.

  This goes on day after day, year after year. And it doesn’t just happen in Rome! All across the United States, it happens where ever the 20-foot or 50-foot long fiberglass replicas of the Trevi Fountains, created by John Bucci, are displayed.

  The brilliantly designed traveling Trevi Fountain replicas have four fountains flowing into a pool that has been filled with coins from thousands as they admire the Baroque artistry and ‘Make a Wish.'  All over the United States, people have been drawn to the dramatic fountain and its lure.

  Many believe that if you throw a coin in the fountain you are sure to return, but the romantic fable is that if you make a wish and toss three coins over your shoulders into the fountain, your wish is sure to come true.
Completed in 1762, the landmark Fountain has been romanticized in films such as La Dolce Vita (The Sweet Life), Three coins and a Fountain, Roman Holiday, and recently in When In Rome. It is estimated that more than 3000 Euros a day are tossed into the pool. (The funds are used to subsidize a grocery store for the needy.)

  Italian festivals in Ohio, New York, Illinois, and Delaware (just to name a few); conventions in Orlando, Coffee Fest in Houston, and grand openings across America have featured this dramatic display. The pool has been filled with the wishes, hopes, and dreams of thousands.

  The two traveling ‘la Fontana di Trevi’ are just a taste of the variety of artistry created by an Italian immigrant who has his work displayed prominently throughout the Chicago area. Still actively pursuing his craft, John Bucci works with the drive of the inspired in his studio/warehouse/showroom in the recently resurrected warehouse district of Division Street in Chicago.

Admired by Thousands

* His 40-foot tall bronze sphere (dedicated to Christopher Columbus’ 500 years since discovery) has graced the entry into Governors State University in Illinois for years.

Click to enlarge
 * John proudly created the  Lincoln Statue on the corner of the Dixie and Lincoln Highways in Chicago Heights. It is made of four tons of bronze. Depicting the gentler side of Lincoln as he receives a bouquet of flowers from two young sisters.
* The children’s musical stairways at Navy Pier in Chicago
* His  Blue Island’s display of the beginnings of Chicago.
* His model of how water gets to the top of skyscrapers at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.
* His addition to the Veteran’s memorial in Chicago Heights.
* and all the work he created for Casa Italia, Chicago’s own Italian Cultural Center, are homes to his magical expressions.

How it all began 

All of these sculptures, statues, reliefs, paintings, bronzes, water features, grandiose displays, and polymer/fiberglass creations came after a poor Italian immigrant living in Chicago in the early 1960s wanted a car.


John Bucci recalls, “During the war, if you wanted something, you had to make it!”

  He knew he could not afford a car, and he rented a shabby garage, worked every shift available at Zenith and then later at Sun Electric Corporation to have extra money. He bought spare parts; hand-molded the body, and built le Shabble,
the Sword!

  Le Shabble
was styled and molded to reflect the futurist designs of rockets and aircraft. As a boy, young Giovani would stare into the skies as Allied bombers and fighters flew their missions across enemy lines. He dreamed of being a pilot. He dreamed of freedom from communism. His design was inspired by looking into the sky.

  The frame that came from a wrecked Fiat would eventually turn heads as Le Shabble became a star attraction at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. It eventually became known as ‘Paul Anka’s Dream Car.’
  Features unheard of in the auto world took life at the hands of the graduate electrical engineer from the prestigious Leonardo da Vinci School of Science in Milan. His work at Sun Electric gave him access to experimental electronics that he built into this modern marvel.
  The innovative fiberglass/polymer body may well have been one of the first molded streetcars to hit the highways. Retractable headlights, retractable steering column, an electronic side panel for lights, windows, a one of a kind reel-to-reel player, and other gauges are wrapped around the driver. The two molded seats are tightly wrapped in handwoven leather strips. 
  Every piece of leather is uniquely designed and meticulously fitted by one man's hands.

  By 1962, the poor immigrant was driving around Chicago turning heads and dreaming of his next design. Le Shabble was followed by Le Trieste, a car he would drive throughout Europe. 

  Le Trieste drew the attention of crowds that required police crowd control at times.

  “The only thing the police wanted to know was,” How fast will it go?” It even inspired movie makers! The  Le Trieste design was featured for the ’71 motion picture Le Mans starring Steve McQueen.

  John Bucci was now a designer. His creativity and range of engineering expertise led him to blend architecture, electronics, and design into his displays.


  Giovani Desiderio (John) Bucci came to Chicago after years of trying to escape his beloved birthplace in Northern Italy that came under Communist rule after WWII.
  John understood communism at its basic core. 
“If everyone received equal pay, no one had a reason to work hard," Bucci said. "Many of us who wanted opportunity dreamed of going to America!”

  As a boy, Giovanni discovered a metal object that turned out to be a land mine. It had been buried near his home in Gorizia in Northeastern most Italy. He showed the unknown device to his neighbor, who pointed it out to his 19-year-old son. Giovanni (John) watched as his teenage neighbor picked up the land mine and was blown apart.

 “It was a horrible explosion that only left whole parts like an arm," Bucci said. "I will never forget the sight!”

  Ten years later, after completing his degree from the Electro-Technica Institute in Yugoslavia, the newly graduated Giovanni had two choices. Be drafted into the communist army, or escape! 

  A fence guarded by a communist Yugoslavian soldier, just outside where he was living and separating him by 100 meters from freedom and Italy. As the day approached when the authorities would come to serve his military notice, Giovanni rode his bike back and forth near the fence and looked across a field of land mine separating him from freedom.

  "One evening I came home to find my family very upset. Soldiers had come by to take me into the Czechoslovakian Army. My Italian home was occupied. I knew I would have to cross the field of land mines or serve in a communist army. This I could not do!"
  "That evening I took my bike and carried some books like a schoolboy coming home.
  "There was a guard about 100 meters away from me to the side. He wasn't interested in me! 
  The barbed wire fence was 8-feet high, and I was afraid of being tangled in it. I noticed that the fence had been crushed down by the guards at one low spot over a stream so they could get to a water fountain on the Italian side.   
  This was my miracle. If it was not crushed down, and I had tried to escape, I would have been made Swiss cheese by the guard. As the guard looked away, I just dropped my bike, and with nothing else but the clothes on my back and my two books, I just started running. 
  For whatever reason, the guard did not shoot. I fell into that opening and when I crawled up, I gathered my bearings and picked a straight path. I closed my eyes and ran into Italy and freedom praying all the way! The memory of my neighbor and the land mine was still with me as I stumbled a few times! "

  Once on the other side, Giovanni was sent to the holding center to be questioned by the Italian police and then sent to the refugee camp in Udine. He was there for two years, sent on to Bari for four months, and ended up in Salerno for 16 months. 

Coming to America ...

  It was in Salerno that Giovanni completed his course in electronics from the Leonardo da Vinci University. It was also there that John and his sister Gabriela received notice that a gentleman from Chicago had answered their post in the newspaper about needing a sponsor to immigrate to the United States. Their dream had finally come true!

  “The day I arrived in New York City in February, 1959, it was Lincoln’s birthday," Bucci said. "Then I moved to the land of Lincoln in Chicago. That is the reason I am so very proud and honored to have my design chosen for the Chicago Heights statue.”

The Trevi Fountain

  “After my work at Casa Italia during the bicentennial, I entered a competition sponsored by the Italian Tourist Commission. 

  The competition was to create an exhibit for Chicago’s Motivation Show. I believed that the Rome’s Trevi Fountain symbolized Italy so I created a 20-foot working replica. After I had won the competition, I was watching the TV show, JEOPARDY. One of the ‘answers’ was the most famous monument in Italy. The correct ‘question’ was – what is the Trevi Fountain?” 

  The 50-foot fountain is built on its own trailer, and the 20-foot fountain is transported on a trailer. Light and water features create soothing movement and sound to the fountains. 

  Since he created the original, Bucci has made replicas for private ownership. Others have been on display at event centers as well as many Italian Festivals and large conventions. He carefully preserves the molds, ready to fill another’s dream to own such working art.

  The traveling Trevi can be rented for an event or for a period of time and will lead to unexpected donations whenever a charity is the benefactor of the coins and wishes. 

  The Make a Wish foundation should have these fountains strategically located in their tourist hot spots and charitable events. You just can’t help reaching into your pockets in front of the world’s best known wishing well.

The Genius of Fiberglass

  While creating his cars and a custom state of the art recreational vehicle, John had to create a body molding system that could incorporate artistic styling with durability. His experiments in resins and polymers led to the development of his unique statue and relief art.

The artist side of Bucci can easily mold a likeness in clay that is striking and realistic. His Marilyn Monroe was designed from the famous skirt-raising scene and was created to fill the passenger seat in his car.

  John saw the photo of a prima ballerina that inspired him. And
so he created a 6- by 5-foot relief that literally has the dancer coming out of the ethereal wall of its background. 
  Give John Bucci a series of photos, and he can deliver a statue as realistic as it is ingenious.

  The engineering genius comes in to play with the medium of fiberglass. Once the model is shaped into clay, a rubber cast is made. Then a custom made one of a kind device created by Bucci chops the fiberglass threads to ever-increasing lengths layer by layer. 

  This method creates a smooth and rock hard outer surface that is given its strength and resilience by the ever-lengthening inner layers.

John Bucci’s works are just now being made available for private collections. Take a look at

J.B. Blocker is a media consultant based in Collin County. Phone: 469-334-9962. 

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