The Visconti Homo Sapiens

Undoubtedly one of the most desired pens in the world, the Visconti Homo Sapiens was my first great pen and continues to be one of my absolute favourites. Designed in Florence and made with Sicilian lava, it is quintessentially Italian: utterly, hopelessly beautiful and deeply flawed.

The design is spectacular – a real strength of Visconti’s – a mixture of rubber and lava that gives the barrel a rough, pock-marked texture and has no temperature at all. If your hand is warm, the pen is warm. If your hand is cool, the pen is cool. But it always feels right at home in the crook of my hand, like it has always belonged there and doesn’t want to go.

The nib, too, is majestic – a palladium creation that is soft, springy and delightfully wet, a true joy to use. It is protected by a cap with a twist-and-lock mechanism that should be used on every single pen ever made. It is genius.

I love this pen so much that I often forget its flaws entirely: never knowing how much (or little) ink is left; the section that absorbs ink and stains my fingers days and weeks later; the faulty piston ring that came lose for no reason at all; the useless clip with its dodgy lettering; and the utter pain it is to clean. They are flaws I am happy to forget because none of them actually interfere with the joy I feel when I am writing with this pen. But they are flaws you should remember before buying one too.

More than anything else, the pen reminds me of that girl we’ve all dated: drop-dead gorgeous and endlessly fun but a bit dramatic. A bit crazy. The one you loved to be with, loved to date, but would never introduce to your parents. I love the pen and I love having it in my collection, but I’m glad it’s not the only one I own. When I have serious writing to do, I don’t find myself reaching for an Italian pen but for one of the Germans; something that won’t thrill me, but won’t give me any grief. Something I know will get the job done.

So if you’re thinking about it, my advice is this: don’t. Not until you have one or two others: a Montblanc, Graf or Pelikan that can get you through the day before you come home to this. This is the sportscar you keep in the garage for summer days, the girl you keep in the city for blowing off steam, the holiday spot where you dream of living. It’s not a pen for real life.