Browsing category: Crafts in Umbria, Italy Blogging Roundtable, Life in Umbria, Things to do and see in Umbria

Christmas Markets in Umbria: A New Tradition

Our monthly Italy Blogging Roundtable is talking about traditions this month! Take a look at posts by Jessica Spiegel and Alexandra Korey. (If you missed the previous months, take a look here.) Welcome back to our table…come pull up a chair and join in on the conversation.

I have to admit that I’m not completely sold on the whole Christmas market thing. An import from northern Italy—which, one presumes, imported it from the Alpine villages across its borders—these picturesque seasonal markets, composed of a number of small booths where artisans and artists hawk their wares, are starting to pop up more and more during the weeks leading up to the Christmas holidays in piazzas across Umbria.

Unfortunately, a number I’ve visited have been disappointments…just a handful of booths, or poorly organized, or largely forgettable items for sale: Umbria is obviously still in the embryonic phase of its holiday market tradition.

There are two exceptions to this largely insipid pool: Assisi’s pretty market the first weekend of December and Perugia’s large market which takes over the whole of the Rocca Paolina for the month of December.

The Rocca is a fascinating place to wander through anytime—the remains of the medieval cityscape perfectly conserved beneath the modern streets of Perugia above—but is particularly suited to a meandering market, with booths tucked away in the various alleyways and niches which make up the brick and stone underground warren. The booths ranged from ceramics and leather goods, to handmade toys and accessories. There were a number of vintage clothing and jewelry sellers and a great selection of fun items for kids.

The biggest selling point—aside from the dramatic setting and number of sellers—was the range of prices. You can easily find a number of unique stocking stuffers for under €20, up to more expensive leather bags and coats. I’m especially heartened each year by the number of local artisans with handmade crafts and food, always something I am happy to spend my (limited) Christmas budget on.

Unfortunately I’ve never snapped pictures when visiting the market, so a big thanks to Gigi Bettin from Via di Francesco for pinch hitting for me and loaning me some shots!

Read the posts, leave comments, share them with your friends – and tune in next month for another Italy Blogging Roundtable topic!


Bottega Michelangeli: Making Magic from Wood in Orvieto

It doesn’t hit you over the head, so much as sneak up on you from behind. You see a quirky bench adorned with the relief of a rooster or cat, a rustic Pinocchio with a nose so long that wooden birds are using it as a handy perch, a two-dimensional tree with leaves applied in layers three deep to give the foliage more depth and you slowly realize that these works of art these must have all been made by the same hand….or, at very least, the same woodworking shop.

Indeed, it takes just a few minutes of meandering the streets and shops of Orvieto to come upon the work of the Bottega Michelangeli wood atelier. Begun as a furniture-maker five generations ago, this workshop developed its now-famous two-dimensional, almost shadow puppet look under Gualverio Michelangeli in the mid-20th century, who departed from the stodgy furniture-making tradition begun by his family in 1789 to experiment with sculpture in pinewood. The style—a quirky yet pleasing blend of folk and contemporary art–is carried on in the work of his three daughters, Donatella, Simonetta e Raffaella, who were, like so many other children of artisans, raised in the shop and bred on family history and wood-shavings.

The atelier is housed in a former theater on the corner of Orvieto’s main Corso and Via Gualverio Michelangeli (thus is the pride the city has in one of its most famous local artists), in a former 19th century theater retrofitted to hold both the workshop and showrooms. Here there are samples of hand-finished furniture (the Bottega devotes much of its work to furnishing and décor), exquisite toys (dolls, marionettes, rocking horses), and what can only be described as art—linear angels, whimsical characters from mythology and fables, solemn birds and angels.

If you’re lucky, you may get a peek into the cavernous backroom, where their one-of-kind works are still hewn and assembled by hand. The dusty antique tools hanging on wall racks, the half-finished and abandoned projects leaning haphazardly in shadowy corners, the clean smell of fresh wood and sawdust, and the quiet concentration of the artisans bent over rough boards is evocative of the backstage that this theatrical space once was.

I prefer, however, to see Michelangeli’s pieces how they are meant to be seen: here and there about town. The odd shop sign, outdoor table, wall decoration…they pop out at you from the most unassuming corners of Orvieto (and some quite stately corners: the Town Hall and theater both are decorated with their pieces) and transform a walk through the streets into a treasure hunt of sorts.

Perhaps the best place to see the grandeur of Gualverio Michelangeli’s fantastical vision is the Montanucci Café on the main Corso. Step through the doors and into a fairy tale forest of trees and flowers, populated with woodland creatures and playful elves. Settle yourself at one of their tables and sample their signature sweet: bite-sized cones of smooth chocolate dubbed Pinocchio’s Nose. Between the chocolate and the whimsical surroundings, you’ll be hard-pressed to not feel somehow transported to a magical land.

A huge thank you to Toni DeBella of the fabulousOrvieto or Bust blog for her kind permission to use these photographs!


Umbria’s Artisan Crafts: What to Buy and Where

Though I’m not a huge shopper and certainly not a collector (I own so few things that I was once asked by a date who stopped by my apartment if I had lost all my belongings in a house fire), when I do spend money I try to spend it well. I do my best to support small local businesses, especially artisans who have to struggle so hard to keep crafting traditions alive.


I feel especially strongly about this in Umbria, a region with a long and proud artisan past and a thriving artisan present…if you know what to search out and where. Purchasing their handcrafted wares is killing two birds with one stone: doing good (by supporting the local economy) and doing well (by taking home an excellent quality memento that truly captures the essence of Umbria).

Read here to see what are four of Umbria’s most iconic products, and some suggestions as to where to find them:

Shopping for Artisan Crafts in Umbria:Where to Buy Ceramics, Cashmere, Textiles, and Chocolate


Do you have any favorite artisans or ateliers? Post them in your comments below to spread the word!


Il Mercato delle Gaite: There’s nothing Ye Olde about it!

I have to fess up and admit that it took me years to finally work up the courage to check out what turned out to be one of my favorite festivals in Umbria.

My only other contact with anything resembling a medieval fair was the now defunct King Richard’s Faire outside Chicago, which is an event roughly 1/3 kitsch, 1/3 tacky, and 1/3 fat, badly dressed midwesterners (I feel I can say this with impunity, being myself a fat, badly dressed midwesterner).    Actors wandered around the fairgrounds in costumes which can be described only as flower child 1980s Shakespearean, chitchatting in ye olde English, and selling “jars of mead” (Budweiser) and “sweet water” (Coke) from handbaskets.  The food was whole turkey legs, eaten with one’s hands, and funnel cakes.  The crafts were dried flower arrangements and toy swords.  I loved it, to be fair.  But I was 8, to be honest.  When I was 8, the height of cuisine was chili-mac, the height of fine wine was Lancers (Grandma drank it), the height of music was K-Tel’s Disco Nights, and the height of culture was King Richard’s Faire.

So it was with much trepidation that I approached the Mercato delle Gaite in Bevagna, imagining obnoxious jesters, marauding costumed concessionary hawkers, and just simply too much bad taste for my grownup self to handle.  Instead, this ten day long festival set in the 1300s is the antithesis to all of that, and a damned good time for both adults and kids, to boot.

One of the principal differences is that the annual event—founded in 1983–is not simply entertainment but instead a competition between the four traditional gaite, or quarters, of the town of Bevagna:  San Giorgio, San Pietro, San Giovanni, and Santa Maria.  Each quarter earns points primarily based on their historical accuracy during each of the four competitions held during the festival;  continuous and quite rigorous accademic research goes on behind the scenes and the festival’s jury is largely made up of historians and experts on fourteenth century Italy.  Like I said, there ain’t no ye olde English-esque stuff going on.

The coat of arms for San Giorgio

San Giovanni's coat of arms

San Pietro flies these colors

The crest of Santa Maria

Another difference between the two festivals is, of course, the venue.  Bevagna is an absolute jewel in the Umbrian plain, listed among the most beautiful villages in Italy.  The festival’s four competitions all take place in the lovely main piazza, and the medieval streets, buildings, and courtyards which surround it.  A charming place to visit all year round, this town really shines when all decked out for their annual festival.

The most important difference is, of course, the events themselves, four in all, which make up the competition between the gaite—first among them the mestieri, or artisan workshops.  Each quarter has the task of organizing two different workshops which use both the techniques and technology of the 1300s to actually produce wares—which makes the Mercato delle Gaite unique in a region where medieval festivals come a dime a dozen.

The bell of the "mestieri"

Over the years some of the less successful workshops have been replaced, others enlarged (this slow but constant evolution means that the trades have become more elaborate and spectacular with time), and now all are marvelous and fascinating.

The immense replica silk thread making machine

From the silk workshop–which raises silkworms, unravels the cocoons, and spins fine thread on a manual wooden contraption which fills an entire room and looks as if it jumped right out of one of da Vinci’s sketchpads of marvelous machines—to the paper workshop—which produces fine handcrafted paper by pounding rags with an enormous pulper powered by a waterwheel—to the bell foundry—which casts bronze bells on commission from churches and historical societies all over Italy—each workshop is manned by artisans in period garb who explain their trade as practiced 700 years ago.  There are ten mestieri in all (two are permanent and non-competing) open to the public every night from 9-12 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 5-7 pm and again from 9-12 pm.

The apothecary's workshop

As long as you are headed into town to see the workshops, plan to have dinner at one of the four taverne (outdoor restaurants) organized by each gaita.  The second competition which takes place during the festival–and figures into calculating the victor–is gastronomic.   Each quarter of the city researches recipes and ingredients used in fourteenth century cuisine and offers the public a chance to taste the fruits of this research by creating a menu exclusively made up of historical dishes.  The fare is heavy on meat (especially game), spices (this year I had a spice lasagna which was fabulous), and egg pasta and bread.  You won’t find tomatoes (no tomato sauce on your tagliatelle), potatoes (no gnocchi), corn (no polenta), or any other ingredients which were brought back from the New World 200 years after the time of the gaite.

A banquet with period food and costumes

After dinner and before making the rounds of the workshops, you can stop in the central Piazza Silvestri and watch a series of theatrical and musical events in costume, or the archery contest (the third of the four competitions during the festival).  Especially interesting is the Notte Medievale, a dusk to dawn medieval festival-within-a-festival with a full night of art, music, dance, and food.

Archers from the four Gaite prepare to compete in the piazza

The highpoint of the festivities, and the origin of the name Mercato delle Gaite, is the medieval market which takes place during the afternoons of the final weekend.  Each quarter organizes a working market, where locals play artists, artisans, tradespeople, and farmers displaying their wares—the competition consists in trying to create the most interesting, artistic, and historically accurate market square.  The feel of these markets really is a step back in time…each teems with customers weaving their way through the market booths, the din of the tradespeople hawking their wares and the live animals protesting their confinement, the smell of fresh flowers and herbs, cheeses, and dried sausages, the colorful garb of the costumed sellers and their stalls heaped with wares.

A market scene

I suppose the one thing the Mercato delle Gaite and King Richard’s Faire have in common is that you will find yourself inevitably bringing something home from both…what you end up bringing away with you from Bevagna, however, will never be a source of buyer’s remorse.

These photos were reproduced with permission of the  Associazione Mercato delle Gaite.


Italy Roundtable: Crafts in Umbria

This is the eighth installment of the monthly Italy Blogging Roundtable, a project organized by travel writing powerhouse Jessica Spiegel, and including professional travel writer Melanie Renzulli, art historian and general brainiac Alexandra Korey, Tuscan uber-blogger Gloria, and me. (If you missed the previous months, take a look here.) Please, pull up a chair to our Roundtable, have some charcuterie, and join in on the conversation.


There is an invasion afoot in Umbria, there’s no denying it. And it ain’t a stealth invasion, either. It’s a full-on, in-your-face, landscape-be-damned advance of the Big Box Stores.

I wish I could say that I have taken on a nom de guerre, gone underground, and organized a grassroots uprising against this disheartening trend which has turned much of the vista along Umbria’s main artery highway 75 into something akin to the blight in the far western suburbs of Chicago, but the fact of the matter is that I have found myself a customer more often than I would like to admit. Call it the convenience, the selection, the heavy weight of this current economic insecurity, but sometimes it’s hard to ignore the siren song of the one-stop-discount-shop, even though you know in your heart of hearts that you are just hammering one more nail in the coffin of a local economy which has survived for centuries—if not millenia—on the small and medium-sized family business.

I was pleased that the Roundtable topic chosen for this month was “crafts”, so I could talk up some of the amazing artisan wares—none of which are to be found in sprawling, low-overhead superstores–which come out of this region and bring my moral credit bottom line back into the black.


If you can only stuff one thing in your suitcase to bring back from a trip to Umbria, it’s gotta be something to eat. Unfortunately, given the array of things that—tragically–can’t be taken overseas (I have managed to smuggle a salame or two over the border, but that was in the heady pre-9/11 days), you will have to strike the amazing local charcuterie, cheese, and produce from your list. There does remain, however, the incredible olive oil (Umbria produces some of the highest quality and most sought after oils on the market) and wine, truffles, honey, and heirloom legumes. Nothing brings back fond memories of your trip months later than being able to recreate some of the same dishes that were such an epiphany when you first ate them here.

Budget buy: Pick up some Perugina Baci chocolates at a local grocery store. A fun, easy gift for folks back home.


Ceramics are everywhere in Umbria, but the vast majority of them all come from the same town: Deruta. The name has become synonymous with high-quality hand-painted majolica over the past roughly seven centuries of artisan production, and if you’re looking for cheap factory-spat tchotchkes you will be sorely disappointed. The heartfelt ceramic tradition is still very much alive in the dozens of workshops large and small that line the highway and the winding roads up to the top of the hilltown itself and you can find anything from majolica tops for table seating twelve or contemporary ceramic sculpture running in the thousands of euros, to tiny painted beads made into unique earrings or pendants. Gubbio has its own unique history of ceramic production, the apex of which was the famed lusterware of Mastro Giorgio in the 1500s, and you can still find a flourishing tradition of majolica workshops in the center of town.

Tight fit: If you need to pick up something for your neighbor who has been watering your plants while you’re away, but are down to your last ounce of baggage weight, slip in a painted ceramic wine cork (or two). The fit perfectly in the toes of packed shoes.


I have waxed poetic about Umbria’s traditional damask and jacquard hand-loomed at the Brozzetti workshop in Perugia repeatedly, so I won’t bore you with it again. Or, on second thought…hands down one of my favorite places to visit in Umbria, both for the dramatic workshop (housed in a 13th century church in the center of Perugia) and for the breathtaking cloth Marta and her assistants are still weaving by hand today. Ok, I’m done. If you can’t make it to Brozzetti, excellent quality cloth is also to be had in specialty boutiques across Umbria, principally in Montefalco and Spello.

In a strange historic quirk, a bit of Ireland lives on Isola Maggiore (the largest of Lake Trasimeno’s islands) in Pizzo di Irlanda—Irish lace. At the beginning of the 1900s a local noblewoman asked a few Irish maids in her service to teach their lace-making craft to local women, and generations later you can still find these delicate crocheted pieces in shops on the island and in towns around the lake shore. One of the towns near the Lake, Panicale, has its own rich tradition of embroidered tulle –known as Ars Panicalensis—which has been producing intricate flower, medallion, bird of paradise, and baroque scroll patterns for convents and bridal veils for over a century.

Punto Francescano
I love to walk the backstreets in Assisi, where sooner or later you inevitably come across a Signora sitting in the afternoon shade busy stitching a motif of griffins, birds, or stylized flora on a piece of rough, unbleached linen in bright blue, brick red, or soft brown silk. Ubiquitous in the souvenir shops around town, this traditional embroidery—a mix of cross and Holbein stitches—was first produced from around the 1200s through the 1500s, when it seems to have become a lost art. Revived again by local women artisans in the 1800s, there is nary a home in the entire greater Assisi area which does not boast at least one hand-embroidered runner. I have two.

Hard core: If you are passionate about textile history, there are a number of small but excellent museums in Umbria, including Tela Umbra in Città di Castello, the Museo del Tulle in Panicale, and the textile collection in Palazzo Sorbello in Perugia.


If you think that only Venice does glass—well, you may be right. That said, in the late 13th century glass artisans migrated from the famed Venetian glass-making island of Murano to Piegaro in Umbria and continued making exquisite pieces in their new outpost. Piegaro is now home to one of Europe’s largest industrial glass factories, but more compellingly a glass museum located in the restored historic glass factory. For a look into a glass museum that continues to actively produce, stop in the fabulous Studio Moretti Caselli, a family atelier which has been producing hand-painted stained glass windows for cathedrals and monuments world-wide since its founding in 1860.  Now in the fifth generation, the studio is still an active workshop and offers guided visits and a small gift-shop (just in case you don’t have room in your luggage for an entire window).

Really cool: Ok, if you want to know how to be the absolutely positively hippest cat in town, get yourself a pair of bespoke eyeglass frames from Ozona in Perugia. It doesn’t get any craftier than this.

Curious to hear what Alexandra, Gloria, Melanie, and Jessica had to say about this month’s topic? Check out their blog posts, and leave your comments.


Heart of Glass: Studio Moretti Caselli

Sometimes I discover something so amazing, so unique, so share-worthy, that it immediately plunges me into a schizophrenic episode.  Yes, because I have had two women warring inside my head for the past, oh, 39 years and nine months.

One of them wears her hair loose and flowing, dresses in organic cotton flower-print yoga pants, has tantric sex, and urges me to eat according to my dosha and do my daily affirmations.  The other pulls her hair in a tight bun at the nape of her neck, wears Hillary pantsuits, hasn’t gotten it on since, oh, forever, and tisks about fat content and carbohydrates with her lips pursed like a cat’s butt.

The first says, “Look at you, aren’t you a star!  You found a hidden gem, you.  Go, go and shout it from the mountain tops!  You are fabulous!”  The other says, “Well, it certainly took you long enough.  Seventeen years in Umbria and you’re only blumbering on it now.  Humiliating, really.  Always the last to know. Keep it quiet so you won’t make a fool out of yourself again.  And put that cupcake down.”

They slug it out for awhile, but the first woman always ends up coming out on top.  Because, as we all know, tantric sex always kicks pantsuit’s ass.

So, here I am, a couple of weeks later, telling you all about one of the best kept secrets in Perugia.  And I really do mean best kept, because, despite it being just steps from both the Corso and the main parking garage in the provincial capital and despite me having passed directly in front of the nondescript sign probably a thousand times over the years, I had no idea what was in store for me when I stopped by their open house a few Sundays ago.

Studio Moretti Caselli has been producing hand-painted stained glass windows for cathedrals and monuments all over the world since its founding in 1860 by Francesco Moretti, who began by studying chemistry and glass art texts from the 12th and 13th centuries (glass art had declined to the point of becoming almost extinct after the 1400s) to become one of the greatest modern restorers of stained glass windows.  Now in the fifth generation of the same family of artists, the studio is still an active artelier and offers guided visits through its museum-workshop.

This rendering of Perugino's Incoronation of the Virgin rivals the original. Loaned for a museum exhibit, it was returned with four cracks in the delicate glass.

The studio is housed in a 15th century palazzo originally belonging to the once powerful Baglioni family; the modest plaque near the heavy wooden front door belies the soaring and lightfilled vaulted rooms with their immense windows inside.  A visit begins in the archive, where instead of computers and file drawers, the shelves are filled with cracked leather volumes containing more than 150 years of commissions, sketches, and family documents.

The Moretti Caselli archive, with its historic ledgers of commissions, collections of sketches, and family documents.

From there, the charming Maddalena Forenza—the last of the Moretti Caselli family, who continues to run the workshop with help of her sister, Elizabetta—leads you to the historic laboratory, where tiny glass jars of powdered pigment line the walls and 19th century chemistry equipment used to prepare the paints (now subsituted by modern pigments which are much less toxic) are still on display.

The founder of the Moretti Caselli Studio died relatively young, quite probably from the effects of toxins commonly added to pigments at the time.

The Moretti Caselli Studio's founder died relatively young, quite probably from the effect of toxins commonly found in pigments at the time.

The highlight of the workship is without a doubt the two main halls; the first was used to recieve clients and is covered in pretty period frescoes restored by Moretti at the beginning of the 1900s.  From here, visitors pass into the captivating second hall, with monumental life-sized displays of pencil sketches and final drawings of many of the finished works still mounted in windows across Italy and the world.  Two of the most precious works produced by the Moretti Caselli Studio are on permanent display here: a full sized portrait of the Queen Margherita and a tondo copied from a Perugino painting.  I never knew how enchanting a stained glass window could be until I found myself utterly entranced by the delicate and flawless brushwork and the luminous effect created as the light passes through layers of pigment applied and fired repeatedly.  These are truly works of art.

It's hard to capture the breathtaking luminosity of these works in photographs. Stained glass is meant to be seen with the light behind, not in front.

The visit ends in the workrooms of the studio, where I was aghast at the time and effort involved in producing each piece.  From the initial drawings and sketches, to the selection and cutting of glass, to the actual painting (which can only be done by daylight, as the secret to a masterpiece is the alchemy of correctly mixing colours and light), the pieces then begin the baking process to fix the colour. Often pieces pass through the kiln—the studio uses a modern electric kiln now, but until just a few years ago was still using the original wood-burning kiln which takes up an entire room–three or four times, applying a new delicate coating of color between each firing. Finally, the glass pieces are assembled on their lead mountings to create the stained glass window.

This wood-fired kiln, which required two to three people to bake glass pieces, was used until 1993.

Have I mentioned how often pieces break?  Often.  Incredibly often.  So often I begin to think that the Moretti Caselli clan is either extraordinarily patient or slightly off.  I, for example, dropped one stitch on my son’s baby blanket and disgustedly stuffed it unfinished into the back of the closet, where it remains nine years later.  But the pride this family has for their work, and the passion with which they still talk about both their windows and their history, explains it all.  They put their whole hearts into their work, and those hearts are made of glass.

Now that I've seen the workshop, my next quest is to travel across Umbria to see some of their masterpieces in situ.

Don’t miss the opportunity to see one of the most fascinating historical artisan workshops in Umbria, which is open to visitors upon appointment.  The Studio continues to produce hand painted glass windows and panels, hand etched glass, and Tiffany glass, and also offers day workshops and longer courses in the art of painted and stained glass.

These photographs were used with kind permission of the Studio Moretti Caselli, who hold the copyrights.


The Fabric of Time: Traditional Umbrian Textiles

It pains me to admit it, but the times, they are a-changin’, even here in Umbria.

When I arrived here in 1993, this is how you did your grocery shopping:  You left your house early in the morning with a net bag, and first you headed to the outdoor market in the piazza where you picked up your greens, fruit, flowers, and the local gossip.  Then you headed to the butcher’s for your meat, and the local gossip.  Then the fish shop for your fish, and a side of gossip.  Then the cheese shop, the fresh pasta shop, and the bakery…where you caught up on the gossip.  Then, for your very last stop, you dropped by the little local family-owned store for sundries like toilet paper and raisins and any gossip you may have overlooked. And, if you were lucky, you got home by noon.

What the produce section once looked like.

Now you go to the Ipercoop superstore along the highway and in half an hour buy all of the above.  And get your gossip off Facebook.

When I arrived here in 1993, this is how you saw a movie:  You went to downtown Perugia (our provincial capital, aka The City), where the four movie houses were.  You started at one end of the Corso and checked out the posters outside the Cinema Modernissimo but decided to have an aperitivo and a chat instead.  Afterwards you headed to the Cinema Turreno to see what was showing there and before the show stopped into the Pizzeria Mediterranea for a quick margherita.  Then, since you missed the beginning of the show, you ambled down the street to the 18th century Teatro Pavone where, on the nights they didn’t have a concert or play scheduled, they might show a movie.  And on the way you popped into Pasticceria Sandri for a pastry, thus missing the starting time there as well.  So you ended up at the Lilli, where you grabbed a quick espresso from the bar next door and settled in to watch whatever was on that night.  And halfway through the movie you  felt raindrops hitting your face and looked up in surprise, forgetting that they had that really cool 1940’s retractable roof which they would open on summer nights.

What the cinema once looked like.

Now you go to the Warner Village Multiplex along the highway, where they have 10 different movies going on pretty much every hour all day and night, and you eat popcorn and drink Coke.

In light of all this modernization, the opportunity to see how things used to be done seem more rare with every passing year.  Another example is the corredo, or traditional trousseau, which was a collection of high quality household linen–including table linens, towels, bed linens, and quilts–which a young woman would assemble in her youth and as a bride would use as the cornerstone of her new household.   The contents of what we in the midwest once called a “hope chest” were generally high-end handwoven cloth, expensive and acquired with care and patience over many years.  Now, of course, the couple registers at a department store or, even more often, lives together for years before marrying and thus has already collected all the household linen they may need.

The demand for this type of superior quality cloth has declined in step with the decline of the traditional corredo, which is both a shame and what makes Brozzetti Laboratorio di Tesseratura a Mano (or weaving workshop) in Perugia so unique and so worth a visit.

Tucked away in the heart of Perugia.

The workshop is housed in a 13th century church.

Just some of the beautiful pieces coming off the antique looms.

Housed in the oldest Franciscan church in Perugia, la Chiesa di San Francesco delle Donne (1212), this artelier was founded in 1912 by the formidable Giuditta Brozzetti.  One of the first modern female entrepenuers in Umbria, Brozzetti criss-crossed the region copying and conserving traditional motifs taken from decorations found on Etruscan tombs and pottery, details from medieval and renaissance cloth, and iconography from works of religious art from little known churches spread out across the region.  Many of her original handmade sketches are remain on display, and these geometric and stylized designs are still incorporated into the workshop’s pieces.

The detail in the woven patterns is fascinating.

Today the Brozzetti family is in its fourth generation of craftswomen, who continue producing hand-woven fine jacquard cotton, linen, silk, and wool cloth on antique wooden manual looms, many dating from the 19th century.

One of the antique wooden looms still used by the weavers.

A visit their workshop is simply captivating…the loud click-clack of the looms working, the gentle light filtering through the enormous apse window, the stylized patterns of griffons, pomegranates, and twisting vines in all imaginable shades of color.

Marta, last of the Brozzetti family, working the loom.

In this a-changin’ world, it’s a rare gift sometimes to be able to peek through the window of time and get a glimpse and what we have, tragically, lost.

Photographs of Brozzetti Laboratorio di Tesseratura a Mano were used with permission by Marit Alanen: photographer, artist, writer, and traveller.  “You drink too much, you cuss too much, and you have questionable morals…You’re everything I ever wanted in a friend.”