Metalworking has marked a fundamental period in human development. The acquisition of this type of ‘know-how’ enabled mankind to climb up a step on the evolutionary ladder and gave rise to a new era of prehistory, called by some, albeit roughly, ‘The Metal Ages’. Copper, bronze, iron and many other metals have characterized productive and economic sectors over time and –
depending on historical, geographical and economic factors – have developed more in certain areas than in others. In Umbria some of this knowledge has spanned centuries and millennia, surviving, in particular, in gold and iron craftsmanship.
The Umbria region boasts one of the most ancient goldsmith traditions, dating back to the Etruscans. In recent years, a particular technique called ‘granulation’ has been rediscovered and revived, consisting of soldering or fusing granules or spherules of gold to a sheet of the same material, creating a distinctive visual effect. If you want to see the highest standards achieved by Etruscan goldsmiths, don’t miss out on a visit to the Museo Faina di Orvieto. And if you want to take a piece of this tradition with you, there are a number of artisan workshops still active, for example in Torgiano, Spoleto, Orvieto and Terni.
The blacksmith whose work filled the childhood memories of the poet Sandro Penna probably belonged to a long tradition that began in the Middle Ages. The tradition of wrought iron in Perugia excelled in that period and for an example of such mastery, you should definitely see the gates of the chapels of the Cattedrale di S. Lorenzo. In Gubbio, on the other hand, local workshops have specialized over time in the forging of medieval weapons, a tradition that still exists today and that drives enthusiasts into a frenzy. If you want to see traditional blacksmiths at work, you can visit the annual festival of the Mercato delle Gaite that is held in summer in Bevagna, where for the duration of a few nights, all the main medieval village trades come to life in an extraordinarily authentic way.