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Wood metal and glass

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Wood metal and glass

CRAFT WORKSHOP
Craftsmanship of Perugia: the artisans in the city centre

Discover the true craftsmanship of Perugia

from 50€ Per person
Price is lower based on umber of people
EDUCATIONAL WALK
Walking around age-old villages in search of ancient trades and handicrafts

Walking around woods in search of bygone traditions

from 90€ Per person
Price is lower based on umber of people

Wood, glass and metals in Umbria

Sandro Penna, one of the greatest Italian poets of the 20th century, was born in Perugia and lived there during his youth. In one of his stories, written in old age, he refers to his memories of the city that was “so dear and so remote now”, as almost exclusively linked to the noises and strong smells that wafted out of the craft workshops and through the squares and streets. These premises occupied every centimetre of the ground floors and basements of the old historic centre, but in particular Penna remembers the blacksmith who worked under his house, not far from the Arco dei Priori, where the “noise was constant and absorbed every other sensation of that place and that time”.

Although much changed in terms of methods and quantity, after almost a century since Penna’s time, the artisan tradition has remained one of the elements, throughout Umbria, that most typifies the region. These activities have stood the test of time and modernity because of the quality of the products, which is the result of technical know-how combined with the artistry of great local artisans, via a relationship of reciprocal influence.

Major sectors in this regional craftsmanship, in addition to ceramics and textiles, are wood, glass and metals. With expertise that has developed over generations, these raw materials evolve into unique end products, and this same ancient mastery enables us to connect with the past, representing a heritage that is no less important than that embodied by great monuments and works of art.

Woodwork has a long tradition rooted in the Renaissance, when Umbrian masters created extraordinary wooden works of art such as the choir of the Basilica di S. Pietro in Perugia, the stalls and the pulpit of the Collegio del Cambio in the same city, the choir of the Cattedrale di Todi or the surprising Studio of the Duke of Montefeltro, a creation originally installed in the Palazzo Ducale in Gubbio this is now exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The craftsmanship that led to the creation of these works has, over the centuries and generations, been handed down to Umbrian artisans and carpenters, who still stand out in the field of furniture restoration and production. One of the most significant cities from this point of view is undoubtedly Città di Castello, where the so-called ‘reproduction’ or ‘period’ furniture industry came to life in the 20th century. This technique has its roots in ancient tradition, where the main element is the recycling of recovered antique wood from period furniture to build new ‘reproduction’ pieces. Recently, local artisans have created a brand called “Vero Mobile in Stile altotiberino” (Authentic period furniture in Altotiberino Style) and every year in the same city, a ‘Mostra del mobile in stile e dell’artigianato’ (Exhibition of period and craft furniture) is held at the end of September where you can admire and – if you want – buy these little gems of artistry and manual dexterity.

Travelling around the region you will find perfect examples to help you understand the impact made by the artistic glasswork tradition. To get an idea, just take a look at the windows of the cathedrals in Orvieto, Perugia and Todi. They are all the result of local craftsmanship that developed mainly thanks to two important centres for this type of work: Piegaro and Perugia.

At the end of the 13th century, Piegaro already supplied most of the region with products and raw materials and soon became a major centre for creating and working with coloured glass, which was the type used to build the windows of the Duomo di Orvieto in the first half of the 14th century. Some colouring techniques were invented there before becoming famous in Venice and Murano. Since then, the importance of Piegaro glass has never ceased and today the Vetreria Cooperativa Piegarese (Piegaro glass cooperative) is one of the major companies in the sector in Italy and Europe. If you pass through this lovely village, after visiting the ancient glassworks building that now houses the Museo del Vetro, you can’t leave without buying the typical ‘Fiasco di Piegaro’. This pot-bellied bottle comes in various sizes and is wrapped in a cleverly hand-woven straw covering, obtained from a local marsh plant called ‘scarcia’.

Moving on to the region’s capital, we can find traces of a figure considered a symbol of the regional glass tradition. In the second half of the 19th century, a research laboratory on ancient glass painting techniques was opened in Perugia by Francesco Moretti. The techniques were then developed over the years and can be admired in the Cathedrals of Perugia and Todi. Francesco Moretti was also commissioned in Perugia in 1862 to restore all twenty-three metres of the delicate window of the Basilica di S. Domenico, one of the largest Gothic windows in the world. This mastery was handed down through the family, giving rise to a unique tradition that for two generations has been carried out solely by the women of the house. At the museum of the Studio Moretti Caselli, located in the building that houses the historic laboratory of 1895, you can get to know the history of this family and admire some of its works, such as the radiant portrait of Queen Margherita of Savoia, created by Francesco Moretti in 1881.

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.

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