While traveling through Provence in the south of France years ago, I visited an old stone building that a fashion photographer friend of mine bought to convert into his retirement home. The interesting thing about the structure was its 4 corner fireplaces that had been used to heat the building with its two foot thick walls, used for hundreds of years to grow silkworms. Since then I've learned that long before France spun silk threads, Italy had been extracting silk threads from those magical little fluffy moth's larvae since the Middle Ages...
The Italian word for silk in Italian is seta.
There is a long history of silk-making in Como. The reasons are two-fold: The alpine lakes and streams supply an abundant supply of fresh water crucial in the manufacture of this magical fabric; there is an established agricultural presence of mulberry trees--the preferred food and habitat of silkworms.
Silk production using silk worms grown in Italy has been on the rise in recent years. The industry in Italy had suffered a collapse since the 1950s due to cheap prices of silk from Aisa, especially from China. But the price of Chinese silk has been climbing, far surpassing the price of silk threads produced in Italy from Italian-grown silkworms. In years past, buying a silk scarf labeled "Made in Italy" although manufactured in Italy, contained Chinese silk. That is about to change... and the Italian fashionistas are very happy about it.
At one time weavers worked by hand on antique looms but nowadays most production is industrialized. Claiming to be the European Capitol of Silk, the nearly 1000 companies in the Como silk industry produce products for the likes of Versace, Valentino and Gucci along with other French fashion names. If you are in the town, picking up a tie, scarf or other fashion accessory made of silk will be a souvenir to be proud of. The over 20,000 locals working in the industry will thank you for investing in their efforts. In Como you will find specialty silk shops and boutiques and several factory stores as well. Look for the names of Mantero, Ratti, Clerici, and Frey... the best Italian silk brands.
Museo didattico della seta
Via Castelnuovo, 9, 22100
In this museum you will learn about the history of the silk production process in Como. On display are antique equipment including looms, bobbin weavers, color blocks, and other silkscreen devices. There is also a small gift shop.
Via di Cernobbio, 19, 22100 Como
Since 1945, when Antonio Ratti founded the Tessitura Serica Antonio Ratti, this enterprise has been one of the leaders in Como’s silk production. You can browse among scarves, ties, and other accessories made for names like Givenchy and Christian Dior. The shop is located on the first floor of their beautiful villa.
via Riccardo Mantero, 4, 22070 Grandate
Mantero is one of the best silks you can buy. Their factory outlet in Grandate offers discount prices on scarves and other accessories with renowned fashion names.
Two other Como shops to check out:
Where to buy Frey products:
A Brief History of Silk
The production of silk originates in China in the Neolithic Age (Yangshao culture, 4th millennium BC). Silk remained confined to China until the Silk Road opened at some point during the later half of the first millennium BC. China maintained its virtual monopoly over silk production for another thousand years. Not confined to clothing, silk was also used for a number of other applications, including writing, and the color of silk worn was an important guide of social class during the Tang Dynasty.
Silk cultivation spread to Japan around 300 AD, and, by 522 AD, the Byzantines managed to obtain silkworm eggs and were able to begin silkworm cultivation. The Arabs also began to manufacture silk during this same time. As a result of the spread of sericulture, Chinese silk exports became less important, although they still maintained dominance over the luxury silk market.
The Crusades brought silk production to Western Europe, in particular to many Italian states, which saw an economic boom exporting silk to the rest of Europe. Changes in manufacturing techniques also began to take place during the Middle Ages, with devices such as the spinning wheel first appearing. During the 16th century France joined Italy in developing a successful silk trade, though the efforts of most other nations to develop a silk industry of their own were unsuccessful.
The Industrial Revolution changed much of Europe’s silk industry. Due to innovations on spinning cotton, cotton became much cheaper to manufacture and therefore caused more expensive silk production to become less mainstream. New weaving technologies, however, increased the efficiency of production. Among these was the Jacquard loom, developed for silk embroidery.
An epidemic of several silkworm diseases caused production to fall, especially in France, where the industry never recovered. In the 20th century Japan and China regained their earlier role in silk production, and China is now once again the world’s largest producer of silk. The rise of new fabrics such as nylon reduced the prevalence of silk throughout the world, and silk is now once again a rare luxury good, much less important than in its heyday. Currently, the Italian silk industry is about to have a boost with its Italy-grown silkworms, proving to be more cost effective than importing Chinese silk, which has gotten very expensive in recent years.
Casalinga trimming the veggies.
Getting the shopping done.
Settling in for dinner
The elements of this style are basic: Celebrate light. Feature rustic architectural elements. Introduce moderate splashes of color. The canvas is neutral, white on white. Modern mixes with history. The eye shouldn't be attacked... keep it simple. The people in these environments walk freely naked or in white cotton robes. Pets and children accessorize and enhance this lifestyle...
Mr. Darcy would be shocked. Because Colin Firth is now an Italian citizen. He obtained dual citizenship because of Brexit — Britain’s plan to exit the European Union — and the political “uncertainty” that is happening across Europe. He was able to obtain citizenship because he’s married to Italian film producer Livia Giuggioli. Firth decided to make the move because his wife and their two children already have Italian citizenship. Both their kids were born in Rome, so they have dual citizenship. And now Firth does, too.
“We never really thought much about our different passports,” Firth told the BBC. “But now, with some of the uncertainty around, we thought it sensible that we should all get the same.”
READ MORE HERE...
Maria Grazia Cucinotta: an Italian actress who has featured in films and television, also a film producer, screenwriter and model. Best known for her roles in Il Postino and as a Bond girl in the The World Is Not Enough.
Monica Belluci: Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Malena, Matrix: Reloaded
Caterina Murino: born in Cagliari, Sardinia, and initially wanted to be a doctor. She has appeared on stage in Shakespeare productions and as a Bond Girl.
Asia Argento: an Italian actress, singer, model, and director.
Argento is best known for the role of Yelena in the action film xXx.
Elisabetta Canalis: was born in Sassari, Sardinia and is a dancer,
television hostess and actress.
Sara Tommasi: an Italian actress and television personality known
for dating soccer stars and posing nude.
Melita Toniolo: born in Treviso, she is a film actress.
Vanessa Hessler: an Italian-American model and actress since she was 15. Hessler has appeared in many publications throughout Italy, Germany and France.
No need to dust off that old puffy jacket. You can be stylish and warm this winter...
Our Italian friends always seem to have the best of the pickings, so we grabbed our pen and pad and headed out on a fact-finding mission. When it comes to an abundance of winter options, Brunello Cucinelli is notorious for having upwards of 100 pieces per collection. His Milan showroom features the cream of the crop, especially in menswear where he effortlessly mixes classic blazers with sporty sheepskin-lined winter coats and lace-up leather shoes with bootcut pants.
Read More HERE...
Most girls dream of having a princess wedding when they meet the uomo of their dreams. And what better place to have your wedding--big or small--than la Bel Paese. In fact, save your money, have a small wedding in a tiny chapel, but splurge on your means of transportation--rent a carrozza principessa (princess carriage). In Italy, there are many such carriages you can for your Italian wedding. Select a beautiful location, like a castle or villa to have your wedding at, and your principessa dream can come true.