Lombardy has always been regarded as the region with the highest rate of industrialization, where small and large companies, after Sixty years, have helped to relaunch Italy as one of the most important countries of Europe. But that does not mean that the typical craft does not constitute an important aspect of its cultural and social history. The handicraft of Lombardy, in fact, offers unique products with a strong tradition.
Como: the capital of silk
The town of Como and its province are one of the most renowned Italian areas for the production of silk. An exclusive secret of the Chinese imperial court for many centuries, the Italian silk production was imported after the year 1000 and spread in the South, especially in Sicily. In the Como area he arrived around 1400 at the behest of Duke Ludovico Sforza, who forced the farmers to plant their fields in the mulberry trees.
This tradition endured through the centuries and became a second activity for the farmers, who, during the spring season turned into reapers to be able to supplement their meager income. The women of the family and the children were instructed to gather mulberry leaves and cut them to the tiny caterpillars could eat it. Soon the silk in Como area became a popular product especially for the high quality of its workmanship.
Soon, many farmers became full-time silk manufacturers to create products and gave rise to an articulated complex workmanship. Then with the launch of companies that took care of the production and distribution, the Como silk became a product famous in the world and still today this area of Lombardy is considered the world capital of silk.
Valchiavenna, mountainous area near the Swiss border, is renowned for “ollare” (the soapstone), a green stone that retains heat, and from the past used to produce pots and used today for the production of original furnishings.
In the whole valley you can find historical evidences with prehistoric carvings dated to the late Bronze Age carved on boulders of soapstone.
There is evidence about the use of this stone for creating objects from the Etruscan and stone masterpiece soapstone, in the visual domain, it is the monolithic baptismal font of San Lorenzo in Chiavenna, executed in March 1156.
In the tradition of the Valtellina the stone is used to make pans (the “Lavecc”) excellent for cooking while the “pioda”, one of the same stone slabs, is perfect for grilled meats. But the soap is also used for artistic production: many crafts decorate it with hand-engraved designs or sculpt to get items from the highly prized ornaments.
The best violin in the world
Cremona is one of the most well-known cities of Lombardy for the traditional production of musical instruments. The first workshops of organ builders is dated back to the early Fifteenth Century, while in the first half of the Sixteenth century started spreading the production of luthiers whose history is closely related to the name of Andrea Amati, famous Cremonese violin maker whose violins were recognized from small features dimensions and typical camber.
The traditional Cremonese violin making is an ancient art of string instruments construction: violins, violas, cellos, double basses. Stringed instruments can be made with different methods, but one developed in Cremona is considered the best in the world.
Andrea Amati’s luthier art continued with the luthiers of his own family, with the Guarneri, with the most important of all, Antonio Stradivari in the Eighteenth Century until today. The ‘form’ of the string instrument is the main feature of art Cremonese violin making, especially the violin that needs practice exclusively by hand and in-depth knowledge of materials and processing techniques: knowledge and experience have been passed down through the centuries to follow the direct relationship teacher-student, often even from father to son.
Over 70 pieces of wood are shaped and assembled strictly by hand. A discipline which adapted on the always different acoustic responses of each piece: this means that they will never be two identical instruments. Each part of the violin is built with a particular timber, carefully selected, and cannot be used industrial parts or semi-industrial, or spray paints. Many peculiarities that seem purely decorative are highly functional robustness of the structure and are functional for the sound amplifier.
Over the centuries the Cremonese Art Lutherie featured deeply Cremona and its violin is now a universal symbol that leads to its name, associating an image of cultural and artistic excellence. In Cremona there are concentrated many shops and this mastery, which with time has been renewed studying ancient and modern instruments, proceeds in its ancient tradition. The exchange of information between luthiers and musicians were essential to continue the tradition, enriching and modernizing the construction method. In this way the skills of a Cremonese violin maker are always in step with time and it is shown by the construction of still unrivaled tools in the world and they are proud of the Italian craftsmanship.