A visit to the “Museo del Panno Cosentino”is an experience of senses

by Sandra Massai Fallaci, ph. Alessandro Gambinossi

It’s easy to say fabric. The entry in the Italian dictionary goes: “A thick and heavy fabric made of wool, used for coats, military uniforms, etc… more generally, any kind of fabric.” Any? Yes, but not for the “Panno del Casentino”, which does not fit in this definition at all. It is understood when visiting the Museum of Wool Art at Stia, precisely in the Casentino. There, you can ascertain what kind of exquisite craftsmanship – which becomes art – produces that “fabric”, so prestigious and particular, unique in the world. Just look at the coloured garments exhibited to be convinced that, yes, that is what it’s really all about:  refined craftsmanship. But the Panno Casentinodid not always have those colours. Originally it was only of one colour: orange. Ever since the Middle Ages Stia has been the manufacturing centre for this precious product, which is subjected to at least six operations after the shearing of the sheep: carding, spinning, warping, weaving, dyeing, napping. The carding, useful for untangling the knots making the wool untwisted and soft, used to take place under the porticos of Piazza Tanucci in Stia in the past. After that, the spinning was left to the women who made a very long thread using a spindle. The ladies who did the spinning then wound all the threads around a cylinder called “subbio” to proceed with the weaving. Instead, the dyeing was generally left to the men. The last phase, the napping, was used to create the “curls” which make this fabric unique. This Museum is a true richness for all the area, to be visited at least once in a lifetime. It is an example of industrial architecture of a high historic interest. The “panno grosso di Casentino” is indeed a very ancient rustic fabric, so called by the 14th-century Florentine merchants. Still now, it comes from the sheep of the same area and it had a great increase in popularity when its manufacture became industrial. It is a warm fabric, very comfortable and resistant. Its orange hue, also called “goose’s beak”, was then followed by green and black, and later on, many other colours. Let us then be carried away by the harmonic play of this show of colours in the Museum which is a real and true centre of textile culture where a visit here is rightly called “an experience of the senses” because you do not only learn interesting things but you feel, touch, listen and sniff to better understand the world of art, precisely, of wool.

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