The elongated stone buildings with their regular, multi-storey rows of windows appear to be down-to-earth and tidy. Functional metal posts structure the bright and spacious room inside. Around 1900 this place in the hills of the Casentino region not far from Florence witnessed the hustle and bustle of one of the most important textile factories in Italy. This success was not a coincidence since the Casentino people were experts on the art of wool manufacture. The museum reveals why - by embarking on an exciting journey through the centuries of regional textile manufacture. To be part of it visitors are repeatedly encouraged to use their hands. In doing so they feel, for instance, the difference between wool, silk, cotton, linen and hemp – all of them fibers that have shaped the traditional Casentino craftmanship from earliest times. The tools that were needed to shear, to wash, to comb and card, to spin and weave wool can be touched by visitors as well. With mechanisation on the rise the first factories were established. What that meant for the process of wool manufacture is illustrated by the museum's comprehensive collection of textile machinery. Audio samples create the appropriate background noise, and interviews with former factory workers revive the daily routine of the past.
The year 1738 was a key one for Tuscany. At that time Grand Duke Francesco di Lorena cancelled the monopoly on wool manufacture and trade that had always been exercised by Florence's powerful guild of cloth-making handicraft. Within a few decades, the regional textile business changes fundamentally: the craft sector and the decentralised cottage industry are losing ground, instead mechanised workshops concentrate the manufacturing process in one place. In this context two families, the Ricci and the Beni, stand out in particular: their cloth factories in Stia are amongst the first in Tuscany which are equipped with machines imported from abroad. In 1852 this leads to the foundation of the Stia wool mill that still stands today. Less than ten years after its establishment this factory employs close to 140 people and successfully participates in the Paris World Exposition of 1867. Its seven water wheels rely on the current of the river Staggia bordering the premises. In the 1890s two hydraulic turbines take their place, powered by water running through tubes carved out of the surrounding hills. In 1918 the wool mill reaches its zenith: 500 workers and 136 looms produce more than 700,000 meters of fabric per year.
Between the two World Wars the factory that has become the official cloth supplier to the Casa Savoia (Royal Family) remains of fundamental importance, but after World War II it enters into a gradual decline that lasts until 1985. After a last unsuccessful attempt to revive its business the mill definitely ceases operation in 2000. Thanks to the Luigi Lombard Foundation established by a former owner family it is immaculately restored between 2007 and 2010 with the objective to create a space of collective memory for locals and visitors. The museum that is installed here promotes the art of wool manufacture as an everyday reality. That includes workshops focusing on the process of transforming raw wool into clothing.
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June, July and September:
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday 10am-1pm
Thursday, Sunday 10am-1pm and 4pm-7pm
daily 10am-1pm and 4pm-7pm
October to May:
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday 10am-1pm
Thursday, Sunday 10am-1pm and 3pm-6pm