It’s been over a month since I returned from Romagna and I can’t seem to get it out of my head. I long for piadina or a piece of ciambella (the traditional cake of the region) with my morning coffee. I look back fondly at the pictures. The region is beautiful, has both rolling hills and white sandy beaches. There are fascinating cities such as Ravenna and Santarcangelo but what I loved the most was the people. They are simple and genuine and the most hospitable I have met in a country were hospitality is a given. This is not a wealthy region. There has always been a need to make do with what was available. But the people of Romagna do not just “make do”, they impart grace, beauty and style to the simplest things be it in their 4 ingredient dishes that burst with flavor, or their ability to offer simple accommodations that feel like a four star experience because they are so welcoming.
We had the great opportunity to visit an artisan one our visit to Santarcangelo. Gabriele and the Marchi family make imprinted fabric products that are just gorgeous. All around Italy there are gifted artisans that make embroidered linens, but in Romagna there was not the money for such a luxury. Inthis region it is believed that just because you are poor doesn’t mean that you can’t have beautiful things. What a lovely concept. This is a centuries old process that begins with preparing the cloth by ironing it. No ironing boards back in the 1600s. Instead the cloth is pressed between a large stone slab and a log. The movement of the log is powered by a 17 foot, 5 ton wheel that is man powered. And by man powered I mean, a man actually gets into the wheel and, like a hamster, makes the wheel move by walking on it. When the log gets to the end of the stone slab, the “hamster” turns around and moves it in the other direction.
Once the fabric is prepped, the stamping process begins. The Marchi family still uses the original stamps made from pear wood. The dyes come from minerals and natural products. The most typical color is a burnt sienna which comes from using rusty nails to the make the pigment.
In our busy, high tech world, it is refreshing to see that some ancient traditional crafts endure. Visiting the workshop of the Marchi family was a real treat! I am having a contest on Facebook next week and I will be giving away a few souvenirs from the Marchi shop. Don’t forget to like the page and check back everyday for chances to win.