I’m a lover of stories. Half the fun of exploring different cultures and meeting new people is discovering what’s not outwardly apparent. (The other half is eating unusual, delicious food but that’s another blog.) So when I step into a museum, stand under a sun-filled Tuscan sky, or shake a new hand, my mind is already asking, “What story can I discover today?”
When I tucked into the Busatti showroom and artisan shop in Anghiari, Tuscany, I expected to hear a story of how beautiful designs are woven into fine linens. And to a certain extent I did. I watched with fascination as a 100-year-old carding machine rhythmically (and very noisily) transformed bundles of wool into fibers ready for the loom. I learned how looms fill up bolts of brightly colored jacquard. My fingertips brushed against table linens and bedding considered by many experts to be unsurpassed in quality and softness.
The story I didn’t expect to encounter walked into the room in the form of Elena. Elena is the daughter of the original Busatti matriarch. I learned from her that beneath the handcrafted beauty I saw all around me was another story of resolve and determination.
The Busatti family went through several periods of intense difficulty. In the mid sixties, for instance, when synthetic materials were introduced, the demand for fine linens declined.
“No one wanted to buy linen,” said Elena. “Moving into synthetic work meant buying a new loom every five years because technology evolved along with the fabrics. But my mother, Helena, resolved not to give up what had made us well known. ‘I have eight children, a factory, and a shop. I can’t go along with this new trend. We will remain a traditional factory.’”
So they stayed with the old way of fabric. Times were very difficult. The family sold their villa and they risked foreclosure. But Helena persevered. Twenty years later, consumers rediscovered the beauty of fine linen.
“Why didn’t she give up?” I asked Elena.
“My mother was a woman of iron—an Iron Lady. Towards the end of World War II, the English advanced through Italy. As the Germans retreated, they set mines to destroy anything of value and hinder the advance. But my mother had faith,” said Elena. “As Italians it’s part of our Catholic faith. My mother believed in the Lord’s providence in her life and to show that she hung a cross in our inner hallway.”
When the Germans arrived at the city of Anghiari, they opened the door to the factory and saw the cross hanging. Assuming the building was just a church and of no value, they closed the door and moved on. Because of a mother’s resolve, determination and faith, a factory and a legacy of craftsmanship were saved.
Knowing the stories behind the places and people we visit helps us better explore, encounter, and embrace the fabric of their culture. Our privilege at Niteo Tours is to help you discover what those stories are.
Copyright © 2015 Niteo Tours.
I’m gonna love reading your blog, Carol! It’s in my budget range. 🙂