When you reach Giuditta Brozzetti’s Handmade Fabric Museum and Workshop, it’s easy to think you’ve got the wrong place.
The Women’s Church of St. FrancisImage © Concierge in Umbria
The street address leads you to an early 13th century church near Perugia's historic center. The atrium (pictured above) could be the office of the convent’s head sister, with its spare but elegant furnishings.
It was here that San Francesco and his disciples made their home while they were teaching in Perugia. And this church – today Perugia’s oldest Franciscan church – was erected on the spot in the saint’s honor. A group of Benedictine nuns then resided there on and off for the next 600 years.
But as you venture into the main church, you find antique looms lined up within each arch of the arcaded aisles. Image © Concierge in Umbria
And as textiles historian and Brozzetti co-owner Clara Baldelli Bombelli unravels the history of Umbrian weaving, through one breathtaking sample after another of the workshop’s delicate, colorful recreations of Deruta ceramic-inspired embroidery, veil-like silk and linen curtains, and cashmere- and gold-threaded tapestries, you come to share her belief that the church is the ideal place to honor the region’s traditionally feminine monastic crafts.
The Long Tradition of Umbrian WeavingImage © Concierge in Umbria
Weaving as both a craft and an art form is believed to have developed in Umbria between the 11th and 13th centuries.
But it was in the next three centuries that the industry, and its designs, came into their own.
Umbria-woven linen altar cloths with geometric borders (similar to the Medieval tessuto rustico
pictured above) and regal animal figures became in moda
throughout Italy. Umbrian griffins, lions, and eagles – based on Etruscan pottery – could be found gracing the vestments of the high-ranking church figures and the tables of the wealthiest Renaissance families.
Unfortunately, after its Renaissance peak, the Umbrian textile industry declined almost to the point of extinction, until, in the early 1900s, a group of Umbrian woman revived interest in the traditional designs.
Giuditta Brozzetti, Clara’s grandmother, was one of those leading the charge, and Brozzetti founded her workshop not only as a production center, but also as a school to further the craft.
Brozzetti’s Work TodayImage © Concierge in Umbria
Generation after generation, from mother to daughter, this tradition of education and excellence has continued through today.
If you have a day or a week, Clara and Marta will impart their deep knowledge of the craft’s history through basic weaving courses or in-depth dives into the intricacies of traditional Umbrian motifs. What sets the Brozzetti workshop apart, besides being one of the few wholly handmade cloth workshops left, are these designs (created on the pattern machine above).
Clara’s daughter, master weaver Marta Cucchi, studies paintings from the likes of Simone Martini, Ghirlandaio, and even Giotto and da Vinci featuring Umbrian cloths to uncover Renaissance patterns that have been lost to the weaving community over the centuries.
The Region of Umbria honored Brozzetti in 2004 for this important preservation work, officially including the workshop in its museum system.
Don’t Forget A SouvenirImage © Concierge in Umbria
While you’re busy admiring the antique jacquard looms, skeins of jewel-colored linen, cotton, silk, and cashmere thread lined up like jellies in a candy shop, and Marta swiftly warping and wefting away in the midst of it all, don’t forget to choose a favorite.
We think it’s a sin to miss the opportunity to pick out one of the workshop’s divine creations in person.
Brian Dore and Maria Gabriella Landers | Contact Us
Condé Nast Traveler Top Travel Specialist: Italy