The Museum of Silk in Como: A Journey Through Time and Craftsmanship

My passion for gardening inspired me to write The Italian Garden but, as a one-time dress designer, my love for beautiful fabrics led me to give one of my characters a career in his family’s silk manufacturing business.

I visited Bellagio to research the location for The Italian Garden and, on a blisteringly hot day, took a ferry across the lake to Como to visit the Museum of Silk (Museo della Seta). Nestled in the heart of the town, the museum offers visitors a fascinating glimpse into the rich history and craftsmanship of the region’s silk industry. As you step into the museum, you are transported back to an era when silk production was at the core of Como’s cultural and economic life. 

The History of Silk Production

The journey through the museum begins with an exhibit dedicated to a comprehensive overview of the origins of the silk industry, dating back to the 14th century. Display panels and interactive screens tell the story of how the Visconti family encouraged the cultivation of mulberry trees and silkworm breeding around Lake Como. Historical documents, maps, and artifacts illustrate the evolution of silk weaving techniques and the growth of the industry over the centuries.

Silkworms and Mulberry trees

One of the most interesting exhibits features the life cycle of the silkworms and their essential relationship with mulberry trees, whose leaves are their primary food source. Visitors can see models and specimens of silkworms in various stages of development, from eggs to cocoons.

Weaving and Looms

The museum houses an impressive collection of historical looms and weaving equipment, from simple hand-operated models to the complex Jacquard looms that enabled the creation of sophisticated  patterns and designs. 

Dyeing and Printing Techniques

Visitors can learn about the traditional methods used to dye silk fabrics, including the use of natural dyes derived from plants and minerals. The exhibit also delves into various printing techniques, such as block and screen printing. Samples of dyed and printed fabrics, along with tools and equipment, provide a deeper understanding of these processes.

The Economic Impact of Silk

An exhibit dedicated to the economic impact of the silk industry in Como highlights its significance to the region’s prosperity. Historical records, photographs, and personal accounts tell the stories of the families and communities that were involved in silk production. This section also explores the global reach of Como silk, tracing its journey from local workshops to international markets.

A display of textile samples and garments offers a visual feast for visitors, highlighting the exquisite craftsmanship and artistry of local weavers. Intricate patterns, vibrant colours, and luxurious textures show the versatility and beauty of silk. The exhibit includes historical and contemporary fashion, illustrating how Como silk has been used in haute couture as well as everyday clothing.

Contemporary Silk Production

The museum also features a section on contemporary silk production. Visitors can see how technology has been integrated into the production process, enhancing efficiency and creativity. This exhibit underscores the ongoing importance of silk in Como and its adaptation to the demands of the modern world.

To read more about Lake Como and its silk industry read my guest post on fellow writer Liz Harris’s website, click here

The Italian Garden, is the second of three books set in Italy with a WWI widow as the heroine. Each book will be a standalone story.

Lake Como, 1919.
The garden of Villa Marchese was once a sight to behold. Now, overgrown and unloved, the flowers that once bloomed are nothing but a reminder of the tragic events of Flora Marchese’s death.

When horticulturist Violet Honeywell is commissioned to restore the once exquisite garden, she immediately accepts and sets off from London on a life-changing adventure in Italy.

Violet is enchanted by the Italian way of life, and under the beguiling warmth of the Bellagio sun, she falls in love with a man who can never truly be hers – Flora’s grandson.

But when a discovery at the Lake uncovers buried truths that have haunted the family for decades, Violet starts to delve deeper into the dark secrets of their past, and she quickly begins to realise that not everything in the Marchese family is what it seems . . .

Buy here

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