Il Filatoio Welcome to the Castle

Piedmont’s Silk Road

To the curious traveler who loves finding out about regions and sights which are a little out-of-the-ordinary, I highly recommend an experience which is truly special: a visit to the Filatoio Rosso di Caraglio (the Red Spinning Wheel), which is in the province of Cuneo.  Built in the seventeenth century at the behest of Giovanni Gerolamo Galleani, it is the oldest building of its kind in Europe. I am welcomed by one of his descendants, Andreina Galleani D’Agliano, who tells me “the history of Piedmont is closely linked to silk, yet very little is still known of its history. The production of silk and the breeding of silkworms, the raw material, were very important for the region between the 17th and 19th centuries and were also a driving force for the local economy, not only in terms of technical innovations, but also, and more importantly, in the involvement of the rural population, which were mostly female, and who were employed as laborers, thus helping ensure they could maintain themselves with a relatively good standard of living in the countryside.” As a result, mulberry trees were cultivated for a long time in Piedmont as they fed the cocoons which then became silkworms in the “cucunere”, ready to start spinning their silk. The Filatoio was active until 1930, but was then converted into a barracks during World War II, from 1939 to 1943. It has recently been restored, and is now the permanent home of the Piedmontese Silk Mill Museum, with its vast multifunctional spaces often being used to host temporary art exhibitions. A visit to the Filatoio di Caraglio lets you explore the history of technological challenges, commerce and trade in the region, but also that of human lives.  It provides a truly exciting experience, allowing you to witness the important role that silk has played for thousands of years in Piedmont. If you’re keen to find out more on the subject I suggest you read “Il Rumore del Mondo” by Benedetta Cibrario. This important historical novel which is set in Piedmont between Turin and Mondovì provides a historical reconstruction of the aristocratic world and rural life in the mid-19th century, when everyone’s interests revolved around the world of silk.

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