Artisans in Liguria: what a wonderful world!
You may have heard of the Genoese lace (more about this later) but there are so many other extraordinary artisanal products in Liguria that are just awaiting your discovery.
We love helping you to discover the most authentic corners in Liguria. Our beautiful region is rich in artisanal products and with this post we will virtually guide you in a journey between the coast and the inland, looking for the finest crafts that can only be found here, and are only produced by a few very skillful artisans in Liguria.
We are sure you will love all of the unique artisanal products we are about to present to you, and that some will be unexpected too!
The “Tombolo” Bobbin Lace of Genoa
You may have seen the “tombolo” in some historical photos of Genoa. Despite its ancient origins, this kind of artisanal craft is still manufactured today in a completely traditional way.
To create a piece of Tombolo lace, a “merlettaia” (the woman that weaves the lace, also called “merletto”) needs a typical lace pillow and up to thousands of threads wound of bobbins.
The other important ingredient is time: a big piece of lace can require years of work to be prepared!
Not only is the Tombolo lace a beautiful artisanal product of Genoa and other towns nearby; it is also something very meaningful in the history of the city.
We can say that the Tombolo lace of Genoa represents the quintessence of female creativity and intelligence: it was born as a form of creative recycling of valuable materials such as silk, gold and silver thread to decorate dresses, becoming an art form of its own with time.
Moreover, during the Maritime Republic of Genoa, a woman would weave her own lace as dowry which would determine the social standing of her marriage.
Imagine groups of merlettaie sitting in the old city, weaving side by side, the traditional way.
This doesn’t happen a lot nowadays, but we know where to find the last remaining merlettaie for you to meet, and to be mesmerized by the apparently incomprehensible, fast movements of their hands that create unique laces before your eyes.
The Macramé Knotting of Chiavari
Another very famous artisanal craft of Liguria is the Macramé. This special knotting technique reached Liguria in the 11th century from the Islamic world and has been since then adopted and developed by artisans of Liguria as a decoration for textile designs.
The pioneers of this art were Genoese sailors themselves, who first saw Macramé in Arabia, imitated it to kill time onboard, then sold it in harbors.
Here is another inspiring testimony of the artistic spirit of Genoese people.
It is said that the word Macramé comes from the Arabic “miqramah” which refers to a decorated piece of fabric like a towel, veil or fringe. Another possibility is that the origin of the word Macramé is in the Turkish word “makrama”: a napkin or towel.
Cords used in Macramé are made of cotton twine, linen, hemp, jute, leather or yarn. Today there are three schools of Macramé remaining in Liguria, namely in Genoa, Lorsica and Chiavari.
The Filigree of Campo Ligure
Another art mastered by artisans of Liguria is the filigree, a type of handmade, delicate jewelry made of gold and silver.
In Campo Ligure the first filigree shop was opened in 1884, then this small town in the inland of Liguria became the national center for this precious artistic production.
Filigree of Campo Ligure is an intricate decorative art made with absolute concentration and dedication by artisans with their “bruscelle” (clamps) of various sizes.
The preciousness of the filigree objects is not given so much by the materials as by the meticulous and patient workmanship that is hidden in each of them.
The Velvet and Silk of Zoagli
Zoagli is a tiny village in the wonderful frame of the Tigullio Gulf, very much appreciated for its scenery but also for its silk and velvet factories.
Here silk and velvet of the highest quality are still crafted with antique bicentennial handlooms.
The weaving tradition of Zoagli goes back to the 15th century and is still very much alive. Processing times are very long and start from the dyeing of bobbins, warping and then weaving.
The silk and velvet come with different designs and colors, but the crown jewel is the black velvet “of Genoa” that requires a long, very meticulous hard work.
Antique looms are big – as big as entire rooms sometimes. They are creaky and slow, fascinating to watch while used, yet thanks to the skilled hands of artisans of Zoagli they give life to perfect products.
The Ceramics of Albissola
Artisanal ceramics of Albissola have been manufactured since the 15th century with the red clay and white soil of the local beach.
Artisans of Albissola mainly produce tableware, tiles and figurines, and even the colors used to paint the ceramics are artisanal and manufactured in the area.
The “Chiavarina” Chairs of Chiavari
Chiavari – a real surprise overlooking the Gulf of Tigullio – is a town of the Italian Riviera that is still almost untouched by tourism.
It is never overcrowded and it is one of the locals’ favorite locations for shopping, thanks to the many historical shops of the old town, including those of artisans.
In Chiavari, the artisanal flagship is the “Chiavarina”, which is a type of handmade chair that is only manufactured by a couple of artisans.
The Chiavarina chair is very light thanks to its structures divided into sections: every part of the chair is of the right size and material for the strength required in that specific spot.
Even if lightweight, the Chiavarina is sturdy and durable: all parts are skillfully interlocked and made with local woods from the inland: Wild Cherry, Maple, Beech, Willow and even Ash.
The Damask of Lorsica
Lorsica is a small town of the inland, very well known for its precious, colorful Damasks, manufactured here by local artisans since the 16th century.
Similarly to the Tombolo lace of Genoa, this artisanal product has historically supported the town’s economy thanks to the women’s craftsmanship.
The origins of the Damask of Lorsica go back to the middle ages, when it was manufactured in town and then shipped to Italy and other European countries to supply noble households and courts.
Today, the textile art of Lorsica survives thanks to the passion of local artisans who respect the history of the Damask, but also indulge modern requirements and tastes.
The art of Damask artisans is handed down from one generation to another thanks to practical teaching. The weaving of Damask of Lorsica is completely manual and requires time and consummate manual skills.
A museum of Damask opened in 2007 in Lorsica.
Here you can find out about the origins and evolution of its weaving, and witness original looms, tools and Damask samples.
Have we made you curious to know these and other authentic realities in Liguria personally?
Upon request we can arrange a special itinerary for you to discover these hidden gems, including visits to workshops and encounters with artisans of Liguria.
These passionate artists keep alive our ancient traditions, manufacturing unique crafts in a sustainable way, in contrast with the prevailing mass production of modern times.