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e-borghi travel 9, Craftmanship e-borghi: Ala, “the velvet village”

Ala, “the velvet village” By Valentina Schenone The village of Ala was awarded with the title of “city” by Joseph II of Habsburg in 1765, a period of great economic and commercial success because of the production and the export of the local velvet to Austria, Bohemia, Hungary and other European countries. In that period the village reached its peak although the tradition of the mulberry-growing and the silk-warm breeding arrived before thanks to the Venetian people. Then Venice lost the Vallagarina in 1509 and Ala came under the control of the House of Austria. The political stability contributed to the growth of the handcraft activities related to the water powered spinning machines to work the silk-warms and after the great plague of 1630 the most flourishing period for this village in Trentino started. When the archpriest Alfonso Bonacquisto and two fugitives from Genoa met in 1657 things radically changed: Giovanbrunone Taddei was the first to sniff the deal, it put two rooms at the disposal of the two persons from Genoa (Genoa was well-known for the production of velvet) so the first workshop was born, it was made by using the machines coming from Genoa. Development and richness In 1765 the guild of velvet producers was based in Ala. The activity related to the production of velvet was so flourishing that it wasn’t affected by the crisis that hit the rest of Italy and the lack of competitors in this field made Ala stronger and stronger. It got bigger, new districts, new buildings where the workshops were based and the houses for the workers were built. The production of velvet implied the construction of some buildings along the irrigation canal because of the hydraulic power that was needed for the spinning wheels, the dry cleaning and a “factory” for the leather tanning, the mills, the forges and the fulling mills. The ancient palaces belonging to the merchants like de' Pizzini Palace and three buildings built between the end of the 17th century and the end of the 18th century mainly the Palazzo Angelini, the Gresta and Taddei palaces were embellished. At the same time other buildings were restored like the ancient premises of the city hall, the parish church of S. Maria Assunta, the church of S. Giovanni, the little church of S. Giovannino and the bridge over the Ala stream. Ala, an orange flag It’s set in the lower Vallagarina, it’s an “Orange Flag”, a tourist-environmental quality brand awarded by the Italian Touring Club to the Italian villages of the hinterland that stand out for their excellent offer of tourist services. Some of the requirements to get this award are related to the quality of the hospitability, the environment, a wide range of events and festivals, the integration of the architectural context with the tourist accomodation as well as the accessibility and the internal mobility thanks to the good quality of transports. One of the main attractions of Ala is with no doubt the history of the silk velvet production whose 17 fountains underline the primary importance of water; they were also a welcoming symbol for the wayfarers in the past and they are still a symbol of the hospitability for the modern tourists. Nowadays you can visit an old loom coming from the Cordani Weaving of Zoagli (Genoa) in an old shop. Besides visiting the village there are many excursions in the Ronchi valley that keeps its natural beauties untouched. The velvet and the music are the protagonist in Summer A festival has been celebrating Ala as the “city of velvet” since 1998, the historical centre goes back in time to the rich and lavish period of the velvet makers. The visitors are accompanied by hundreds of extras wearing their historical costumes dating back to the 18th century, they belong to the “cultural association of the velvet makers from Ala”, they guide the visitors through the streets and the ancient palaces where many events are held while you can see the ancient crafts like the blacksmiths, the bakers, the weavers in the courtyards all around and you can also taste the local food and wine like the Marzemino that was also praised by Mozart in his “Don Juan”. The village becomes a big music festival in Summer and the concerts, the workshops and the meetings with big artists are held everywhere. Mozart and the distinguished guests of Ala Among the distinguished visitors of Ala there were Charles V and Charles VI, Francis I with his wife Maria Theresa of Austria, Napoleon I, the Tsar Nicholas I – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart who was hosted by Giovanni Battista and Pietro de' Pizzini brothers three times. The rooms where Mozart used to play is the Antique Piano Museum now, you can admire the musical instruments from that time belonging to Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven and Chopin. Some guided tours of the museum are organized between May and October and you can always listen to the historical instrument live concerts. It’s a really exciting experience thanks to the acoustic of the room that comes from the floor and the above wooden balustrade with slightly concave walls. The International Academy of musical interpretation with the antique instruments is also based in de' Pizzini palace.

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TAGS :
  • #ala
  • #antiquepianomuseum
  • #cityofvelvet
  • #handcraftactivities
  • #mulberry-growing
  • #productionofvelvet
  • #silkworm
  • #weavingcordaniofzoagli

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