The Marche, and Piceno in particular, are considered to be a fine example of how creativity can be combined with good company management.
Its districts are national benchmark areas for some sectors, and especially for fashion garments and accessories, and other niche-market sectors with products that are highly sought after for their quality and extraordinary inventiveness.
Without wishing to diminish the exceptional fashion-makers of Piceno in any way, the places where the creativity of the inhabitants of these lands emerges are to be found in the humble crafts workshops of master coppersmiths, in the streets where embroiderers work their lace pillows, and in the workshops where ceramists create their objects.
These are the workshops of creativity – places to visit not just in order to buy, but also to find out about and experience a world that, in some ways, is timeless.
Where each gesture is the expression of an ancient culture.
A world that brings to mind the words of Renzo Piano, who maintains that eternity is obtained not just by materials but by the repetition of a gesture, which is more enduring than any marble.
An imaginary journey through the workshops of creativity might start out with footwear, and thus in the shoe-manufacturing district in northern Piceno, where a close network of craftspeople assist the world’s most famous designer labels.
The art of shoe-making is very ancient, with a very long tradition, and the acknowledged skill of these artisans has led them to such levels of excellence that their work is in demand round the world.
Montappone, in the Fermo area, is the capital ofstraw hats, which is recorded as far back as the eighteenth century.
The tradition of weaving straw has deep roots in peasant culture and entire generations have harvested and worked it, labouring to create superlative headgear.
Our next stop takes us to Acquaviva Picena, where we remain with another humble raw material, for here the skilled hands of le paiarole weave strands of wicker to create a wide range of baskets and containers for a variety of uses.
Still today, one of their objects, the “paiarola sfarinapesce“, is used both in the home and in restaurants to dust Adriatic fish with flour for frying.
On the roads that lead to the mountains of Ascoli, the master coppersmiths of Force and Comunanza work copper with time-honoured skill, creating embossed works of art and everyday implements.
Things have not changed and the coppersmiths still prepare lu callarò, a huge boiler used for cooking must for the production of vino cotto.
Amandola, in the Monti Sibillini, is famous for itswood craftsmanship, which originated in the peasants’ need to make and repair their own wooden tools.
Local wood carvers have also been famous for their skill in marquetry ever since the sixteenth century.
Coming back down into the valley, we find the lace makers of Offida.
The ancient and laborious art of making pillow lace has made the town famous, earning it Italian and international recognition.
Though there are fewer than in the past, it is still possible to find women making lace in the streets, with a whirling play of bobbins that spool the thread.
Watching a potter at work is always a thrill for it means being present at the birth of a unique object, and watching it being decorated means entering into the heart of the creative process.
Ceramics is one of the highest expressions of craftsmanship and it has a long and important tradition in Ascoli Piceno.
Ever since the classic works of majolica were made, the distinctive features of the work of Ascoli artists are the curls and volutes they use to frame their city views and faces.
In Ascoli there is also the workshop of a maker of stringed instruments which keeps the long tradition of high-quality, sweetly melodious stringed instruments in Ascoli both alive and up to date.
The luthier is a highly accomplished craftsman, who combines intimate knowledge of wood with precision crafting.
The province of Ascoli Piceno also boasts another tradition, which is that of goldsmithing.
Dating back to the school of Pietro Vannini (15th cent.), its precious creations combine perfect knowledge of processing techniques with the artisans’ imagination and creativity.
Lastly, there is the expression of a typical product of Piceno: the cutting of local travertine stone.
This building and sculpture material has been revisited as a raw material by artist-craftsmen who use it to create elegant furnishing items.