Day 40 – Quarrata

Today we drove to the Villa Magia in Quarrata, a small town outside of Pistoia, but before we left, our waitress at the Locanda San Marco posed for us in her denim apron customized for the locanda by a charitable organization that supports women in need. We saw many people in Pistoia wearing these aprons.

A lot of nurseries are found in the area surrounding Pistoia.

At the Villa Magia, a former Medici hunting lodge, we were greeted by women whose aim is to practice and preserve the art of Ricamo a Modano, a knotted netting technique.

We found the technique very difficult, even for a group of weavers.

The view from the windows of the workroom in the villa.

Elisabetta, the professional olive oil tester, prepared a lunch for us, joined by her husband Maurizio.

She made a delicious stuffed zucchini dish.

After our netting workshop, we toured the Villa Magia.

It holds a museum focused on the history of the Modano netting technique in the area.

As with so many traditional textiles in Italy, a wealthy woman, the Contessa Gabriella Responi Spalletti, supported the preservation and continuation of the Modana netting. She established a school in 1897 to teach local peasant women how to make straw hats and how to make netting and embroidery using the modana tool.

On the wall hang various types of netting. A variety of modana, needles, are displayed on the table, along with forms for hat and glove making. Much of the work was done in straw. The guide told us that Mussolini required all the women to gather on Saturdays to create netting, as it was a domestic activity and thus appropriate for the model Italian woman of the time.

Back in Pistoia, I wanted to find a pharmacy to buy something to relieve the intense itching from my mosquito bites. On Sunday, all the pharmacies in the central district were closed. I had to take a taxi to this pharmacy on the Viale Adua. The taxi driver gave me a history lesson, telling me that Mussolini was responsible for creating and naming the road, and that the pharmacy, once a bus depot, was built in the fascist style. He mentioned that many towns in Italy have a street named Adua for a famous battle. That’s odd, since the Ethiopians claim to have won the Battle of Adua in 1896, making them victorious over Italian attempts at colonizing them.

Inside the pharmacy, the only one that’s open 24/7 in Pistoia, I had to take a number and wait for it to appear on one of the many large screens above the counter. All for some anti-histamine and calomine-type lotion.

That evening we dined at a restaurant near the Duomo.

Two young boys who we had seen playing in the piazza earlier in the day were still out, using the fountain to wash off a skinned knee.

Tomorrow we go to a leather-dying workshop.

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