February 14, 2012 / Places Offida, Le Marche
Some local experts cite the fourteenth century as the onset of
il merletto al tombolo (pillow spun lace) in Offida, others a bit later. In the sixteenth century the intricate lacework first appeared on the collars of personages painted by Marchigiano master Simone De Magistris. On a wooden door of the early seventeenth century St. Augustine church, an angel wears a transparent gown bordered with the delicate – truly angelic – bobbin lace of Offida. By this time, bobbin lace from Offida was in great demand all over Europe and when Offidani soldiers headed off to battle, even their armour was trimmed with merletto al tombolo!
In summertime, the local signore sit in the shade of the main piazza’s porticoes, chatting, hands and bobbins flying as they create miracles of intricacy and finery. If you make it there, Offida’s most famous merlettaia, Rosina, always at work just inside her little shop, appropriately named “ il Gioiello“. Rosina learned to create lace “jewels” from her mother who had learned from her grandmother and has been creating masterpieces since she was ten years old. This three-generation span of lace work artisans is immortalized in a sculpture not far from the shop: grandmother, mother and daughter diligently working, heads bowed over their tomboli. The walls of Rosina’s shop are lined with photos of her masterpieces, including bridal trousseaus for world-famous people. There was even a photo of Naomi Campbell in a short dress made only of Offidana lace.
Rich merchants no longer leave Offida, horses laden with lace. Visitors purchase little: Offida lace works are masterpieces requiring hours of labor. Rosina picked up a delicate little lace little butterfly which she sells for 6 Euro: “
Lo vede, Signora? Due ore di lavoro. Chi oggi lavora per tre Euro all’ora? Il nostro merletto finira’” (“Do you see this, Signora? Two hours of work. Who will work today for three euro an hour? Our lacework will end…”)
She proudly unrolled two of her most stunning masterpieces, a black lace shawl, and a centerpiece work of art. “No one will ever be able to buy these… so I will just keep them.”
An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are
una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.
www.annesitaly.com for more on her Umbria tours. Do see www.stayassisi.com for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.
Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on