Describing a full day of excursion in Friuli Venezia Giulia takes a great load of emotions. This enchanting region is full of history, art and a recruiting center for tradition-skilled employees around the world. Indeed, during the emigrations' decades, the area of Friuli saw thousand and thousand skilled people leaving their homes and lands in order to find fortune around the world. In particular, each village was a nest for a specific labour competence. A clear depiction of that can be found on the map at the Museum CORICAMA of Maniago, the town famous for its cutlery mills and steel productions.
Coricama was the biggest factory of the city, and now the Museum of Smiths and Knives has been named after it. The map highlights all the professions matched with a single valley. Just remember that the area of Maniago is at the foot of the Friulian Dolomites – UNESCO World Heritage, and thanks to the small creeks and Cellina and Meduna rivers it had had the chance to develop both a flourishing metal industry and a quality agriculture. Hence, what the lands were to offer to the strongest economical countries after the World Wars were chefs and waiting staff (Cuochi e Camerieri), smiths (Fabbri), mosaic technicians (Mosaicisti), terraces workers (Terrazzieri), onions merchants (Commercianti di Cipolle), cutlers (Colellinai), lumberjacks (Boscaioli), copper smiths (Calderai), sawyers (Segantini), furnaces workmen (Fornaciai) and stone-cutters (Scalpellini). Stone-cutters were so able to mould the stones to build houses and tools that a good bunch of them were employed, for example, to carve the Presidents' Portraits on Mount Rushmore.
The tour I took part in started exactly from Maniago, which, as it has already been told, was and still is an important centre for the blades' manufacturing (knives and scissors) and engineering industry. The blades are a trademark handmade and officially recognised, so if you are looking for good sets of cutlery, you just have to stop by the town. It all began in 1454, six centuries ago, when Count Nicolo' di Maniago urged to build a creek in order to boost the extensive farming of the surrounding country sides and to improve the existing energetic resources for the work activities. After several disputes with the locals, finally the creek was approved and the first mills constructed. When the technological changes imposed new engineering mechanisms and gears, then the iron mills could start a full operating workload.
Our guide was Chiara from the EcoMuseum Lis Aganis. The museum's mission is to give the guests and tourists a natural and tradition-shaped experience. Hence, the concept of the tours organised by the EcoMuseo turns around the elements of water, stones, art and crafts and ]sustainability paths for the community. Everyone who partakes in this project will feel himself as a local immersed in the core values and little details that had forged those communities. Furthermore, the members of the organisation provide school workshops for pupils and families, educational tours around the natural and cultural sites, research and investigation activities for history lovers, exhibition and special days designed on specific contents as archaeology, mosaics, old crafts, mills and flours, typical food and antique furnaces.
The name of Aganis reveals a very enchanting and mysterious meaning. Legends always narrates that in the Northern Italy, most of all within the Alps and mountains' scenarios, feminine nymphs and sprites live along creeks and rivers. In the Pordenone mountains, where Maniago is located, the story says that long time ago, an Agana in the form of a salamander had been helped by a woman from the village to give birth. In order to thank her helper, the Agana gave the woman a ball of wool that had no end. This present was useful to the lady who was able to weave the wool and tailor pullovers, socks and shirts for her numerous children and for the other community's families in need. Thus, the thread had passed from hand to hand, until now, and this contributes to generate a thread within our territory. This filament made of memories, know-how, values and traditions should be used by everyone according to the necessities. Oh, the Aganis are both good ones and wicked ones, so be careful if you would ever encountered one. The red line on the map we looked up at the beginning of the itinerary represents this string handed down.
The Museum of the smiths' craft is divided into several sections, but with the group we visited the main areas where the story of the blades' productions began to run. Man-size statues and equipment show how the conditions of work and life were during the last centuries as well as for the factory rules and its consequently labour division.
A special place is dedicated to the women role into the making of blades, because they had skills on finishing, cleansing, assembling and packaging.
Then, other sections emphasise the two important parts of a knife, that are the blade itself and the handle. Another area describes the characteristics and the production cycles of the primary materials employed to obtain the metal.
On the upper floor, the blade production is divided by types and uses. Can you count how many fields this industry covers? Well, in this room you will know about the manufacturing of scissors, camping knives, bottle openers, multi-purpose knives, shears, folding knives, surgical instruments and many more.
After this cultural immersion, we switched on the practical side and got to visit some local smith workshops, Be.Di.Ma. factory, famous for the scissors produced and the technological engineering company Trattamenti Termici Todesco (Todesco's Thermal Treatments) which specialises mostly on metals' tempering and hardening.
What makes the factories alive and productive is the sense of community, social spirit and support the members are giving to each other. They really put the heart on what they do and that is absolutely an ultimate feature of the people living here.
Another compulsory stop is the Centre for the Textile Arts, an association that promotes the beauty of fabrics with International contexts, exhibitions, courses and award for the best university dissertation on a textile topic. A group of looms were set in the room ready to be used during the woven lessons. Balls of wool and other fabrics were fit in every free spot and pieces of cloth hung on the wall. The teacher who explained to us the Association's activities was saying that the students are currently making rugs out of that parts of old fabrics.
In conclusion, if you have the chance to stop by Friuli-Venezia Giulia, don't forget to visit Maniago and its wonderful valleys and villages rich with history and culture.