Perugia’s Museum Workshop Giuditta Brozzetti (Il Museo-Laboratorio Giuditta Brozzetti) is about a 15-minute walk from Piazza IV Novembre. This hidden jewel, located inside a former thirteenth century church where Saint Francis and his disciples once lived and prayed, is dedicated entirely to the history and the preservation of traditional Umbrian hand weaving techniques. The workshop could be called a living history museum, though there are no actors in period costumes delivering scripted lines. Instead, visitors can meet Marta Cucchia, the passionate, fourth generation master weaver and proprietor of this noteworthy Perugia attraction who treats her visitors to a demonstration of an ancient craft that’s been kept alive over the centuries by generations of talented, fierce, entrepreneurial women.
On a recent visit, Marta worked a shuttle back and forth on the antique, multi-peddle loom, recreating a historical pattern as she told the story of this feminine tradition and the fame of the Perugian tablecloth, which was once prized throughout Italy and beyond. According to Marta, you can see these famous Perugian textiles in Italian museums by looking at the artwork with different eyes. Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” displays such a tablecloth and other painters including Giotto, Perugino, Ghirlandaio and Lorenzetti incorporated Perugian textile designs into their compositions.
The story of this place and Marta’s passion for weaving began with her great grandmother, Giuditta Brozzetti, for whom the workshop and museum is named. During World War I, Giuditta was the director of the elementary schools for Perugia and the surrounding area, a position like many others that was left vacant by men who had been called to war. Traveling throughout the countryside she discovered that many women were more than adequately maintaining their family farms, producing everything they needed to survive including traditional, hand-woven textiles that were often used to barter for other goods.
Recognizing the beauty and quality of these textiles, Giuditta began to sell them at local Perugia markets. After the war she founded the workshop and school in Perugia, teaching weaving while meticulously researching the heritage patterns of Medieval and Renaissance Perugia. It was the purchase of Jacquard machines, a system of punch cards, laced together and attached to the loom that allowed Giuditta to produce these more intricate designs as well as to create her own signature patterns.
According to Marta, the Jacquard machines were like the first computers because the cards use a binary system. Invented in France in 1801 by Joseph Marie Charles Jacquard, the machine was staunchly opposed by textile workers throughout Europe when it was introduced because it eliminated the need for multiple workers at each loom. Nevertheless, it endured and was considered one of the engines of the Industrial Revolution and a key instrument in the revival of the textile arts that began with William Morris in the 1800s. Giuditta Brozzetti and so many other women were part of this revival, breathing new life into the Umbrian textile tradition and selling their products throughout Europe and abroad.
Traditional hand weaving techniques were passed down through the many centuries by oral tradition from one generation of women to the next—because as Marta points out, there is no way to write a textbook explaining how to do it. In Marta’s case, three generations before her have kept this rich Perugia heritage alive. Her workshop museum is one of the last in Umbria to practice and to promote this age-old craft.
You can visit the workshop and also buy these richly woven fabrics in the form of pillows, table runners, curtains and other household items, or you can weave your own colorful piece of history by signing up for one of the workshop’s hand weaving, lacemaking and embroidery courses offered throughout the year for individuals and small groups.
Location: Via Tiverio Berardi, 5/6 – 06123 Perugia Italy
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday 9:00 – 18:00
Saturday and Sunday by Appointment Only.
Contact: Marta Cucchia
Telephone: +39 07540236 – Fax +39 07541656
Mobile: +39 3485102919