I always start out thinking that my next trip to Italy will be all long, relaxing days doing research or studying museum collections. I don't know why I think this as the trips always fly by and are full of frenzied trips to see as many people as possible. I always end up not being able to do all the things I wanted to and offending people that I am unable to visit. When I get back home I try to make sense of all the hurried snatches of things I've seen and done and resolve that the next trip will not be so jam-packed. I do however get things done and this trip I got to go to three museums that I've wanted to visit for a long time. One was the Museo di Tessuto in Prato, another was the Museo della Tappezzeria in Bologna and the one I'm going to tell you about today was the Museo del Ricamo in Pistoia.
An easy train ride from Florence, you can arrive in Pistoia in about 45 minutes, I'm not sure if you can take a bus in less time, I took the regional train which makes a few stops along the way but Pistoia is only 40 km from Florence. I was lucky to have Maria Elide Melani from the embroidery school Ago Aga e Fantasia waiting to pick me up from the station in her car. I'm sure there is a bus that can take you into the centre of town from the rail station. We did not head directly to the museum from the station as it was too early so I can't tell you how long it takes to get there but Pistoia is a relatively small town.
As the Embroidery Museum is run by volunteers, it's wise to double-check that they are open before making the trip. We arrived expecting there to be a lady that Maria Elide knew but instead her husband was taking her shift as she had had to attend to other business. The museum has a large collection of pieces and consequently they are always rotating the items on display. Maria Elide has been there many times but the day we went, she said there were pieces displayed that she had never seen before. This makes repeat visits interesting.
The first thing I noticed was that the placards were in English and Italian and that the English was good! Whoever is doing translations for the museum has done an excellent job.
|Image copyright Museo del Ricamo|
While the Embroidery Museum is indeed small (there are only two exhibition rooms), there is a valuable collection housed here and you could spend many days studying the excellently displayed and well-lit pieces. In the second room are two large storage cabinets filled with drawers full of embroidered things. Lots of Punto Antico, Casalguidi and even some Lamporecchio embroideries along with many other Italian and classic needlework techniques are to be found here along with gold and silk embroideries too. The elderly custodian showed us an amazing bedspread embroidered by his mother when she was young.
An exciting thing to find out was that the museum offers a research centre, documentation, didactic and historic study. I will definitely be going back!
You can watch a quick YouTube video which is narrated in Italian but which has a few photos of the interior of the museum and a few pieces of it's collection. The narrator says:
Passing through Pistoia, when you are in the Piazza del Duomo, don't miss visiting the museum, you will be amazed. Even in a few minutes you can see the most important finds. The entrance is free, the personnel are available, cordial and competent.
The Rospigliosi Palazzo is the home of the Embroidery Museum, a cave of wonders constructed with knowledge by patient hands. Exhibited here are hand-made articles embroidered in many techniques from the 17th to the 20th century. There are embroidered trousseaux, clothing, tablecloths, doilies and much more. Sacred vestments and antique ecclesiastical clothing of great quality are on display.
Periodically the museum gives embroidery courses. The embroideresses have produced and continue to produce cushions, purses and antique clothing. A 62 segment quilt was made in 2012. Francesco del Cossa's embroideresses.
In the hope that these few hurried images may have stimulated your interest, we await you certain to not disappoint.