Luxury silk scarves, foulards, ties; Lake Como is not only famous for its amazing landscapes and medieval villages, it is also well known for its silk.
Como produces 95% of Italian silk and big designers such as Armani, Valentino and Chanel rely on the expertise of its silk houses.
Como's silk tradition began in the fifteenth century when the Duke of Milan decided to plant Mulberry trees in the area obliging farmers to grow them even though they did not know how to. But he never imagined that this was the start of a timeless craft tradition. Two centuries later Como was already renown for its colourful silk products.
Silk is made by silkworms who feed exclusively on mulberry leaves and produce a very fine thread whilst they wrap themselves into it and form a cocoon. This thread is unwinded and strengthened then the silk is transformed into fabric, dyed and printed with unique designs.
Literature in Italy is often associated with different colours depending on the genre. The most striking example is that of the "Libri Gialli" or "Yellow Books". When, in 1929, the publishing house Mondadori started turning out mystery stories, the books had a striking yellow cover. Thereon, the term "Giallo" or "Yellow" became widely used to describe detective novels and later expanded to also mean thrillers and suspense literature.
Then we have the "romanzi neri" or "noir novels" a subcategory of the above, which is a darker story, usually more violent and sometimes narrated from the point of view of the killer.
The colour pink was linked to romantic novels and white was connected to science fiction when in 1952 Mondadori published its first science fiction series, Urania. Then we often have Brown for historical novels, green for the adventure genre and blue for travel books.
Many a legend surrounds the charming town of Lucca and its Medieval walls!
Lucida Mansi was renowned for her dazzling beauty, her amorous adventures and the tragic end she reserved for her lovers, who she disposed of by throwing them into a pit full of sharpened blades.
But it was her obsession with beauty that eventually got the better of her, she had to be constantly surrounded by mirrors so that the image of her beautiful looks was always in sight, everywhere she looked; on the walls, in her prayer book and even on the ceiling above her bed!
One day, as she was admiring her face, it was with great horror that she noticed her first wrinkle! It was with no hesitation that Lucida accepted the devil's offer: she would retain her beauty for another thirty years in return for la sua anima (her soul).
So the years went past seeing one lover to the next making their way into her bed and then being killed. When the pact with the devil was about to come to an end, she escaped in fear to Lucca's clock tower (la torre delle ore) to try and stop the clock before it struck mezzanotte (midnight). But as she was climbing the steps, she was stopped by the devil who dragged her into his carriage in flames, then drove across the city and along the city walls before falling into a small lake. This can still be found today in l'Orto Botanico (the Botanic Gardens).
It is said that the devil's fiery carriage can still be seen on certain nights and that if you are brave enough to immerse your head in Lucca's Laghetto (small lake), you can see Lucida's desperate face looking up from the muddy bottom.
It's rather impossible to discuss Italian fashion and not mention Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana. Dolce and Gabbana met in Milan and started their careers in 1985. Partners both in life and in business, they say that Sicily has always been their primary source of inspiration "the sun, the colours, the scent of flowers in the air, the women, the cities, the food; everything inspires us and makes us dream..."
Showing slim-fit silhouettes in softly textured fabrics, with details such as waistcoats and flat caps that brought to mind Mr Dolce's native Sicily, the pair set a new tone in Italian menswear. Their fondness for black in their designs is inspired by the dress of the peasants and gangsters of Sicily. It was the original auteurs of Italian cinema that have immeasurably inspired the designers’ work. Dolce and Gabbana's favorite Italian films of all time is "Il Gattopardo". This movie is an Italian masterpiece and serves as a milestone in Dolce & Gabbana’s history. In an interview at the time they said "The photography, the lighting, the setting, the costumes are so perfect to us and totally reflect our aesthetic. Visconti was a real genius. We sort of thought of a modern version of this movie when shooting our advertising campaigns."