There is a subtle and unbreakable thread that runs through time and space. A subtle thread that links imperial China before Christ, to Florence of the Medicis, to the present-day. And which connects an ancient Asian sovereign to an Italian entrepreneur as well as passing through the genius of Leonardo da Vinci. This thin thread, colored red in this circumstance, is of a precise material: silk. It might seem strange to bring together lands and characters so distant from each other. Distant lands and cultures so different only a thin thread of silk links them. The material is at the center of our story. A story that begins in the twenty-eighth century BC thanks to a Chinese empress who discovered this material almost by chance. Legend has it that while caressing a caterpillar, she found her finger covered with silk filaments and, appreciating the material and its consistency, decided to devote herself to the production and processing of the same. This is ideally the first stage of our story, the first step on our journey towards Florence. The Silk Road, in fact.
The Florentine center, thousands of years later, would in fact become an important center for processing and coloring silk, so much so that fabrics ready to be processed came from all over Europe and Asia. The genius of Leonardo comes almost by chance in this story, because Da Vinci designed a machine in 1500. However, the machine wasn’t actually built until two centuries later. That machine is not only still intact, but still works at full capacity in a Florentine building which, to describe it as a factory mill would be an oversimplification. It is in fact much more. It is a real museum where historical machinery and frames, bearing the signatures of great inventors of the past, are kept. Leonardo da Vinci’s signature is on all of them. And here the red silk thread leads us from China over 3,000 years ago to today, because this material is still woven and worked in this mill-museum called the Antico Setificio Fiorentino. which is located in via Lorenzo Bartolini, in the heart of the city and a stone’s throw from the Arno.
Globallly known for excellence, Antico Setificio Fiorentino reincarnates the still active heritage of the glorious art of silk making. Half mill and half museum, it represents a link between the Leonardian and the current Florence. The Antico Setificio Fiorentino founded in 1786, still uses many original tools and is the only surviving silk mill in the city. Every morning, from that distant day 332 years ago, the heavy gates of the silk mill are opened, opening the doors to a real journey through time for the employees, who create the sumptuous Florentine fabrics, for visitors, who can admire the ancient looms, and for historians, who carry the signature of great inventors. Among those signatures, the most illustrious one by Leonardo da Vinci. The heart of the mill is in fact the machinery designed by the Vinciano and created 200 years later. A machine that, after more than two centuries, still does not show signs of failing, showing all its desire not to be retired. In recent centuries, the Antico Setificio Fiorentino participated in prestigious restorations such as the Royal Palace of Denmark in Copenhagen, the Royal Castle of Sweden in Stockholm and the Kremlin Palace in Moscow. And also spreading the excellence of Italian craftsmanship in numerous aristocratic manors around the world.
Having also made the silk mill a museum is part of a specific plan: to not lose, and if possible, recover and share, that heritage of archetypally Italian craftsmanship that the Antico Setificio Fiorentino represents and offers as a gift. This is why, on a monthly basis, the mill welcomes school groups and tourist groups who visit the facility without interfering with production. To relive, in a small part, the Florence of the Medici’s which withstands today’s society full of technological advancement, electronics and interconnection.
The silk mill, relaunched in 2010 by the fashion company Stefano Ricci, has secured a second rebirth, presenting fabrics and materials of premium quality to wealthy Italian and international customers who have rediscovered the beauty of the finest material that has been produced following ancient processes.
Antico Setificio Fiorentino
Via Bartolini, 4
For info and booking visits: 055/213861