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Saturday 25 November 2017
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Cabinetmaking in Città di Castello




At the beginning of the 20th century there were a number of mostly independently-run carpentry workshops in Città di Castello. The town was enjoying a revival in taste for period furniture, helped also by the tradesman and antique dealer Elia Volpi, who in 1912 donated his collection of antique furniture (still visible in the Pinacoteca) to the local administration, thereby inspiring local craftsmen to manufacture imitation period furniture using antique wood. Many craftsmen, both young apprentices and more experienced carpenters learnt this trade at the Scuola Operaia, which was founded in those years.

In the 1930s the craftsman and antique dealer Cesare Sisi once more took up the idea of recycling antique pieces into entirely new creations, although always in the style of original antiques. This marked the beginning of the flourishing local industry in what was termed the mobile in stile – imitation period pieces – that answered to a precise market request for furniture that could be easily inserted within a domestic decorative context alongside other original or restored pieces. Later, when public demand for less expensive pieces increased, the Città di Castello workshops began producing imitation furniture using new or cleverly aged wood.

This particular skill of employing antique wood from dismantled pieces of furniture, old beams or fixtures and adapting it into new creations has survived among many of Città di Castello’s furniture makers, who now come under the recently-instituted "Vero Mobile in Stile Altotiberino" quality denomination label designed to protect the expertise of these exceptional craftsmen.

Besides a tour of the town’s many craftsmen, Città di Castello is well worth a visit also for its magnificent Renaissance palazzi, its Pinacoteca (with works by Raphael, Signorelli, Pomarancio and others) and for the Burri collection housed in Palazzo Albizzini for the smaller scale works and at the former tobacco leaf drying plant for the master’s large format pieces. The surrounding area also has a wealth of small industries and workshops all specialising in period furniture reproductions.
Towards the end of September the town hosts its annual show of period furniture and crafts, with pieces from both local manufacturers and other craftsmen from Central Italy.

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"Umbria...Cuore verde d’Italia. Percorsi di qualità", Agenzia di Promozione turistica dell'Umbria, Perugia, pg.36, by kind permission.
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