The Italy Storyteller Series: the road of the wool
Where Piedmont’s Textile Industry was Born.
There are two small but history-filled cities in Italy's Northern region of Piedmont: Biella and Borgosesia. Both towns have been regarded as ‘cities of wool’ ever since the Italian Industrial Revolution, Biella for the production phase, and Borgosesia for the point of commerce. Many of what are still top fashion brands in the textile industry were born in these towns - and this goes to show how thriving the area was both in terms of economical and productive strength.
Today La Strada della Lana or ‘the road of wool’, runs between the two, spanning for approximately 50 kilometres. This area was where much of Italy's textile industry was born - in the midst of the green meadows and rich woods, alongside the flowing Cervo waterway, where hardworking men and women turned Biella into an industrial community.
La Strada della Lana is not a mere tourist route (actually, very few know if its existence), but has been comprised of wool mills for centuries and was created by the mills’ employees for commuting to and from their jobs. It all started when Pietro Sella, an entrepreneur born into the family business of wool, travelled to England to learn how to operate wool machines. He then continued to Belgium to procure these instruments, and in 1817, incorporated the new machines in his family’s factory as the first of their kind in Biella.
Thanks to these technological advancements, the area experienced a vast increase in productivity, resulting in 18 factories and 1,683 employees making up the Biellese industry by 1887 - these were huge numbers for the time. Because of the textile industry prospering, benefits were provided to the community, such as roads, schools, and clubs for workers.
But what fuelled this prosperity? For the duration of this era, the Cervo waterway was the vital source of energy needed to run the mills.
Today, the Strada della Lana still exists and guests are able to observe remains from the industrialisation era. Features are the Factory of the Wheel - the previous wool mill of Zignone built in the 19th century - as well as the Maurizio Sella factory, a former wool mill which houses archives of the textile industry.
I hope this was of inspiration for you and that, maybe, if you're planning a trip to Italy you might consider getting to know these off-the-chart itineraries. If you would like further details, visiting hours, directions, and contact information, please visit the Strada della Lana's official website.