The workshops of 1884
The workshops of 1884
The installation of operating workshops in the Borgo was envisaged from its very first conception: their aim was to enhance traditional quality crafts, which were threatened by the industrialisation process.
When the Borgo opened, it boasted various workshops – blacksmith’s, potter’s, carpenter’s and weaver’s – a chemist’s, a tavern, a farrier, a haberdashery, a fruit and vegetable shop and a room for the sale of reproductions of antique objects.
At the suggestion of Alfredo D’Andrade, a distinction was made between “accessible and operating“, “accessible and simulated” and “decorative closed” workshops. In order to imitate life in a real medieval village, the workshops had to be staffed by people in 15th-century costumes (including the custodians) and produce or resell objects as souvenirs for visitors to the Exhibition.
Oggi sono presenti le botteghe del fabbro e dello stampatore, oltre a un negozio di souvenir. The “operating” workshops were entrusted to skilled craftsmen, including from outside the region, who remained in the Borgo even after the Exhibition closed; the Municipality purchased the site and kept it going. Among the most important names are those of the potters Issel (from Genoa) and Farina (from Faenza), the Turin carpenters Bosco and Arboletti, the blacksmith Guaita from Trino Vercellese, and the coppersmith Bianco.
Today there are blacksmith’s and printer’s workshops, as well as a souvenir shop.
The workshops today
Some of the workshops, heirs to the Borgo’s earliest traditions, are still there today: the blacksmith and the papermaker produce artefacts using traditional methods and pass on to new generations ancient production processes, perpetuating the spirit of preservation of traditional knowledge with which D’Andrade wished to endow the Borgo.
The Bottega del ferro battuto (the wrought-iron Shop) is that which has most maintained its original purpose over time. The rooms on the ground floor overlooking the portico of the Casa di Bussoleno and the back of the farrier’s shed have been used for this purpose since the early 1900s.
During the course of time, few changes have been made from craftsman to craftsman: from the first blacksmith, Giuseppe Guaita (his is the chandelier in the baronial antechamber of the Rocca) to the current Mastro Corradin, all of whom have continued their activity on the basis of the workshop’s artisan tradition.
Mastro Corradin’s patient work produces staircase railings, lanterns and lighting in general, beds, furnishing accessories and also restoration of gates and gratings. In addition to a number of artistic handicrafts and other tourist service items, the shop also sells street lamps, candelabra, wrought-iron fireplace tools and replicas of medieval swords and armour, sought after by collectors and those who practise historical fencing.
As part of the Borgo’s didactic activities, the workshop organises teaching sessions during which demonstrations of craft techniques are given.
The Stamperia del Borgo (Printing Shop) has been located in the Casa d’Alba inside the Borgo for more than 30 years. It produces artistic prints obtained from plates engraved using ancient techniques: burin, etching, aquatint and mezzotint. Carefully selected and collected, original antique prints from the 18th to the 20th century can be found here, as well as more recent reproductions of maps and views of the city, often published by the Printing Shop itself.
There are fine editions, publications from the city’s and region’s museums, tourist books and handcrafted objects. The Borgo’s Printing Shop has also published numerous works dedicated to the Borgo Medievale.
Colouring, restoration and conservation work is carried out on prints, canvases and frames, and customised frames are also available.
Among the nibs, inks and inkwells, the range of paper products is truly remarkable: old editions of postcards, greeting cards and writing paper.
As part of the Borgo’s educational activities, Mastro Cerrato organises periodic workshops dedicated to engraving and printing techniques.