The Wool and Silk Road
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The Via della Lana e della Seta ( Wool and Silk Road) is a hiking itinerary connecting the cities of Bologna and Prato through the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines. Although it was recently inaugurated, this route boasts a centuries-old history and was once the main trade route between two cities united by an important productive history, that of the Silk in Bologna and that of the Wool in Prato.
It was along this route that the ancient merchants traded their goods and their excellence between two distinct parts of Italy; the Tuscany, overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Italian Peninsula, and the Emilia-Romagna linked with Northern Europe and, through the Adriatic ports, with the Far East.
The production of Silk in Bologna started as early as 500 AD thanks both to the close cultural relations that the nearby Adriatic ports had with the Byzantine Empire and the East and to the revival and modification by the Bolognese merchants of the hand-spinning machines invented in the city of Lucca.
In fact, in the ancient Bologna, these machines had been equipped with hydraulic motive power, which increased production, making it simultaneously by better quality.
At the beginning of the 1500s, the city of Bologna was one of the major European centers for the spinning of the precious oriental fabric, so much so that this type of production represented most of the city’s exports.
Talking about Prato, the oldest traces of the Wool processing date back to 1100 AD, when the local wool workers began to use the vast hydraulic system of canals and mills that surrounded the city (known also as Cavalciotto) for their spinning wheels, increasingly specializing in Art Calimala, a wool processing cycle that made the clothes softer and more beautiful.
When artisan guilds were formed around the middle of the thirteenth century, the wool guilds were undoubtedly one of the most important, demonstrating the centrality that the wool workers had assumed in the twelfth century in the small Tuscan town.
Two important and close textile production centers united with the powerful corporations they were part of, could not remain indifferent for a long time, so Bologna and Prato gave birth to a dense network of the textile trade, exploiting and rationalizing the ancient trade road network crossing the Apennines.
What we now call Wool and Silk Road is nothing but the discovery and arrangement of this ancient road layout, which saw the fortunes of an entire mercantile social class and which for the two cities concerned will lay the foundations for prosperity economic for the following centuries.
Services and technical information
In the 130 km route (of which about 70 in Emilia-Romagna), the Wool and Silk Road passes through natural parks and hills with wild and unexpected charm, revealing a landscape made up of small villages and fascinating panoramas.
The complete hike can be done in 6 or more days by walkers, even non-experts and with families. The route develops along paths with white-red signs and with specific signs showing the Road logo, and it takes place on mid-mountain peaks and never exceeds 1,000 meters in height. The route is accessible all year round, however, it is necessary to pay particular attention during the winter.
Italian regions crossed: Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany
Stage 1 | Bologna – Sasso Marconi
Stage 2 | Sasso Marconi – Grizzana Morandi
Stage 3 | Grizzana Morandi – Castiglione dei Pepoli
Stage 4 | Castiglione dei Pepoli – Montepiano – Vernio
Stage 5 | Vernio – Montecuccoli – Vaiano
Stage 6 | Vaiano – Valibona – Prato
Length: 130 km (the Emilia-Romagna section corresponds to 69 km)
Difficulty Level: medium
On the official website, it is possible to get information on places to eat and sleep along the way, as well as to buy a useful Guide that provides specific technical information for each stage and makes the itinerary available also autonomously, indicating main points of interest, refreshment points, and overnight stay. It is also possible to request the GPX tracks of the track by email.
Wool and Silk Road
Phone: 051 6758409
To request GPS tracks: firstname.lastname@example.org