With the cold beginning to nip our fingers and toes, it feels good to remember the summer holidays which for me included a ten day visit to Friuli in the very north east corner of Italy.
The mosaic lovers amongst you may know that Friuli is the home of one of Italy’s (the worlds?) best mosaic learning academy’s – the Scuola Mosaicisti del Friuli (often referred to as ‘Spilimbergo’, the town where the school is based). I was given a tour of the school which (I kid you not) left my heart racing for at least one hour after I’d left the building, such was the beauty, quantity and scale of the mosaics within those walls. More of that to come…
With our dear friend and Spilimbergo graduate, Michela Ippoliti, as our host we were treated to many trips around the mosaic sites in the region. It is an area steeped in Roman (and thus mosaic) history. Combined with the beauty of the stones in the mountains and rivers of the region, it is easy to see why Friuli is one of the epicentre’s of ancient mosaic and why the mosaic school is a unique guardian of mosaic technique.
For those of you who, at some point in your lives, are planning a mosaic pilgrimage to this iconic mosaic school, you need to know that there is much more to see so don’t miss out! In Friuli, mosaic is everywhere.
It started on arrival at Trieste airport – here to greet you when you come out of the arrivals lounge, the first of many mosaics…
It was the same wherever we went: in shops, in doorways, in alcoves here and there, mosaics would pop up.
I saw the mosaic below at a fascinating museum- Il Museo Carnico di Tolmezzo – dedicated to women of the war time resistance, who trudged up mountains carrying food and ammunition on their backs, to keep the soldiers from dying – unsung heroes honoured in the museum, in this mosaic and at recent celebrations with the last remaining women.
Another must see site in the region is the quiet little town square of Cercivento, where the locals decided they wanted to adorn the side of the buildings (literally the sides of private houses!) that flanked the piazza with a communal series of mosaics. These were made in smalti by the Scuola Mosaicista di Friuli and part of the installation team was our very own Michela! The beauty of the smalti shines through in these pieces and the way that the mosaic masters at the school combine colour is so skilfull. I particularly like that these murals have left the background without mosaic – the interplay between substrate and tesserae is strong and subtle at the same time.
Join me next week for the next stop on our mosaic tour of the region and a multitude of photos from the Roman mosaics at the Cathedral of Grado and Aquileia. This will be followed by the truly exquisite photos of contemporary mosaics from the Spilimbergo mosaic school and a little dialogue between Michela and I about what we have learnt from each other after working together for nearly one and a half years. See you then..!