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Solomeo

Solomeo splash

The Hamlet

The Hamlet

In 1985 business was going so well that the
company workspace was becoming too cramped.
A new and larger workspace had to be found.
The search was neither quick nor easy. One evening,
though, on my way home, I happened to see the
Solomeo hill, with its evergreen woods, the hamlet,
the castle and the ancient Villa Antinori.
It was the hometown of my then fiancée and
now wife, Federica, and I knew it well. That evening,
however, it looked different somehow. It was
as if I were seeing it for the first time.
I felt that what I had been searching for so long
was now before me. The hill, with its ancient
buildings practically in ruins, told the story of
distant dreams that have now come true. Buying
the properties meant I had to convince the owner
that I cared for the place as much as he did, and that
those time-worn walls would be restored and
looked after with the love and respect that
everything that is a part of our history deserves.
That was my first commitment and my first dream:
through my business, I wanted to return Solomeo
to its former glory and restore the lifeblood
that had allowed it to grow and prosper for centuries.

The History

The History

The hamlet of Solomeo was built between the late
12th century and the first half of the 13th century
on the site of a former rural settlement known as
Villa Solomei, which was a base for the men working
on reclaiming the plain below. It was near the road
that in the Middle Ages, and probably in Roman times
too, linked Perugia with Castiglion del Lago and Chiusi.
In 1361 the village of Villa Solomei was made up of a
palazzo, casamentum, twelve domus,
two farmhouses and the Church of St Bartholomew.
In the spring of 1391, the inhabitants chose to fortify the
village, and the owner of the largest palazzo, Meo Iohannis Cole,
sponsored construction of the Castle. In Council records,
Meo is referred to as the “purchaser”. The fortress was built up
against his palazzo: “iuxta palatium dicti mei”.
Solomeo Castle must have been complete by the late
14th century, but it was still referred to as the “Villa”
for some time afterwards.






Then, an act of 1430 refers to Castrum Solomei
for the very first time. During the 16th century,
the village expanded beyond the castle walls, no doubt
due to population growth. At that time, the houses
were not built up against the castle walls. Only later,
after 1729, were other houses built to form the village
that now stretches along the entire south-east side of
the walls. The St Bartholomew Church of Solomeo
was built between the late 12th and the mid 13th century.
Over the centuries, the church deteriorated to such an extent
that a new church had to be built, around 1740. Built on the
ruins of the old one, this new church was completed in 1748.












The Restoration

The Restoration

Restoring the village of Solomeo has been like waking
a sleeping genie. Breathing new life into an old building
is not simple, because you run the risk of removing
its original charm forever. But we found the key in the
simplicity of our most ancient value: humanity. People
still mindful of artisan traditions and the techniques
of their fathers set to work with the love for their
Umbrian land and, with an almost Franciscan
commitment, slowly but surely restored the
spirituality of the place and, with it, its history.
Solomeo also looks to the future, however,
with the new Forum of the Arts, inaugurated in
September 2008, where among the gardens and
trees, a theater and an open-air amphitheater provide
spaces for people to meet, get to know one another,
meditate in silent solitude, or laugh together in serenity.








The Origins

The Origins

When I decided to start a knitwear business in 1978,
Perugia was already one of the major towns in the trade
and employed over thirteen thousand people. I got a
500,000 lire loan and set up a workshop, which made
five colored cashmere sweaters for my first sample
collection.
Sales took off immediately, especially on the German
market. The business grew and the time soon came
when I had to make a major decision. Should I remain
a good company like so many others or should I, in the
words of American economist Theodore Levitt, whose
ideas had inspired me to start this business in the first
place, take a leap of faith and become the very best at
specializing in a unique product? I chose cashmere
because it is a highly specialized product: out of the
whole fleece, you only use the fine fibers from a very
small area beneath the animal's neck.







Next came innovation: I wanted to bring cashmere
up-to-date, to transform it from a traditional item
into a fashion product, dye it all the colors of the
rainbow, and also make it a more desirable product
for women. I knew women liked cashmere: they
borrowed oversized sweaters from the wardrobes of
their brothers and husbands, rolled up the sleeves
and wore them almost like a tunic that enveloped
heir body and accentuated their femininity. All we did
was make sweaters that were "legitimately" for
women right from the start.













The Territory

The Territory

Dotted with villages connected by a network of
roads that snake over the rolling hills, this ancient
land has been marked by the proliferating force of its
urban centers since medieval times. The unmistakable
physiognomy of the Umbrian landscape, immediately
reminiscent of Renaissance painting, is the result of
that crucial period in Italian history known as the
"Age of the Communes". Indeed, the legacy of the
Middle Ages dominates the landscape with its fascinating
fortified villages, perfectly preserved castles, frescoed
churches and isolated towers in the green valley or on
the hilltops. This beautiful land has nonetheless
succeeded in building its own solid cultural identity
over the centuries. Umbria, like all Italian regions, was
subject to foreign invasions after the fall of the Roman
Empire, and the Middle Ages saw the rise of major religious
and cultural movements linked to the experiences of
Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Benedict of Nursia.






A rich artistic heritage developed under papal
domination: Giotto's frescos can be found in
the Assisi Basilica and many of Perugino's works
are in the regional capital of Perugia, once the
center of Etruscan civilization and today a cosmopolitan
town with an outstanding university. Umbria is also home
to many towns and cities with exceptional artistic,
architectural and spiritual values. We begin our journey
in Assisi, where Saint Francis taught us that divine and
human dignity is enough to make us despise any injustice.
Spoleto, which all Umbrians adore, is a multi-faceted town
where the aroma of the damp soil from ancient buried
ruins blends with the vigorous, ardent nature of the
Spoleto people. Then we come to Spello, which is overlooked
by the Subasio Mountain that rises at the center of a thick
forest of beech and holm oak trees and encourages
silence and prayer.







The cypress trees in Gubbio, blown by the wind
or perhaps by a divine hand, paint clouds of a thousand
shapes and colors against the brilliant blue sky and are
firmly rooted in this land inhabited by people with a quirky
sense of humor who do not fear the freedom that comes
from their age-old wisdom. Mysticism and action are
the dominant elements of this land that is divided
between sanctity and power, between the dreamy and
mysterious sweetness of its landscape and its austere
medieval towers, and between saints and warriors.
The Umbrian people are proud and industrious.
They value their traditions yet look courageously to the
future, and are capable of incorporating dedication, passion,
humanity, tolerance, mysticism, craftsmanship and creativity.










Gubbio

Gubbio

To Gubbio. I dedicate this catalog to the men, women
and places of Gubbio. Whenever my heart beckons,
I always return to the narrow lanes surrounded by
hills and meadows, where the cypresses, moved by
the wind or perhaps by a divine hand, trace clouds
of myriad shapes and colors against the glowing sky.
I love the smooth, shiny stone of the homes, almost
silvery at certain hours of the morning, which seems
untouched by passing time, bathed by a breeze that
lightly caresses the decorative coats-of-arms above
noble portals.
I admire these eccentric, jovial people and their way
of coping with joys and sorrows, wealth and poverty,
with the same mischievous attitude of Etruscans who
never feared the freedom of their ancient wisdom.
I marvel at the thin, chiseled faces of the youth;
brief, charming female glances; and the misty eyes
of the old, serenely sitting in the shadow of the oaks,
remembering days gone by. They are a part of my
soul. Thus, with those same kind and simple
gestures, I wish to present the world with an image
of the sentiment that profoundly unites me to them.
Gubbio and the “Corsa dei Ceri” [Candle Race] are

one, and it is impossible to separate them.
The Candle Race is so deeply ingrained in the spirit
of the people of Gubbio that it has been celebrated
without interruption for over eight centuries. The
race is held each year in the middle of May, on the
eve of the patronal feast day dedicated to Saint Ubaldo.
Everything happens in the span of twenty-four hours,
yet for days on end the excitement and awareness
of the race pervade the people, enter their homes,
condition the relationships and the social image of its
citizens, transform the language and even change the
names of cities, which now refer to the itinerary of the
candles rather than the true names assigned by history.
It almost seems as if time has changed. It is the most i
mportant day in Gubbio because the year begins
precisely with the “Festa dei Ceri” [the Candle Festival]
and only ends on the eve of the following one. The race
is prepared in the first six months. For the remaining
six, the people do nothing but talk about the past
festival. And when the day arrives, everyone leaves their
home and goes into the street to enjoy a unique
spectacle. This year, we were there with them, too.


Spoleto

Spoleto

I lived for a brief yet intense period in Spoleto, the
town that I believe best represents the untamed
love of all Umbrians. I often felt its essence enter
through the open windows of my home in the spring.
Its essence differs from that found in Perugia, Todi
and all the other Umbrian cities, because it is fed by
a cool breeze that bends the tips of the cypress trees.
It bears the smell of damp earth from ancient buried
ruins, the gamy scent of wild boar and, from farther
away, the intense fragrance of the holm oaks on
Mounteluco where Saint Francis of Assisi and his
brothers encountered God and the entire Universe
within the windowless hovels of mud and straw that
looked more like pigeon coops than monk cells.
I love that sun that shines as vigorously and boldly
as the plucky character of the people of Spoleto,
beating down upon the homes of cool, clean stone,
through the infinite blue, raining golden rays upon
the dark contours of the distant mountains, upon
the palazzos with their stark stone facades, upon
the courtyards and the cobblestones in the streets
that glisten like precious stones on certain days
at dawn.

I also know another Spoleto, when evening falls at
dusk behind the walls of the vegetable gardens and
ancient roofs, towards the valley, beyond the fields
and flower gardens, down to Clitumno, illuminating
the windows of the blue homes that glow and seem
like paradise. At that point I can't sit still: I go out
into the street and mingle with the cheerful,
boisterous people dressed in their Sunday best.
Kids laugh and chase after each other. Everyone is
a bit crazy, full of passion and fervor, like most
Umbrians and the people of Spoleto, especially.
Immediately after dinner, when I am slightly tired
after strolling through the neighborhoods and
ancient squares, when the air is sweet and all
that is needed is a slight breeze to give it a
scent of quinces and jasmine, then and only then,
once again desirous of solitude, I sit on the walls
of the ramps in front of the beautiful Cathedral
and think about this city, its ancient and noble
spirit, and these people, so like myself, and I
remain there, enchanted, to meditate.



Assisi

Assisi

Assisi, as innocent as a child and as righteous as
the innocent, is where Saint Francis renewed the
justice of God, which cannot exist without mercy
or, for us mere mortals, tolerance. Our human nature
prevents the concept of justice from being confused
with Justicialism, because then it would lose the most
profound sense of its authentic character. Justicialism
is itself cursory; hence, it is often paradoxically unjust.
And severity and justice do not always coincide.
Sometimes the first prevails, which is certainly less
exacting but is welcomed by our self-esteem, which
Erasmus refers to as Filautìa in his Eulogy. The jurists
of ancient Rome defined justice as “the constant and
perpetual desire to give to each his own”. But Cicerone
sustained: summum ius, summa iniuria; extreme
law is the greatest injustice. The concept of forgiveness
is a part of the concept of justice, but does not coincide
with it. Justice must always be free from a desire for
punishment as an end in itself (behind which exists
a longing for revenge). And it must avoid wanting to
pass judgment (which often comes from a thirst for
power). It will substantially and simply be a rendering
of justice, and often in that sense clemency helps

achieve better results. Judging is a painful act, and
should fate ever give us that burden, we will only
be able to bear it if we find within ourselves a
serenity that completely frees us from passions,
and a love for our fellow human beings that is a
driving force. This love, which nourishes the
strength and courage to look inside of things, is
sometimes difficult to feel because it must overcome
the barriers raised by appearance, resentment,
diffidence, interest, and the deviations induced by
lies. But if we successfully chase out these demons
from the shadows, and if we are attentive and serene
and — whenever possible — we do our job in due
time, then we will be very close to being righteous,
because we will know how to render justice to the
victim and tormentor. Like Saint Francis, justice
does not shout from the mountain tops, but
whispers in the hearts of men and women, revealing
the truth that people around the world and of all
religions seek and still find today in the streets,
churches, and homes of Assisi.
We, the men and women of the third millennium,
only need to press a button to immediately see in

real time the situations of people in faraway lands
and cruel injustice. And we realize that almost
always the most profound injustices are the direct
consequence of The Sleep of Reason evoked by
Goya. Reason and sentiment: over the centuries,
many scholars and intellectuals have sought to
determine the differences and respective identities
of these concepts. Yet Saint Francis of Assisi taught
us that a sentiment of divine and human dignity is
all that is needed to despise any form of injustice.
Sentiment and reason.
The ancient Greeks had one beautiful word for these
two concepts symbolized by a goddess: Psyche.











Spello

Spello

Behold the remote and solitary Spello, dominated by
Subasio, the mountain situated at the heart of a
dense forest of beech trees and holm-oaks. The
steep mountain slope encourages silence and religious
contemplation. Up there, in a distant time hermits lived
an austere life of prayer, segregated from the rest of the
world. Saint Francis preached to the birds that gathered
on the famous holm-oak that still stands today. And it
was here that Andrea Caccioli, Saint Francis's disciple
from Spello after whom his fellow townspeople dedicated
their church when he died in 1254, embraced the ideals
of poverty and joy.
The old homes of Spello are perched on the gently
sloping hill amidst the fruit of the landscape. Lofty
steeples, ancient towers and groups of cypresses
alternating with silvery olive trees, stand out against
the horizon. The city is always changing: to the east is
a sweeping although perhaps less striking panorama,
while on the other side is a diverse and picturesque
view that a Frenchman, who fell in love with Umbria,
once called “stupendous”. From this point the main
road climbs the hill, while steep streets and narrow
lanes that preserve noble vestiges of the past descend

on both sides. These are the streets of Brother Carlo
Carretto, where the peaceful, spiritual atmosphere
melds with the rich colors that splash across the
canvases of local artists, making Spello a city of
inspiration and meditation. Nature thrives in every
corner of these streets, especially during the Corpus
Christi festivity on the day of the Infiorata ceremony,
when one can smell the unique fragrance of broom,
fennel, and daisies emanating from carpets of flowers,
and the nighttime vigil becomes a celebration that
reminds the people of Spello of the ideals of their
ancient history. Men and gods: this is what you would
say of the inhabitants of Spello, based on the noble
origins of their city. It is not difficult, even for a casual
passer-by, to understand their proud demeanor and
to admire the nobility of aging monuments: the
Augustean walls; the temple of Diana and the street
named for her, the funeral altar preserved in the Santa
Maria Maggiore church; the church of Saint Lorenzo
was built in 560 on the remains of the Temple of Apollo;
the other sumptuous temple in honor of the Gens Flavia,
a privilege granted by the Third Gordian; the Saint
Claudio church built on top of the ancient Temple of

Saturn; and, further below on Via Perugina, the
imposing remains of the amphitheater covered
with overgrown vegetation that still cannot hide
its grandiose dimensions. Spello, like the nearby
Spoleto, was a Roman city. Hispellum dedicated
its favorite sons to the Eternal City when, under
the command of Pisone, they shed their blood in
the Second Punic War. Perhaps due to these
martial deeds and its loyalty to the ideal, Octavian
designated the city a “Julia” colony, as confirmed
by several inscriptions in which it is often defined
as “splendid”. He also gave it the Baths of Clytumnus,
a vast and fertile territory stretching from the
Clytumnus Springs to Civitella d'Arna on the Tiber
River. Curzio Malaparte once said that Spello was
the motherland of incorruptible and bellicose
temperaments, that were intolerant of bad masters
and lovers of freedom, and that also concerned
religion. This is demonstrated by the city's resistance
to becoming Christian, and the fact that in 1130 the
townspeople of Spello, although Christian, did not
hesitate to throw Bishop Niccolò out of a window,
bringing the Bishop's time to a premature end. And in


the 13th century Emperor Ottone IV had to personally
visit the city to tame those fiery spirits. But the people
of Spello also loved the arts, and their love is evident
on every corner of every square: a church, an aristocratic
palazzo, an ancient tower...
Each is an artistic treasure of hidden jewels: examples
of magnificent architecture, sculptures, and art, the
most noble expression of which is Pinturicchio.
In the painting of the “Annunciation” in the Baglioni
Chapel of the Santa Maria Maggiore church, you can
even see a portrait of the artist under the airy porticos,
as proud as Perugino in the Sala del Cambio in Perugia.
Further on is the pulpit made of “caciolfa” stone, also
the substance of the medieval town hall, which stands
next to the ancient Saint Rufino church, where there
is a high-relief lion clutching a boar between its paws,
a brief inscription with the date 1270, and the name
of the author, Prode, which symbolizes the noble pride
of a people that loved ideals and life.Spello, what song
palpitates within the breasts / of your women high




upon / the Gate of Venus? ... In your towers the hot winds
imitate that lyre, / while Callimachus the Roman dreams
of Umbria / in the Underworld.
Beauty, history and art, as celebrated by D'Annunzio in
his poem Elettra, almost seem incarnate in each palazzo,
every flower, and each landscape of Spello. They are an
integral part of this noble city, and they still emanate from
the gestures and eyes of its inhabitants, confirming, if there
was ever a need, a character that does not forsake the ideals
that feed the heart and mind. Seneca knew that we need real,
beautiful ideals to hold close and guard every day of our
lives so that they never vanish. They are the legacy of our
fathers. Once lost with the joie de vivre, they have returned,
urgent and necessary, within our hearts, to animate
and guide each step of life, the spiritual heritage of the future.