Today began with a quiet bus ride to Como, where we planned to take a tour of Mantero Seta. There we learned about and observed the two different printing techniques that this textile manufacturing company uses when making high end, made to order fabrics: silk screening and machine printing. Before we got to the rooms holding the printers, I was impressed to hear about the intensive detail needed to truly match paints for fabric to colors on paper, since the same ink combination will absorb and reflect light differently based on the materials it is applied to. The inks then go either to printers much like paper printers or silk screens, where the fabric is stamped color by color with stencils one at a time. Besides the factory housed in the company building, there are specialized teams of designers and engineers that develop patterns, color combinations, and weaves to improve the process and suggest to clients coming for a wholistic “fabric-ation” and creation in cooperation with this company. In order to hold and build on the experiences of the extensive past to this system, the building also houses an incredible archive. The archives of past fabrics and designs and colors and stencils and everything was extremely organized so that any member of a design team can efficiently find a specific style or product to bring out for a client. Walking in, there were rows upon rows of files and fabrics organized by size, color, pattern, company, and date. I particularly enjoyed seeing the differently aged books of fabric swaths that are used as inspiration for modern designs.
On the bus and walk to lunch, I enjoyed a beautiful view of mountains and the red-roofed, yellow-walled buildings of Como, which I was later able to enjoy more fully on the boat tour along the coast surrounding the lake. As soon as we stepped off the bus, I got to walk through Como’s Duomo. Like Milan’s, it is named after the Virgin Mary, but it is Superiore (adult) instead of Nascente (child). After a quick tour of the stained glass and the many tapestries hanging from the columns inside the church, we gathered and went to lunch in a traditional-style pizzeria.
Unfortunately, while we were enjoying our delicious pizza lunch, it started raining, so our walking tour of the city was shortened. Nevertheless, we were able to catch a glimpse of the older Italian houses that were built in the 15th century and walked in the middle of paved streets made for pedestrians, much more like traditional Italy I had imagined compared to Milan. On our boat tour, we passed many luxurious villas and exclusive gardens that were made to be luxury summer homes for the rich and famous from around the world. An example is the villa that currently belongs to George Clooney, and was originally owned by Pittsburgh’s very own Heinz family. We also passed a villa once owned by Winston Churchill, which surprised me since I tend to imagine him working and forget he had vacations like the rest of us.
After waiting for our bus in the wet coldness of the streets, I have to admit I was disappointed at the briefness and unfortunate timing of our visit. At least I still got to get a taste of the beautiful lakeside city and now know that Como is a place to come back to, not only because of the weather, but also to take time to enjoy the classic vacation atmosphere that has apparently attracted people from all over the world throughout history.
For now I’m back in a rainy Milan, so I’ll grab dinner and get to editing these last three posts while I hide from the rain a bit. Tomorrow we’ll be seeing the first Italian Starbucks!