Made in Umbria
Couture cashmere, in the province of Perugia.
What has chocolate got to do with Umbria's world famous cashmere factories? Apparently nothing, but, there is a connection.
In 1907, Luisa Spagnoli , one of Italy's first and most successful female entrepreneurs, founded not only the Perugina chocolate company but also a farm breeding Angora rabbits . She then transformed the fur of these fluffy little creatures into knitwear which was destined to become the driving force of what is still one of the country's most famous fashion brands.
The creation and love of beautiful things would appear to be in the DNA of those born in Umbria , a region which now boasts some 500 companies specializing in the noble art of making cashmere.
It is not by chance that the English, among the most affectionate aficionados of the luxuriant wool, refer to the area around Trasimeno as "'Cashmere Valley'", and that they put shopping by the lake right next to the region's artworks, landscapes and cuisine on their list of reasons to visit Umbria
Umbria's philosopher-businessman and his multicolored cashmere
In 1985, the crumbling 13th century hilltop hamlet of Solomeo , in the province of Perugia, was saved from certain demise by one of the Kings of Italian Cashmere: Brunello Cucinelli . Cucinelli purchased the whole medieval mess and set about restoring it to its original splendor.
A self-proclaimed philosopher-businessman, Cucinelli produces daringly bright shades of cashmere - a wool which, for centuries, had been associated, almost exclusively, with timid, neutral tones.
A splurge in the Cucinelli outlets is not the only reason why you should visit Solomeo. Solomeo is the expression of its eclectic patron's desire to create a "humanist company". The jewel in the town's crown has to be the Teatro Cucinelli, created in 2008 within the walls of the Arts Forum, were the town's academy, library and philosopher's garden are located.
Fancy combining a little luxury shopping with a show?, Check out Teatro Cucinelli's program on the website
Cashmere in the shadow of the castle
Another highly-esteemed protagonist of Italy's "Cashmere made in Umbria" industry, Lamberto Losani has been creating artisan-made cashmere for women for over 50 years. The family business is based in the town of Magione, on a hill overlooking Lake Trasimeno.
Magione is dominated by the ancient castle of the Knights of Malta, now the magnificent headquarters of the Castello di Magione wine company.
30kms from Perugia, Fabiana Filippi's outlet is the perfect place to pick up a nifty new item of knitwear. The company, famous for its women's cashmere collections, is located in the industrial area just outside Giano dell'Umbria, another picturesque little town, more than worth a visit.
From Giano dell'Umbria, make the trip to the equally beautiful Torgiano, home to the Lungarotti cellars and wine museum, to take a peek at the contemporary creations for men and women made by Ima Cashmere.
Head South, towards Terni, to find another small company which is making a name for itself with its artisan produced cashmere and its Barna knitwear: Martini.
Put it in your diary ... or on your smartphone
Outlet Brunello Cucinelli: piazza Alberto della Chiesa 6 Solomeo (PG)
Outlet Gunex: via dell'Industria 5/2 Solomeo (PG)
Outlet Lamberto Losani: villa Case Sparse 48/G, Magione
Outlet Fabiana Filippi: via B.Buozzi 60, Giano dell'Umbria
Outlet Ima Cashmere: via dell'Artigianato 16/a, Torgiano
Barna Cashmere: via Pascoli 10, Terni
Hotels in the area
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Montecastello di Vibio
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Montesperello di Magione