Lake Como and the Italian Silk Industry

25 Oct

Situated three miles from the Swiss border in northern Italy’s lake country, Como supplies silken goods to the fashion houses of New York City, Paris and nearby Milan. Although the backbreaking labor of cultivating the voracious and picky silkworms left Italy after World War II–returning to China, whence it had come centuries earlier–the finishing end of the silk production stayed here and expanded.

Como became Italy’s silk capital for two reasons, silk makers say. First, there was an ample supply of water from the lake and nearby alpine streams to the north. Second, there was widespread mulberry farming in the Po River Valley just to the south. Mulberry, native to Italy, was often planted as a field and property divider. This made the region a natural for the cultivation of silkworms.

Today in Como and its surrounding foothills, there are 800 companies engaged in the silk and textile trade—manufacturing, printing, dyeing, designing and selling. And more than 23,000 Comaschi, as Como residents are called, work in the business.

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