Wonderful Weaving

  • Added:
    Sep 06, 2012
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In Alberobello, otherwise known as Trulli zone, located between Bari and Taranto in Puglia, the streets are lined with the famous white buildings of tapered roofs adorned with hieroglyphics that represent a significance recognised by its inhabitants. The origin of the symbols are not clear, in fact one theory is that they were introduced by populations from eastern countries that settled in Puglia, another is that they are Christian pictures dating back to the first century. Each trullo (the plural version being Trulli) is unique in that it has its own shape and dimensions, and according to beliefs, the symbols are a sign of good omen.  Trulli zone can be found in the heart of Alberobello and has rows of gift shops full of wonderful ideas.  On a sunny day, shopkeepers entice you into their stores by sitting outside, smiles on their faces, ready to greet anyone that walks by.

One such shopkeeper, Anna Maria Matarrese, is particularly skilled at encouraging tourists to take a look inside her shop and its difficult not to be impressed. On entering, you are immediately struck with the awe inspiring designs that greet you.  The shelves are graced with unique weaving of unbleached linen in the form of tablecloths, tea towels, breakfast mats and aprons. Each is intricately emblazoned with one of four traditional designs that Anna Maria has perfected for the last 42 years since she took over the running of this family business.  The exclusive and beautifully crafted designs feature bells, peacocks, grapes and the Trullo itself and each has an important significance - fidelity, immortality, happiness and abundance respectively.  An Italian tradition is for the mothers of future brides to purchase a kit full of necessary items to begin married life, the Corredo and it is with this in mind that the significances of Anna Maria’s designs take on an essential meaning.  “We sell many of our products for the Corredo” Anna Maria explains “Because it is hoped that married life will be blessed with good fortune”.

I met Anna Maria on a sunny and warm spring day.  She was as cheerful and welcoming then as at our first meeting several months previously when she showed me around her shop. I was charmed by Anna Maria’s gracious nature.  She was only too happy to let me into a few secrets about how she has built up such a different and lucrative business that boasts a uniqueness only found in this small corner of Italy.  Anna Maria explained that as with most businesses, it was initially incredibly difficult and took a long time before she personally saw any rewards.  “I was only 15 when I started embroidering” She says proudly pointing out the stock that she sells. “It was tedious to begin with because I worked some long hours and it was difficult to see a way forward” However, with a great deal of perseverance that is a strong part of her character, Anna Maria’s dedication eventually paid off when she took over the running of the shop and business when she was just 18.  The friendly atmosphere that is created is apparent when I was introduced to Anna Maria’s daughter Claudia who is now the official owner of the business and can often be found greeting customers in the shop.  Claudia is equally as personable as her mother, and has the same enthusiasm for not only the business, but also for Alberobello. “We’re in an ideal location” Claudia says “We offer a unique product in such a beautiful part of Puglia”.  

As Anna Maria and I talked some more, it became more and more evident that she has  such a determination and overwhelming passion for her work, that it comes as no surprise to discover she is popular with the visiting tourists that come from all parts of the world to take away a reminder of Alberobello. Such is her popularity, I was shown a Japanese tourist guide in which she appears in and since then she has even had an all expenses paid trip to appear on Japanese television! 

I was shown into Anna Maria’s workshop next door were there were plenty more shelves stacked from top to bottom with her wonderful creations. “We have a dedicated team of retired ladies that work from home embroidering each article” She explains. “It works well for us all because the ladies can earn some extra money on top of their pension, and Claudia and I have the time to concentrate on the shop and our customers”. Once the embroidery is completed to perfection, Claudia then spends time visiting the pensioners to collect the finished articles.

Now aged 60, Anna Maria’s biggest selling point appears to be her enthusiasm and dedication for the business that she thrives on. She is as interested in her customers as they are of her and I couldn’t help but wonder if this is part of the reason why she is such a successful saleswoman. 

In addition to offering embroidery, in order to add character to her wonderfully colourful shop, on the opposite side to the weaving is a vast collection of distinctive and humorous whistles, fischietti, in all shapes, sizes and colours.  Amongst them you will find characters such as Bugs Bunny, as well as bees and frogs, all of which are specially designed for Anna Maria by a local artist.  The whistles regularly feature in local competitions and often win prizes for their originality. They certainly add an extra attraction to an already entrancing shop.

As our meeting came to an end, Anna Maria and I shook hands and wished each other well.  I left with the feeling that I hadn’t seen the last of her and that this must surely be an integral part of her success and could explain why so many tourists visit her again and again.  Perhaps like me, they too become captivated by Anna Maria and her whistles and elaborate weaving of a very different kind.

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Tamzin Hardy enjoys writing articles for InterestingArticles.com. View the Tamzin Hardy Author Profile


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