War and Peace across the Brenta, Cartigliano and Nove

There was some fortune in the Brenta river having grown to nearly one kilometre width between Cartigliano and Nove in the 19th century, as it kept the competing tribes from each town apart.

The Cartigiliani being agriculturists and lovers of silk, the Novese being industrialists and artisans of the Brenta river clay beds that arose after Ezzelino da Romano shifted the river course in the 13th century.

These towns are now linked by concrete, by the bridge over the Brenta river that was narrowed in the 19th century with just a free-flowing canal passing the Cartigliano city square, the campanile and the glorious Villa Morosoni Cappello.

The rivalry between the towns was been brought back to life just 60 years ago when Cartigliano began the construction of its own bell tower to compete with the tower of Nove, then one of the tallest in Veneto, after St Marks.

Bell towers are the characteristic feature of the flatlands of Veneto, dotted across the landscape as guide-posts for villages and towns otherwise lost in the maize fields of summer. Whether the Cartigliano tower is now the second tallest in Veneto or not (considering the claims of Breganze), it does out-climb the earlier constructed Nove tower in its reach to the heavens at 82 metres.

It seems that the two towns chose to evidence their animosity in these belltowers, Nove showing the back of its statue and Cartigliano choosing to place a clock face on only three faces, curiously not showing to the Novese the time of day.

If one is fortunate enough to visit the office of the mayor in the Villa Morosini Cappello, the only room still bearing its frescoes, there is a trophy cabinet on your left with a clay model, a gift from Nove, on the bottom shelf. It shows the two bell towers, Nove standing straight and tall, Cartigliano a little taller but bending away from the power of the Nove edifice. Maybe an armistice has led to more sporting competition.

The Villa Morosini Cappello is fortunately unlinked to the Doge of the late 17th century who was infamously responsible for the destruction of the Parthenon. The heritage of the villa is the Morosini family of San Silvestro who had based their interests in Cartigliano. The building took about one century to eventually complete, and its original Palladian design, though being obvious even to the amateur, had been modified and eventually completed by Antonio Sardi.

This grand villa cum palace was centre of many a celebration and party as were others sprinkled along the rivers leading to Venice. The villa passed through several families over the next three centuries and eventually was granted to the municipality in 1966.

Villa Morosoni Cappello is a magnificent structure and its history in the Venetian silk world is pre-eminent. The ‘barn’ to the east held a large silk filanda and was a centre for the production of the famous diaphanous silk organza. The region around Cartigliano was a sea of mulberry trees.

And then it was gone. Less than 70 years ago, after the WWII the whole glory of the agricultural led silk world was abandoned and trees were stripped from the fields. An economist’s dream became a region’s destruction.

Yet, today, an entrepreneur from over the Brenta, a goldsmith from Nove, Giampietro Zonta, has opened the door to a renaissance for Cartigliano, to re-invent the Italian silk industry in an ethical manner and to create the first silk spinning of this rinascimento in Villa Morosini Cappello.

The city fathers, the Mayor, Guido Grego and his team led by Tiziano Borsato, Deputy Mayor, have grabbed the opportunity and propose to open the restored ‘barn’ for the citizens as a ‘common good’, a place to store and work their bachiculture and silk assets, a place to bring the people of Cartigliano together for the common good.

Once more the fields around Cartigliano will be filled with mulberry trees rustling in the summer breezes and the soft chomping of millions of silkworms will be heard in the quiet of the evenings. And for Nove? Giampietro has the sole rights for silk for the new Dorica range of silk and gold jewellery, produced by The Fair Silk Way.