The history of lace in Umbria is closely tied to that of textile manufacturing, and dates back to the 12th century. This highly sophisticated technique was influenced by French traditions, in particular those of tapestry makers from Lille and Giacomo Bergierès. These textiles have decorations typical of the Perugia area, such as the famous tovaglia perugina, woven in a bird’s eye pattern in white linen with blue bands. It was used for both domestic and liturgical purposes, and is quite easily recognized in a number of 13th century paintings from Umbria’s churches and museums. Umbria textiles gained value and fame thanks in part to Orvieto lace and linen, and embroideries from Assisi and Città di Castello. These fabrics – which over time became quite renowned in Italy and throughout Europe – were inspired by Middle Eastern culture and featured decorations including geographic motifs, human figures, animals, and salutations. In Umbria, bobbin lace is still manufactured in S. Giustino, near Città di Castello.
Lace manufacturing experienced a revival between the 19th and 20th centuries, mostly using manually-operated Jacquard looms. The revival of medieval and Renaissance techniques continues to this day, with a concomitant increase in manual weaving: there are artisans working today who use extremely ancient techniques. In the Lake Trasimeno area, in Panicale and Isola Maggiore, lace has been intensively manufactured since the early 20th century. Irish and bobbin lace are on display at a permanent exhibition/market at the centre of Isola Maggiore. Città di Castello and Assisi have seen a revival in a style of Renaissance cross-stitch lace known as Punto Assisi; Orvieto can instead boast of its superb Ars Wetana, a type of Irish lace that has achieved worldwide fame.
Umbria currently hosts a number of centuries-old manufacturers selling a wide array of highly prized artisanal products.