The origins of the centuries-old tradition of lace in Abruzzo remain shrouded in mystery, although historians suggest that it may have been strongly influenced by an influx of workers from Lombardy who moved to Abruzzo to help with reconstruction after the 1456 earthquake.
The fact that lacework is exceptionally widespread in the region is certainly due to the fact that during the winter months, when very little farmwork was performed, local women dedicated themselves almost exclusively to making sophisticated lacework, particularly bobbin lace.
In a valuable document from 1493, Queen Isabel of Este expressed her astonishment at the beauty of the lacework made by women from L’Aquila.
From the outset, the most widespread technique was bobbin lace, using pillows about 25-30 cm wide with a diameter of 15-20 cm, stuffed with plant fibre, straw, dried leaves, or sawdust, and a variable number of wooden bobbins around which the thread was wound.
The areas of Abruzzo where the lace tradition runs deepest include L’Aquila, which over time has distinguished itself for its sophisticated lace made with exquisite, extremely fine threads and destined for aristocratic buyers; and Pescocostanzo, where local women made simpler, more rustic styles of lace using free-hand techniques without following a set pattern.
Lace manufactured in Scanno is unique thanks to its characteristic geometric designs fashioned after Lombard, Venetian, and Genoese styles: punto retine, punto tela and the so-called punto palmetta, used to fill in spaces in the fabric.
The tradition of lace in Abruzzo has remained undiminished over the centuries, as evidenced by the establishment of schools and workshops that taught this exquisite art in the 19th century.
During the 1990s, the small town of Pescocostanzo opened the Museum of Lace and the School of Bobbin Lace in the 17th century Palazzo Fanzango. The school continues to train many passionate artisans. The Museum exhibits artefacts from private and public collections from the 18th century onwards.