Silk. A short but concise term, sweet and disruptive. Yet behind these four alphabetical signs they lie centuries of history, and not only. Silk is known to be always a luxury fabric, used to make clothes, the garments, and damasks of the rich and powerful people. But its biological origin is very simple.
Thanks to a wonder of nature, this fiber is produced by so-called worms or larvae (caterpillars commonly), that during the period of metamorphosis build a cocoon to protect their “transformation” by external agents. Only a few of the approximately two hundred breeds produce a usable fiber, and only one (Bombyx mori) can be grown by man. From the twelfth century the Italian peninsula was the largest producer of silk Europe. In particular in the Calabrian region the production of gold wire was flourishing. The city of Catanzaro was considered the capital of silk, and around it had formed a production circuit which drew a Calabrian “Silk Way”, a corridor that connected the Tyrrhenian coast to the Ionian.
In the surrounding areas were produced mulberries and raw silk (by rural households), while in Catanzaro workshops were doing weaving. Why the silk art is more developed in Catanzaro is a mystery not yet solved (remember that at the time all the south of Italy was under the Byzantine Empire).
What is certain is that the city of Catanzaro and Palermo (also large producer of silk) were influenced by the wind of the oriental culture, at first under the Byzantine Empire and after under the Arabs. Analyzing some historical sources, it is assumed that the meaning of the original name of the Calabrian capital, Katantárion, can be traced back to the greek verb Katartizen, the meaning of which is to prepare, package and also work (silk spinners were called Katartarioi). The art of silk reached the peak stage between 1500 and 1600.
The fame of silk weavers masters of Catanzaro caused quite a stir which spread to France, where the latter were called to Lyons to teach the technique of weaving. According to some sources, in the State Archives of Catanzaro, the peasant families of San Floro, a small village just outside the capital of Calabria, at the end of the 800 they raised million silkworms, the indigenous race, producing about 1,400 kg of cocoons.