Carpegna. Chances are you haven't heard of this small town in the Marche province of Pesaro and Urbino in a historically significant mountain area called Montefeltro.
Amongst Italians the region is known for its ham, Prosciutto di Carpegna San Leo DOP. Awarded the DOP designation in 1996, the ham is considered the best of Italy by many Italians.
Carpegna is also home to one of the last artisan producers of block printed cloth, the Antica Stamperia Carpegna di Emanuele Francioni. You can purchase stamped cloth products inexpensively in the center of town.
And finally, Carpegna offers a glimpse into the lives of the areas rich and famous who occupied the Palazzo dei Principi. The palazzo was designed in 1675 for Cardinal Gaspare di Carpegna by one of the best architects of the times, Giovan Antonio De Rossi. It can be visited by guided tour, and contains a fine library and a chapel with original furnishings.
And you can see all of this in a 100 meter stretch of main road, Via Roma, in Carpengna.
We were invited to see the process by which fabrics are block printed as they used to be printed--with an "ink" made up of flour, vinegar, and rust applied to a carved block of pear or walnut wood and then transfered to the fabric by aligning the block to the correct place and whacking it with a weighted mallet. You can see the tools and the process in the slide show to the right.
The woods used in the blocks are aged (dried) for seven years before they are carved in a stamp. You can't have them warping on you.
And just in case you think that this is a quaint way of decorating cloth without redeeming values, let me assure you that this process beats the socks off of commercially printed cloth for longevity. We were shown a tenda da sole used to protect a doorway which had withstood the sun, wind and rain for 10 years and appeared as new.
The family has been producing block printed fabrics in Carpenga since the early 1900s. Before that they were in operation in Arezzo in Tuscany.
You can purchase goods at the little store in Carpegna at Via Roma, 45. If you'd like a tablecloth, one of the most saught after uses of block printed fabricks like this, be sure you know the dimensions of your table. Otherwise, buy something like a bread bag as we did (they really provide the best environment for keeping bread as fresh as it can be kept.
To tell if a print is authentically artisinal, check the back. The ink should bleed through slightly.
You can also buy the products online.
You can buy Carpegna ham at the Macelleria del Corso on Via Roma, 26 in Carpegna.
You can visit the Palazzo in high season between 10:30 am and 4 pm for a guided tour that takes about an hour and 15 minutes. After the 9th of September, the palazzo is only open on weekends.
The cost of a ticket is 8 € at the time of writing.
Find the latest information (in Italian) on their facebook page.
Tel.: 0722 77326
Cell.: 327 3072796
There's lots more to discover in this little slice of le Marche called Montefeltro, after the family that ruled the area in the Medieval period through the Renaissance. Montefeltro, specifically around the town of San Leo, north of Carpegna, has been discovered to have been the landscapes behind many of Piero della Francesca’s paintings.
See Hotels in Carpegna (if you want to stay in the area but not necessarily in Carpegna, we especially like Parco Ducale Country House and Bed and Breakfast La Piazzetta di Pascelupo). If you're interested in a remote area with a great cooking school, La Tavola Marche is a great choice. For large groups looking for a villa in an interesting town, Palazzo Donati in the main piazza in Mercatello might do nicely. You can also have a cooking class in Palazzo Donati where you can munch on Carpegna ham while rolling out the dough for the tortellini.