Province of Ancona
Fabriano was founded in the early Middle Ages as a small Roman town 5 kilometres (3 mi) south of Attiggio (Latin Attidium). It’s main claim to fame is its long and continuing history of production of high class paper and techniques of watermarking. However, the little town holds other attractions for the tourist.
The Cathedral, San Venanzio, is a glorious building, originating in the fourteenth century. We can still see the original polygonal apse and cloisters, and the chapel of St Lawrence (with frescoes by Allegretto di Nuzio) dated c.1360.
There are also some frescoes from 1415 by the local painter, Giovanni di Corraduccio, entitled Stories of the True Cross.The cathedral was rebuilt in the Baroque style between 1607-1617 and contains stucco decoration and canvases by some notable painters, including Orazio Gentileschi and Giovanni Francesco Guerrieri.
The Palazzo del Podesta was built in 1255, but has been modified several times since then. It is in the form of a bridge because it originally spanned a stream which flowed through the town. The central arcade has frescoes from 13th and 14th centuries portraying warriors and a wheel of fortune supported by a female figure.
The Pinacoteca Civica Bruno Malajoli (Civic Art Gallery) is housed in an old hospital which was built in 1456. It is a marvellous building, and the collection, which was moved here in 1994, includes some wonderful paintings by, amongst many others, Allegretto Nuzi, Antonio da Fabriano, Bicci di Lorenzo, Neri di Bicci, Filippo da Verona, Domiziano Domiziani, Andrea Boscoli, Orazio Gentileschi, Francesco Podesti, and Gentile da Fabriano.
Another interesting collection is in the monumental complex of St. Benedetto, the Museum of Piano and Sound, with an exhibition of 18 pianos dating from the end of the 18th to the early 19th centuries. To experience the magic of a live show, you can buy tickets for the Teatro Gentile (Town Theatre), known and appreciated for its unique internal structure as well as excellent acoustics. It is considered one of the most beautiful and elegant theatres in Le Marche region.
The Paper Museum
Fabriano paper is famous worldwide for its quality. Production of paper of this quality took a long time to perfect, but by the second half of the 13th century the locally produced paper was already sought after all across Italy, and even in France and Spain. This was due not only to the product itself, but also to the skills of the merchants of the day in transporting and selling the paper, not to mention the geographical location, so close to the thriving port of Ancona.
Many small artisan workshops were working on this industry in the early days in the long, arduous process of turning rag cloth into fine quality paper.
Their success was also one of the factors that led to the establishment in 1470 of one of the earliest printing centres in Italy in nearby Foligno in Umbria. The paper produced was of such a high standard that it was chosen by great artists such as Michelangelo and Titian for their work.
The present museum gives the visitor a fascinating insight into many aspects of the history of paper making and its significance in the renaissance world, and subsequently. The topic of watermarking is also important to the success of the product. Watermarks were originally used to identify the maker of the paper, and some can still be seen in the paper used for personal correspondence by many great artists, including Michelangelo.
The industry suffered a decline in the 17th and 18th centuries, but there was an upturn during the industrial revolution, mainly due to one entrepreneur, Pietro Miliani, who founded the Cartiere Miliani company, combining many small businesses in one. This family business was extremely successful, and continued until 2002 (even producing paper for the Euro bank notes!) when it was bought up by the Fedrigoni group.
In addition to the permanent collections, the museum gives practical demonstrations, as well as educational courses and workshops on a variety of skills, such as how to make paper using ancient manufacturing techniques, understanding the chemical peculiarities of lithographic printing, and inking and printing with an original press.