Between the past and the future: the oldest palazzo in Ala
The palazzo dates back to the Venetian fifteenth century and bears witness to the vitality of that foreign class; the only people who could afford to build or enlarge their homes.
Situated in the ancient Via di Villanova, the seventeenth century palazzo has a simple and austere facade with a squared door and identical symmetrical windows.
In stark contrast to this severity is the facade of the inner courtyard where an ancient stone carved well from the year 500 dominates. In 1810 the leader of the south Tyrolean uprising, Andreas Hofer, stayed here inside these very walls before being executed by the French in Mantua.
The palace houses a historical smooth velvet loom, restored in 2022. In the 18th century, Ala became known throughout Europe especially for its dark-coloured plain velvet.
Unlike a normal fabric, which has weft, i.e. horizontal threads, and warp, i.e. vertical threads, in velvet there is a series of additional threads that are then cut to give the ‘pile’ effect typical of velvet itself. In plain velvet, we have 4000 warp threads and 4000 pile threads in just 60 cm.
Plain velvet, made from 100% silk yarn, is the most difficult velvet to weave and has certain characteristics that make it unique: the pile is cut as many as 17 times in a cm and is therefore one of the strongest and most compact fabrics; it does not refract light; the weave is created by the combined movement of the weaver’s hands and feet on the loom, which means she is seated as she has to move her feet on as many as five pedals and her hands on the case at the same time.
The palazzo will become home to the Museo Provinciale del Tessuto (Provincial Textile Museum).