Every family has a secret,
and the secret is unique to each family.
The Venetian furlane speak an international language. Over the decades, they have taken in the cosmopolitan air of Venice’s Serenissima Republic, that meeting-point of East and West in a city open to the world’s cultures and thus full of charm and magic, happy encounters and of a course a rhythm of the waves.
Today, you can find the Venetian furlane near the Rialto Bridge at Piedaterre, a store-cum-treasure trove run by Alessandra and Renato, who have succeeded in recent years in taking them to international success. They choose the fabrics, match the colours and fabrics, and then the weaves according to the moods of the present, past, and future even. They are always designing the evolution, thus keeping the furlane in step with the times, an expression of life as it changes.
A brief timeline of the furlane.
In the 19th century, poverty afflicts the rural areas of Friuli and nearby Carnia, with its rugged mountains where supernatural beings dwell. It is in this historical and geographical context at the end of World War Two that the ‘scarpez’, also known as the ‘friulane’, are first made, a symbol of a subsistence economy full of strength, resistance and dignity. The women folk, among their hundred-and-one other tasks, are the driving force behind these creations. Making them from recycled materials, they work with painstaking precision near the hearth so that they may be worn especially in the warm season by the children and adults of the large patriarchal families. In the 1950s, the tradition is consolidated and perfected in both construction technique and choice of materials. A versatile shoe/slipper is now ready – and it’s becoming increasingly popular for its comfort and the feeling of freedom it gives to the wearer. The island city of Venice is where a new chapter opens in the history of the friulane. In the ‘60s, they appear on sale on the Rialto Bridge. They have been brought here by a family from the north-east region of Friuli as they have realised that Venice could be the city best suited for them to be worn and therefore sold. Indeed, the gondoliers are the first on board, and love to wear as they are non-slip, stable and are soft towards the precious paintwork of their precious craft, the symbol of the Serenissima Republic. Now talked about in Venice, and thus in dialect, as the furlane, the slippers start to flourish in that cosmopolitan air of Venice on the world’s most famous bridge, gradually becoming the icons of an exclusive and sustainable beauty. Being made to ecological principles by reusing fine materials and employing traditional methods, and then by introducing sustainable innovations, Venetian furlane are bought and enjoyed by many people who live in Venice, or who come here from other gracious capitals of the world. They are worn, for example, by orchestra conductors who bestride the stage of the La Fenice theatre, as well as by assiduous theatre-goers, wearing always black ones. Then there are the poets and artists who wear them whilst strolling, perhaps lost in contemplation, through the meandering alleys. Their Venetian furlane, of various colours and textures, communicate to them the ground’s vibrations. Entrepreneurs too love their furlane for their flexibility and elegance; and naturally they are worn by many other walkers, strollers and wanderers, whether Venetians or visitors – all of whom have an outgoing air, and all have the reflections of freedom in their eyes. Venetian furlane have, in them, the beauty of poverty – that beauty which requires no make-up. Natural and therefore timeless.