In the 21st century, a baseball cap is the hat of choice for many. However, in the 18th century the straw hat was ubiquitous thanks to the inventiveness of an Italian, Domenico Michelacci. He experimented growing wheat for straw, eventually cultivating marzuolo wheat with long bearded ears. He harvested the wheat before it matured fully and its straw proved perfect for plaiting and weaving hats and other items like shoes and baskets because of its uniform colour, length and pliability. Michelacci founded the straw-hat industry in Signa, near Florence and his low-crowned hats became fashionable among wealthy women seeking a country-girl look. Later, straw hats and boaters became fashionable for men, too.
Signa’s Museo della Paglia e dell’Intreccio (Museum of Straw and Wickerwork) is dedicated to the pioneer. It charts the history of craft in the town that gave birth to the celebrated straw hat of Florence and which flourished there until the 1950s.
The museum consists of several rooms that display the raw materials and machinery used for weaving and plaiting straw. Visitors can see examples of straw hats, clothing and wickerwork worn over the centuries. Artworks, photos and documentation reveal the rise of a local industry that helped set fashion trends around the world.
The Museo della Paglia e dell’Intreccio is open from 9am to 1pm Monday to Saturday.
Where: Museo della Paglia e dell’Intreccio, Via degli Alberti 11, 50058 Signa, Florence, Tuscany