Meraviglioso panorama della Montagna Pistoiese
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Papini Foundry of Maresca

A spotlight on traditional trades

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The ‘Papini’ Foundry of Maresca is one of the most important examples of industrial archeology in the Pistoiese Mountains. It brings to mind ancient medieval foundries, where the iron workers would wear spats full of refractory materials and carry rags that were used to press burning metal. It was a world of fire, water and maul—and within this setting at least five generations of master blacksmiths became experts in their trade. Its last master, Michele Papini (who died at the age of 98) often welcomed visitors and this tradition is being upheld by his two children, Lia and Alfio.

Visitors can view traditional tools that work thanks to a hydraulic wheel system or see a forge and small oven that was once used for making  agricultural instruments. The Foundry of Maresca was the last stop along the long ‘Via del Ferro’ or ‘Iron Road’ that helped make the Pistoiese mountains one of the most noteworthy metal-working centers on the peninsula.

You’ll find an interesting quote on the website of Florence’s Science Museum, ‘From the mines of Rio in Elba, iron would be transferred to the melting ovens of the Maremma where the material would be reduced to stingray. From there, it would be loaded onto boats and taken to Livorno or Bocca d’Arno. Once transferred onto small ships, the metal would be taken up river to Lastra a Signa. From there, it would go along the Ombrone until reaching Poggio a Caiano where it was often transported by mules or horses. At this point, the metal would be taken to the foundries of the Pistoiese Mountains where it would be tranformed into wide bars. Other foundries would then break them down into smaller pieces so that they could be worked in the area’s numerous artisan workshops or transformed into nails, iron wire, shovels or rifle barrels.’