Italy | Risking my life for damask

[damask |ˈdaməsk|
noun |
A figured woven fabric with a pattern visible on both sides, typically used for table linen and upholstery.]

Not exactly the kind of thing you’d risk your life for, right?

The adventure happened a few years ago, but when I went back to Italy in July and drove by the turn to Lorsica, I was reminded of my perilous quest. So here’s a repost of the story. (The photo above is a preview.)

I was scouting locations in the Liguria region of Italy that could be included in a home renovation television show I was art directing. I’d heard from a recent visit to a chair factory there was a damask factory in Lorsica. This region of Italy is historically known for its damask production, so it sounded like a great find. (This is the kind of thing I get excited about.)

For those of you that are scratching your heads wondering what damask is, here’s an example:

Looks familiar, right? It’s now made by machines, but it was originally woven by hand on large looms. Apparently Di Martini Damaschi, in Lorsica, was still weaving damask on a loom from the early 1900’s.

I programmed “Lorsica” into the map on my phone and off I went. If I had been looking at an actual map, I would have seen what I was getting into. Just look at these zigging and zagging roads, which, by the way, are on the side of a mountain.

Relying solely on my GPS, I headed blindly up the mountain.

It turned out to be a one lane, yes, zigging and zagging road with the imposing, craggy mountain on one side and a seemingly five thousand foot drop on the other. With little or no guard rail.

FYI, I stopped the car to take these pictures, just in case you’re wondering.

About every five minutes there was a falling rock sign, which, let’s face it, didn’t help the trepidation I was feeling driving up this mountain.

The hairpin turns around the mountain were so tight that you couldn’t see if someone was coming in the opposite direction. Lucky for me, there was NO ONE coming in the opposite direction.

Wait a minute…why was there no one coming in the opposite direction?

I crawled up the mountain, trying to avoid looking at the drop on my right side. My rental car had this feature where it would “beep-beep-beep” if it got too close to something, which was great if you were backing up into a parking place.

In this case, it just kept beep-beep-beeping all the way up the mountain…because it was so close to the mountain itself.

Every once in awhile there was a makeshift fence along the road, and sometimes even a little guard rail. Somehow, not more comforting.

I finally reached the top and seemed to drive right past the village.

There was no way in.

I pulled over to the side of the road and parked.

I started walking up a path that looked like it might lead to some sort of village. I got to the top and kept wandering. It was like a ghost town. There was no one in sight. No shops, no bars, nothing.

I saw the church. Well, that’s something.

I looked down at the strange crypts alongside the mountain.

Then I saw laundry blowing in the wind. So there was one sign of life.

I walked back the way I had come, and this time I saw a door with a little “Di Martini Damaschi” sign. I knocked but no one answered.

Without really thinking about it, I pushed the door ajar. It opened against a ladder, in a tiny room with two large looms filling the space.

On one of the looms, damask was, indeed, being woven.

It was at that moment that I heard the dogs.

A hair-raising cacophony of snarling and barking sent goosebumps down my spine. There had to be at least five of them, and they were raging and ravenous. Maybe even rabid.

I ran.

As I ran out the door, I noticed the “ATTENTI AL CANE” sign…beware of dog, or, in this case, dogs.

No kidding.

I ran back down the narrow lane.

I got to my car, still hearing the dogs howling in the distance.

It wasn’t until then that I thought about the fact that I had to drive BACK DOWN.

At that moment, I forgot about the dogs, I forgot about the deserted village, I forgot about the damask…all I could think about was, “I hope my brakes work.”

11 responses to “Italy | Risking my life for damask”

  1. Susan

    We’ve not been to Merci yet but it’s on the agenda…we have some time to go.  Maybe we’ll see you there?

  2. Kasia

    Hi Pam! The story sounds amazing! Actually as any other event on the road you are in! I came across your blog a while ago looking for a ideas for designing and decorating the house that me and my husband and the kids are going to move in few months. I wish it was a place that I once ‘experienced’ just being in the house in New Canaan. I don’t want it to sound weird but whenever I spent my time there (babysitting) somehow I felt motivated, at rest, like in the right place! and I know it was not a coinicidence It felt like everything was in the right spot with the right light, color and just perfect.  And I thought it was unbelievable and how I wish my home was like that!!! Anyways, reading even a bit of your journey and seeing the beauty of places and things also somehow inspires!!! It’s so great you make such travel. I wish you all the best.
    Kasia Blaszkiewicz (Choma)

  3. OMG Crazy good story!!!! I love damask – if you saw my place you might think I need a damask intervention.

  4. Great story! Wish you could have scored a dozen yards of Damask, but at least you didn’t get eaten by wild dogs. But where were the people? One has to wonder about that.

  5. Orlene

    I’m taking all these things into my brain and noting things I do NOT want to do in Italy when I travel there someday!  HA!!  Glad you lived to tell the story!

  6. Judy Bergquist

    Great story Pam – I was laughing all the way up the mountain with you.  Glad you found the loom and the fabrics and so happy you made it back down safely!

  7. Roz Cohn

    OMG!!!  Pam, you’ve got to do this as a live camera show!!!!  I was howling and it’s not because I’m part dog in a sense.  Too, too funny and harrowing at the same time.  You are nuts in the best possible way! xoxoxo

  8. admin

    I made it down the mountain (slowly) and I’m alive to tell the story!  More adventures to come….

    (Have you gone to Merci for lunch?)

  9. Susan

    You gotta tell us the ending soon…this is too much like a serial mystery…and nothing like our current stay in Paris.  So urbane here.

  10. what you do for fabric!  love reading about all your adventures.

  11. Craig

    Ha!  Great story. Thanks.