In Calabria we are accustomed to hearing of young people who leave to find work and professional fulfillment. But it can also happen the other way around … young people who, after being trained outside of the region, coming home with a suitcase full of ideas and the desire to put them into action!
This is exemplified in the story of three young men from San Floro, a small village in the province of Catanzaro, once dedicated to the art of sericulture, who have come together through a shared passion for their local heritage, love of the environment and the desire to give new impetus to the local economy. They have returned to Calabria to implement a project, of work and life and hence it was born, “Nido di Seta” (The Nest of Silk).
Defined simply as a cooperative seems too simplistic: it is a real and sustainable model of sustainable and alternative development that integrates natural resources, craftsmanship and cultural tourism. Miriam, Giovanna and Domenico – these are the names of the three driven yet avant-garde entrepreneurs – who began with what was offered in their own hometown, weaving together their ideas by creating something that can be described as unique. The name (of their enterprise), is a tribute to the beauty of the area: the 3,000 mulberry trees that young entrepreneurs have, under management by the City, which are surrounded by a circular nature trail. “The valley of the mulberry trees, inside the circle, it’s like a nest where everything takes shape.”
Their main activity is the gelsicoltura (silk production), in all its stages, from the cultivation of mulberry trees to the production of precious yarn, but they didn’t stop there. While respecting the principle of valorizing local resources, they have developed a number of related activities. In addition to the unique textile products for quality and finish, dyed with natural dyes, there are very particular “jewels” in the product line of Nicò bijoux, created by the meeting of the silk of San Floro and the ceramics of Squillace. Nothing is thrown away, everything is adequately used, and as if the laborious work of mulberry cultivation wasn’t enough, Miriam, Giovanna and Domenico have acquired blackberries that the sell both fresh and transformed into delicious organic jams.
The diverse skills of the three boys in languages, sociology and art, have enabled them to develop a winning idea: build a path of land development by leveraging its scenic beauty. Here is the experiential tour packages: visitors can experience firsthand the activities of gelsibachicoltura (silk worm cultivation) and enjoy a historic and naturalistic tour that includes a visit to the Museo della Seta, (Museum of Silk), managed by the cooperative, and walk along the nature trail. In order to expose young people to sericulture, they are not lacking in educational projects for schools.
Intrigued by their story, now seen on the web, we have asked for and received a telephone interview with Domenico Vivino, president of the cooperative. A pleasant chat that has enlightened us to the opportunities that the art of silk can offer in Calabria thanks to their important new project “Nest of Silk.”
Hello Domenico and congratulations on the initiative. In a few short years you have managed to give life to an initiative of integrated enhancement of the territory with a low environmental impact. What was the winning idea?
In 1998, the Municipality of San Floro begun an experimental project to recover the tradition of the art of silk production. In honor of that occasion, about 3,000 mulberry trees were planted. Our idea was to salvage the groves of mulberry trees, which were neglected and reviving the art of silk worm cultivation for which San Floro was once famous.
We wanted to focus on the earth and give valor to all that it offers. Ours is a new idea in doing business. While we have taken to the art of breeding of silkworms, we have dedicated ourselves to agricultural farming acquiring the knowledge to create an organic crop – the mulberry trees are certified organic – and create high-quality products. In addition, we are also linked to eco-experiential tourism. Thanks to the skills of Miriam – expert in tourism and foreign correspondence and fluent in three languages- we were able to connect on an international level with tour operators, receiving requests from Europe and America. Then there are also the schools. Last year we saw a boom in visits: 3500 in a village of 600 inhabitants.
Our production is currently handspun: worked by hand on antique looms on four heddles. We can not produce large quantities, but it is enough to meet our needs. We create items such as shawls, blankets, tablecloths, all in raw silk, respecting the concept of environmental sustainability.
Your product is organic and of excellent quality. In the future do you plan to expand the production of silk? China has always been a leader in the exportation of silk, but they are going through a period of crisis and do not meet the quality standards required by the Europeans.
In fact, we have a project in mind. We would like to create the first spinning mill in Calabria which would be a reference point for the whole South. Now the mills are all closed. At least I do not know of any active in the south. We have already identified the land to be used: it should be built close to the trees themselves and the processing would comply with the principles of environmental sustainability. It would be a great job opportunity for many! Our idea is to reach out to companies that pay attention to work ethic and quality, approaching a more critical consumer. We believe it is essential to develop this type of use.
What a wonderful project. When do you think it will come to fruition?
Obviously creating a spinning mill comes with a cost and we cannot support that alone. This is why we thought of starting a crowdfunding campaign in February. We need the support of the community! What we wish to note that ours is a quality product with zero (environmental) impact and 100% made in Italy. We’ve received so many requests both at the national and international level, that at the moment we can not fulfill them. We need to mechanize the work, while maintaining the same quality standards. To carry forward the mill project we also went to Thailand, renowned for its silk, to speak with the Asian masters. We are now better informed and we also have the certificate for the management of a mechanized mill.
Domenico already understands the cost, and has in mind how to develop the activity of the mill. After all, what these three entrepreneurs are capable of doing is now being watched by all. Miriam, Giovanna and Domenico are the mind and body of a cooperative that in just over four years has been able to, without subsidies, studying, forming and above all learning in the field, to provide Calabria an alternative development project of quality.
Suffice it to say, there have been numerous accolades already received, including the “We Green” award as part of the Green Oscar 2016, the initiative promoted by Coldiretti Giovani Impresa (award for young entrepreneurs) with the patronage of the President of the Republic and the Siberene award, received directly from the hands of the goldsmith Gerardo Sacco of international fame.
We invite you to visit the nest site Nido di Silk, www.nidodiseta.com to find out how many things you can create from a simple thread, although a very precious one, with determination and proactiveness. You can also book a visit to: www.nidodiseta.com/it/attivita/servizi-turistici.
While waiting for more details on how to support the crowdfunding project do not forget to follow the Facebook page of the cooperative, https://www.facebook.com/nidodiseta/?fref=ts