Gandino - Scarlatti Dye-Works

The Scarlatti Dye-Works in Prat Serval today is a small farmstead at the beginning of the road towards Valpiana. It was once appointed to creating the highly prized “Gandino scarlet” dye, a vivid red which also intrigued Garibaldi.
The red shirts of the Thousand, departing from Quarto in 1860, were dyed here.
This episode returned to the spotlight for the 150th anniversary of the Unity of Italy in 2011. A commemorative tablet was placed on the building in 1961.

Gandino obtained this prestigious “contract work” because of its “scarlet” red, at the behest of Garibaldi and was defined in various documents as having an “unsurpassed brilliance”.
The dyeing techniques in use then employed almost exclusively organic materials combined with primordial chemical compounds. Water was of course of great value. The scarlet colour was created using powders obtained from the cochineal bug, a tiny parasitic insect. Only females insects were used, which were collected and dried, as they produced the carminic acid necessary for dyeing.

G. Battista Fiori, a Gandino entrepreneur who in Milan enjoyed excellent connections in the Kingdom of Piedmont, was the fortunate intermediary for creating this historic dyeing.
The quantity produced initially was rather limited, so much so that with the expedition from Quarto, not more than two-hundred Garibaldi soldiers departed with a regular “uniform”.
The dye used to colour history was created at the “Scarlatti Dye-works” (today converted into a farmstead) by Pietro and Abramo Maccari, two dyer brothers at the helm of an historic family of entrepreneurs in the valley.

For the 150th anniversary of the Unity of Italy in 2011, the Red Shirts of Gandino were reproduced in a limited and numbered edition. Shirt number 001 was given to Giorgio Napolitano, President of the Italian Republic. It was not so much a nostalgic operation as a true project that involved a number of aspects linked specifically to the textile district of Val Gandino, which was able to rediscover a complete and extensive production chain.

Entrepreneurs and artisans collaborated to weave an extensive network, creating a product with a powerful territorial connotation. The project brought together around twenty industrial manufacturers and artisans in the valley to produce a limited and numbered edition of 150 pieces of the Thousands’ scarlet uniforms.
The woollen baize cloth was reproduced according to a sample from 1861 and was woven, dyed and finished according to tradition. Redesigned by designer Angelo Reggiani, the shirt also has several high tech features: the commemorative embroidery (authorised by the Prime Minister’s Office) including a yarn created by Radici Group that allows the product’s authenticity to be verified using a reader.

The QR Code printed on the garment’s inner label was also highly technological, allowing the shirt’s production phases to be discovered with an ordinary smartphone.