Industries and traditional Crafts
The Strona valley and Cusio have an ancient tradition of metalworking. Many people from the valley specialized in the working of iron, brass and pewter. Their descendants founded factories of kitchenware marketed worldwide, such as Alessi, Bialetti, Calderoni, Girmi, Lagostina and Piazza.
Articles made made in these factories are on display at the Museum of Arts and Industry at the Omegna Forum, sited on some of the ground once occupied by the Cobianchi steelworks. The origin of the dynamic tap-manufacturing area around San Maurizio d’Opaglio, where the history and evolution of tapmanufacturing is illustrated at the Museum of the Tap and its technology, can be found in the meeting between the centuries-old experience of bell-casting of the bell–founders of Valduggia and that of the Cusian brassworkers. The Strona valley generated a number of genial inventors. The Guglielminetti brothers devised a special flask for the armed forces of various countries.
At Sambughetto the sesula, a wooden shovel for clearing snow off roads, was invented. Baldassarre Cane was the inventor of the soda syphon. The first hydraulic lathe was constructed in secret by Gaudenzio Piana, who had seen an example in Genoa prison after the uprisings of 1849; once the mystery was revealedis countrymen filled the valley with hydraulic lathes and extended this activity to Pettenasco. The structure that hosts the Ethnographic and Craft Museum of the Valley Strona is the old Martinoli Turnery where original lathes and numerous turned wooden artifacts may be seen. The Museum of the Art of Woodturning is in one of the “factories” at Pettenasco, where the turners (called gratagamul in dialect) produced articles of everyday life (their wooden spoons are well –known) and also admirable artistc works. Alzo granite was considered the finest in Europe and was widely used from the mid-nineteenth till the mid-twentieth century.
The Stone-masons Museum at Boleto illustrates at Boleto illustrates the heavy work carried out by those who worked in the quarries of the Madonna del Sasso cliff. Towards 1800 Egidio Forni and his uncle, Francesco Rampone from Quarna Sotto, learned the art of making flutes in Milan. The nephew, Agostino Rampone, met the inventor of the saxophone, Adolfo Sax, and founded a factory that transferred its production to Quarna Sotto where still today excellent wind instruments are made; the old methods of production are documented in the Ethnographic and Musical Wind Instrument Museum at Quarna. The making of umbrellas was the specialization of the Vergante territory.
Umbrella-makers were wandering craftsman who made and repaired umbrellas and parasols. They had a secret language, known as tarusc, for exchanging information without being understood by strangers. The Museum of the Umbrella and Parasol at Gignese is the only one in the world dedicated to this theme. The Dairymaking Museum at Casale Corte Cerro illustrates the process of the traditional local dairy production that still produces renowned cheeses. Lastly, ever since the sixteenth century, Cusians have worked as innkeepers in important cities of the time, such as Rome and Madrid.
The Museum of the Hotel Industry at Armeno, better defined as a Centre of Memorabila, comprehends a unique collection of fragments of ways of life and memories accumulated during their travels worldwide, brought here by simple cooks and great chefs, unknown waiters and apprentice-chefs. A tradition that has continued over the centuries, with Cusians in the forefront today in modern hotel management.