all kinds and shades of color are available for dyeing fabrics or painting. It wasn’t always like that. Before the advent of synthetic dyes, colors for centuries were extracted from plants, minerals and animals, giving rise to natural colors whose production and exchange have often been a source of economic and social development for entire territories.

Today, the interest in these colors is growing also because of the environmental impact that dyeing and, the production of synthetic colors in general, have provoked releasing a large amount of pollutants into the environment.
The city of Ancona, an ancient port and gateway to the East, has its history “colored” by the trade and production of natural colors.

Colors and fashion

Red was the color par excellence in Roman times, more precisely purple-red, extracted from a gland of the common murex.
At that time Ancona was an important production site of this color, overlooking the sea it always had raw material!
The ancient production process was quite bloody!
With Rurally we bring you to those who will tell you about it and have also found an alternative, sweeter method to extract the color from these beautiful shells.

After the year 1000, in the Middle Ages, the color blue also began to appear among the most popular and fashion in Europe. It was characterized by this color until the XX century.
The blue dye par excellence in Europe until the XIX century was extracted from a plant that arose spontaneously in central-northern Italy and other European areas and which was cultivated for centuries especially for the production of blue: the woad.
The production process of this natural color is complex, laborious and infinitely interesting to discover!

Montefeltro, in Italy, was one of the most important production areas until the second half of the XVIII century when the woad blue was supplanted by the indigo blue, produced in the East from a plant not suitable for European climates and which allows a simpler production process.
Even today, in Montefeltro you can find the large millstones made of stone grooved skillfully in a particular and recognizable way that were used at the time for the processing of the woad. After the decline of the production they were often used as architectural elements for other subsequent artifacts.

Did you know that...

the saying "the land of the greasy" derives from the wealth produced by the ford? On its tour dedicated to Ancona and the natural color, Rurally takes you to find out why (click on the link at the bottom of the article).

The "blue" trade has always involved Ancona, first with the export of the Montefeltro woad and later with the import of Indigo.
Florence worked a lot with Ancona during the XV century, considering it strategic for its trade links to Ragusa and the East, a valid alternative to Venice, with the aim of countering the latter's desire to control a particularly profitable product: the woad.

In the documents of the warehouse of Ancona there are testimonies of the flourishing trade in other natural colors such as kermes (obtained from some species of Asian and American cochineals!).

Rurally offers you a tour of the city of Ancona that combines a guided walk in the historic center with an in-depth study on natural colors, thanks to the encounter with Sara (art historian and expert in natural colors) and Massimo (expert in dyeing plants, natural colors and woad) that will reveal all the secrets of production and trade linked to the history of the city.

Cover photo: ford plantation
Photo in the body of the article: common murex and purple in extraction

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