In this itinerary you will discover one of the most typical crops of the Bolognese plain. Here, amidst the countryside still dotted with ancient maceration basins, over the centuries, hemp has been processed and woven. The practice was so developed that it supplied the Venetian naval arsenal with ropes starting in the second half of the 15th century.
Our itinerary starts from the Museum of Rural Culture in Bentivoglio, where the great importance of hemp for the Bolognese plains can be explored in the special section dedicated to the cultivation, processing and weaving of the fibers of this versatile plant. Among vintage photographs and ancient agricultural tools, the Museum accompanies us through the daily history of the farmers of these lands, engaged in the sowing, harvest and maceration of hemp. Moreover, the textile atelier of the Museum "Trame Tinte d'Arte" periodically organises workshops with fabrics and ropes made of hemp, also cultivated in the garden of the Museum. Tastings of products made of hemp flour are periodically organised in the Locanda Smeraldi next to the Museum, managed by a social cooperative.
From theory to practice, our exploration continues in the countryside between Bentivoglio and Budrio, still dotted with ancient pulping basins for the immersion of hemp. In the past, these small rectangular artificial lakes were filled with bundles of hemp, tied together to form rafts (postoni), which the peasant family would sink into the water, loading them with stones. The immersion took about eight days to dissolve the glue that held the textile fiber around the woody stem. Among the pulping basins which are still visible, it is possible to find two basins located just outside the hamlet of San Marco di Bentivoglio, one on the right and one on the left along via Paradiso, but the entire Bolognese plain is covered with them.
We continue through the countryside that preserves the memory of hemp cultivation to reach the town of Budrio, one of the most important centres in the processing of this fiber. In the times between the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, in fact, Budrio experienced its greatest economic splendor thanks to an advanced technique of hemp processing, of which it became the exclusive exporter to many European countries. As a testimony to this long tradition, Budrio has set up a collection of tools and instruments for its processing, including an original hemp loom, inside one of the four towers that surround the village: the northwest tower, renamed Torrione della Canapa (Hemp Tower) for the occasion. The small museum is open during events or upon request.
From tower to tower, our itinerary heads towards Pieve di Cento, the other hamlet on the Bolognese plain which saw its economy flourish thanks to hemp. From the 19th century until the 1960s, hemp processing was the most profitable economic source in Pieve: it involved sectors linked to agriculture, commerce, handicrafts and the first local industries. In the historical centre of Pieve, inside the fortified Porta Asìa, we can find the local Museo della Canapa, an exhibition of the testimonies of everything that concerned the processing of this natural fiber, from the seeds to the finished product. The museum is open upon request.