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There is a small town, a few kilometers away from Modena, named Formigine, that has become famous thanks to its straw hats! It all began in 2014, with the first historical re-enactment, organized by the local tourist board. Its slogan was self-explicatory: "Formigine, the town of straw hats." In fact, between the first decade of the nineteenth and the mid-twentieth century, the manufacturing of straw hats flourished in this small town of medieval origin, at the foot of the Apennines. It was a reliable source of livelihood for most of the population, including many women, who were employed as "plaiters" and "hatmakers", and therefore had a secure income, finally enabling them to emancipate. It is said that, after visiting Formigine and after admiring the skill of its workers and the masterly making of the hats, the Duke of Modena himself, Francis IV of Habsburg-Este, started promoting Formigine straw hats in Italy and abroad.
So do not be surprised if on the last Sunday of June, walking through the streets of the old town, you'll find yourself immersed in a nineteenth century atmosphere, for the arrival of Duke Francis IV’s carriage, welcome by ladies and gentlemen wearing beautiful damask robes. Reserve in advance a seat for the dinner and a place for the grand ball in honor of the Duke and try to dance the elegant "quadrille".
During your visit to Formigine you will also be able to see the ancient machinery used for the production of hats. You’ll learn the difference between hats made of wheat stalks - the Florentine manner - and those made of vegetable fibers, extracted from willows and poplars. Valuable historical and photographic documents will open new glimpses over the past, allowing you to observe the progress of the art of "straw working", "plaits weaving", and "wood chip working", as well as the art of sewing and shaping hats. Of course, you can also buy yourself a beautiful hat, a genuine Formigine, or browse through the stalls full of local produce. To finish with, do not miss the opportunity of visiting the Multimedia Museum, housed in the marvelous XII century castle: thanks to its amazing installations, you can live through Formigine’s entire history, from the Middle Ages to the present time.