Bells Museum in Avegno
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via dell'Artigianato, 9 - 16036 Avegno (GE)
Telefono: 0185 79 99 27 - 335 74 81 186
Il museo Il museo

They accompany the succession of hours, they mark ecclesiastic moments and over the years they were also the warning signal of every event connected with the community: bells now have their own small but interesting museum in the Municipality of Avegno, about 30 Km from Genoa.

The headquarters are the ex-Picasso foundry, from the surname of the family which tied its name and life to this art for more than four hundred years. The ex-foundry, restructured with the funds of the Development of the natural and cultural resources of Liguria Project (Level 4 of Por Fesr 2007-2013) and entrusted by the family to Municipal management, collects materials, tools and techniques that have made the history of bells and which led to the creation of true masterpieces.

A bell is made in different phases: first of all an earth hemp bell, called a crazy or false bell, is made on a brick cone, called the male. Once the top layer of the model has dried, the false bell is removed and the space that remains between the internal layer, called the core, and the external one, the jacket, is ready to receive the bronze used to create the definitive bell. On the whole melting lasts for 7-8 hours while casting is quite fast: no more than ten minutes are needed.

Opening the museum, which at the moment can be visited on Saturdays, has increased the development project of the valley behind Recco, a valley that includes the municipalities of Uscio and Avegno. Owing to Avegno’s bell moulding and Uscio’s production of tower clock mechanisms, these two municipalities have become famous worldwide and they are proud to hold the title of “The Time Valley”.

The interventions on both museums, proof of the typical talent and tenacity of the inhabitants of this valley, are the starting point for rediscovering a territory that is rich in culture, history and traditions and which is positioned in an extraordinary landscape.

A little bit of history

The Picasso Family became producers of bells in the 16th century. Until the 1930s most of the melting took place directly where the instrument was to be positioned; moulds were made using local soil and the metal was melted in purposely-made on-site furnaces.
The foundry obtained a stable headquarters in the valley from the end of the 19th century, thanks to development of the carriageway which permitted the transit of wagons.

Until 2005, the year when the activity closed, bell production was carried out using the technique handed down from when the business was established: creating a false bell from clay, turning the forms by hand, creating a fireclay mould, melting the bronze alloy, with a production cycle of about one month for each instrument.

The intervention

The structure, which has two levels (ground floor and basement), is not used at the moment and presented visible elements of deterioration mainly caused by the lack of maintenance on the building.

Restoration, made possible thanks to the Development of the natural and cultural resources of Liguria Project (Level 4 of Por Fesr 2007-2013), mainly involved the furnace area, with brick roofing and a mixed structure.

The area was originally already on the ground floor, with no differences in level between it and the ground outside, therefore considerable loads could be moved without any obstructions at ground level.

Nearby

Uscio, which lies to the north of the municipality of Avegno, is a village of more than two thousand inhabitants of probable Neolithic origin: it seems that the local primitive populations were mainly composed of a few people because of the unfavourable environmental conditions or the lack of water basins and natural shelters in the area.

In addition to the ancient Pieve di Sant'Ambrogio, which dates back to the 11th century, and the church with the same name built in the late nineteenth century, when visiting Uscio you must see the “Roberto Trebino” clock tower museum which has been housed in the old premises of the company with the same name since 2004.
Inside, about thirty very precious historical pieces are displayed and they tell the story of the clock tower mechanisms from 1600 onwards, from handmade pieces to the most advanced technology of radio-synchronised clocks. The clock tower Museum can be visited by appointment during office hours.

Oddities

You can find bells produced in Avegno all over the world: not only in Liguria but also in many churches in Italy and abroad (Brazil, Argentina, Croatia, Tanzania, Central African Republic, Peru, etc.).

The distinctive trait of the products made by the Picasso company consisted in constructing the model in lathes placed in a horizontal position, not upright as happens in other bells foundries.

This exclusive technique gave excellent bell tone results, which was guaranteed by melting without additions, and carried out using an antique wood-burning furnace that respects tradition.

Info

Museum opening time: Saturday 10.00 am – 12.00 noon and 3.00 – 6.00 pm
Visiting hours can be arranged for school-children and groups outside normal opening times by calling the Technical Department of Avegno Municipality.
Tel. +39 0185799927 - 3357481186

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