Signa, Italy and straw hats

Straw hat

Tip your hat to Signa

Signa is a comune (municipality) in the Province of Florence in the Italian region Tuscany, located about 12 kilometres (7 mi) west of Florence. As of 1 July 2013, it had a population of 19571 and an area of 18.8 square kilometres (7.3 sq mi).[1]

The municipality of Signa contains the frazioni (subdivisions, mainly villages and hamlets) Colombaia, Lecore, Sant’Angelo a Lecore and San Mauro a Signa. Signa is a typical Tuscan town. On the day after Easter, there is an important religious festival in honour of the Beata Giovanna. There is a procession that parades in the streets of Signa, and many people wear old costumes.

In Giacomo Puccini‘s Gianni Schicchi, the “molini di Signa” (mills of Signa) are the most coveted by his relatives of Buoso Donati’s properties. The 1875 novel Signa by Ouida (Mary Louise Ramé) is set in Signa.

A quick survey of the Tuscan straw hat town

Opera fanatics may recall Signa’s role in the Giacomo Puccini-penned “Gianni Schicchi,” but Puccini superfans and Florence area residents aside, it remains relatively unknown.

Right at the junction of three key Tuscan rivers—the Arno, Bisenzio and Ombrone Pistoiese—it’s home to a longstanding craft tradition with inextricable ties to the land itself.

Dig into the territory and its top product with these tips.


The signature craft in town is undoubtedly the straw hat, known in Italian as the cappello di paglia and highlighted in the Domenico Michelacci Straw and Weaving Museum. The museum’s namesake, Domenico Michelacci, was an enterprising 18th century man who was among the first to depart from cultivating wheat strictly for dietary purposes: instead, he intentionally set his sights on straw to be used in weaving.

Michelacci worked specifically with grano marzuolo, set apart for its tiny grains and small ears. A watershed moment for the local economy, this change introduced by Michelacci ultimately led the Florentine area to become the West’s first area for high-quality straw hat production, piquing the attention of wealthy clients around the world.

Demands of clients have naturally shifted through the centuries, as have the fashions themselves, but the straw hat remains the icon of Signa. A visit to the museum will illustrate why: each room showcases important elements of this niche market and its role in local history.

Those most interested in the links to the land will enjoy perusing the different types of wheat on display, while the more aesthetically minded might prefer the plethora of hats spanning the early 20th century to the 1970s. An additional room focuses entirely on the various machines and tools used to manually work with straw (although this type of equipment is dispersed throughout the museum).

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