In Pioraco, a small central Italian town in the Marche Apennines, the mountains where the Potenza river flows, paper has been made since the thirteenth century. Almost all its inhabitants work for the paper mill, which has been part of Fedrigoni Group for twenty years. Here they produce marked, coloured, virgin, natural and watermarked papers, plus the famous Fabriano 4 drawing paper.
Until 50 years ago, waste and surplus paper was used as an ingredient to complement cellulose fibre. Unwanted books from all over the world were sent to Pioraco to be pulped. This explains some of the locals’ highly original given names: prospective parents would take the books home to read before sacrificing them to the pulper, and then they would give their children names (such as Lampleto, Dusnella, Berlina or Gisleno) that they had found in the literature.
Pioraco’s culture, informed by almost eight centuries of papermaking expertise, is such that when Piorachesi meet in local bars, even on Sundays, they will discuss this or that technical problem and how: ‘My dad did it this way, and you are telling me you do it differently?’
Like much of the Apennines, Pioraco is situated in an earthquake zone. On the evening of 26 October 2016 there was a strong tremor. Thankfully, Piorachesi are always prepared for this eventuality. Shortly after the tremor started there was a factory shift change and most of the workers gathered outside the machine room to discuss the earthquake and what best to do next. Then, at 9.15 pm, there was a major tremor, this time measuring 5.9 on the Richter scale. The entire machine hall at the heart of the plant collapsed. Utterly distraught, the 60 people who were in the meeting room or the laboratory, and not the engine room, did a headcount. Mercifully, they discovered that everyone was safe: no-one had died and no-one was injured. But the paper machine and the hall’s ceiling were completely destroyed.