The mosaic school in Spilimbergo is one of Friuli's most fascinating places. Although established in 1922 in a post-war effort to provide vocational skills for the poverty-stricken area, the mosaic tradition here is centuries old. Artisans from this school decorated much of Renaissance Venice and have created some of the world’s most celebrated mosaics. Tours of the school run on Saturday at 3pm and need to be booked in advance – via the tourist office or the school directly.
The tour takes you through classrooms, often with the students still at work, explaining the different styles of mosaic taught: Roman, Byzantine and some stunning free-form modern mosaics. Although students here still cut their tessera on tree trunks topped with a metal wedge, training here is rigorously modern, covering colour theory, materials science, 3D modelling and design. Alumni have worked on major projects around the world, including those in the Foro Italico in Rome, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and the subway station at Ground Zero in New York.
The school itself forms a canvas for the students work with every floor, staircase, bathroom, wall and pillar covered in different styles of mosaic. As such, it represents a unique record of 20th-century mosaic work and wow’s at every turn.
Summer classes and short courses (€220 to €460) are available for those inspired by what they see.