Gualchiere of Remole was an important medieval factory with a watermill
used to transform raw wool into cloth. Belonging to the powerful Florentine
family “Degli Albizi” up until 1541 it later belonged to
the Wool Guild of Florence. Situated on the left bank of the Arno,
only a few kilometers upriver from Florence, the building was structured
in such a way as to take full advantage of the driving force generated
by the river, used for treating the wool cloth. Its construction is
from the middle of the 14th century, even though the first dated mention
of it is from 1425.
In 1333 Florence was hit by a huge flood
which besides damaging the city, also destroyed all the mills and
the watermills that during that period were all located on large
wooden rafts anchored to the banks of the Arno. One of the causes
of this calamity were these rafts, that together with the “pescaie” (a
barrier across the river that regulates the flow of the river)
that fed water to the mills, prevented the natural flow of the
river. The Municipality of Florence declared that no new mill or
gualchiera could be built for 400 arm lenghts south of the Ponte
alla Carraia bridge and at least 2000 up river from the Rubaconte
bridge (today Ponte alle Grazie). This decision was actually taken
for sanitation reasons, because the continuous noise of the mills
day and night disturbed the public peace and the typical use of
urine as a fabric softener for the wool fibers wasn’t a very
healthy smell for the citizens to breath ...
The complex is made up of, other than the body of the main factory
with its two crenellated towers, of a river barrier or “pescaia” placed
upstream, a waterfall for sending the water towards the canal and a
dock (destroyed during the flood of 1966) for the landing of the ferry
that brought the cloth from the opposite locality of Nave di Martelli
where afterwards it went on to Florence on the back of a donkey. The
whole complex was surrounded by a wall and entrance was by two doors
(destroyed by the Germans in 1944 together with a portion of the factory).
After having changed its use from mill to paint factory, from 1980
the building is no longer in use.
Although it is considered one the most important examples of pre-industrial
European archeology, the actual state of the Gualchiere is in enormous
disrepair, even if for years there has been talk of a project, never
launched, to “museumize” the area. It seems as if a process
of destruction has been triggered and grows exponentially to the point
that the complex is practically a ruin.