Peter Ross Range on “Silken Treasure”

Peter Ross Range
Peter Ross Range Linda M. Harris

Peter Ross Range has enjoyed a multifaceted career as a writer and editor whose work has taken him all over the globe. In addition to plying his trade as a freelance writer, he was TIME Magazine's correspondent in Germany and Vietnam in the 1960's and '70s and later served as a White House and diplomatic correspondent for U.S. News and World Report. Currently, he is editor of the political magazine, Blueprint.

What drew you to this story? Can you describe its genesis?
I had discovered Lake Como 25 years ago and always wanted to return. Como's silk industry is legendary, one of the bright spots in Italy's style-oriented consumer culture. The lake, with its startling beauty and unmatched collection of classical villas, is one of the earth's most appealing places.

What surprised you the most while covering this story?
I was pleased to see that, even though the mass manufacturing of silk has moved to China, the silk-makers of Como are still dedicated to what amounts to a fine art: the design and production of high-quality silk.

What was your favorite moment during your reporting?
Lots of favorite moments: having lunch on the gravel lakeside terrace at Villa d'Este; flying above the lake in a small seaplane; bicycling all over the flagstone streets of the old city; taking the hydrofoil ferry from Como to Bellagio; enjoying the free evening snacks at Enoteca da Gigi, a small wine shop in a side street; and, of course, meeting silk makers like Mantero, Ratti, and Molteni, the artist who paints with a kitchen spatula.

In the article you present Como as a region of luxury. Are most of the people in this region as well off as the celebrities and upscale artisans you describe in the article? Are there other notable trades or aspects of Como life?
No, Como, and the region that surrounds it, is not celebrity-saturated or purely a land of luxury. Its population reflects the panoply of European life—people who work in manufacturing, in service, in retail, in the complex transportation infrastructure. I felt just as at home in a small bar called Mammaorsa with students from the local silk vocational school as I did with internationally traveled tourists and Italian businessmen at Harry's Bar in the village of Cernobbio. Como strikes one as a normal, pleasant 2,000-year-old Italian town that happens to front on one of the most breathtaking views in Europe.