Cigars, cut tobacco and cigarettes used to be the only things Modena’s Tobacco Factory (Manifattura Tabacchi, or Mata for short) was known for. But today, after an extensive renovation by architect Paolo Portoghesi, Mata’s 14,000-square-meter complex has become a public place of culture and art.
The women who worked in the factory were known for their beauty and sass: a feature that was attributed to them, with negative connotations, simply because they were the first women in Modena to get around by bicycle, a vehicle that until then had been the prerogative of men.
In fact, their real “sass” emerged in much more important moments, with their enduring union battles for decent wages in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Now this ancient structure – built at the beginning of the 16th century as a monastery, then transformed two centuries later, first into hospital, then in a saltpetre warehouse and finally into a tobacco factory, which remained in operation until 2002 – is an outstanding venue where the Modena Municipality will host important cultural events for the public, and where organizations and institutions can find the perfect space for large scale projects.
Perhaps the venue itself is imbued with that feminine sass that defies time and always finds a new way to shine.