82. A Tour of the Gavirate Pipe Museum

Happy International Pipe Smoker’s Day!

I received an unusual Peterson not long ago from northern Italy. I’ll tell you the pipe’s story next time, but today, being IPSD, I thought I’d share the pipe’s back-story by taking everyone on a field trip to the Gavirate Pipe Museum, one of the most amazing museums I’ve ever visited, in the lovely, quiet little town of the same name in northern Italy. I’ve long wanted to visit Italy, and when I do, this is one stop I’ll be making.

Gavirate (pop. 9400) is near Varese, and about 50 km. from Milan, nestled in the great of one of the world’s great pipe-making communities. It’s not far from the old Rossi pipe-making factory, which you should by all means read about over at Pipedia.

I dislike people who talk in a museum, and usually find myself taking hours longer than anyone else (I routinely park myself in front of something that fascinates me and just sit for half an hour or so). So apart from indicating the room or its contents, I won’t offer any commentary.

Oh, but before we go in, you should know that what you’re looking in some respects is the lifetime’s work of one of the most versatile and amazing artists (who worked in other media besides pipes, as you will see) in the world, Jean Marie Alberto Paronelli (1914 – 2004). Most of the artwork you’ll see and many of the pipes are his creations. He collected almost all the artifacts you see in the museum over the course of his life. Each photo is absolutely packed with fascinating stuff, so if you’ve got a large format monitor, by all means click on the images and take a peek.

J. M. Alberto Paronelli’s work has been continued by his nephew Antonio Paolo Paronelli and his grandsons, artisan pipe-makers in their right, Ariberto Paronelli (Paronelli Pipes) and Alberto Paronelli (Volkan Pipes). More about all the Paronellis and the Peterson pipe Ariberto sent me that started all this next time. For now, let’s go in!

Museum of the Pipe, Gavirate



Entrance Hall



Hand-painted gourd chandelier
(hanging in the Entrance Hall–see above)


Original meeting room of the
International Pipe Academy



The Champion Room: the world’s foremost collection of
F. Rossi pipes



Caricature pipe of F. Illi Rossi,
in the Champion Room



Despite the book on the case, Ariberto labeled this photo
from the Champion Room “French pipes.”


Detail of F. Rossi pipe cabinets in the Champion Room


Savoia Cavalry pipe, by F. Illi Rossi


Display of Cuttys, labeled
“Ultralight and Monoblock pipes”


Old English clays


The European Pipe Hall


Machinery and Tools Room —
antiques rescued from the old Rossi factory


Antique wooden French lathe


900 pipe-making tools!


Exotic Pipe Room


Cobra Pipe, covered in python skin


Alaskan Eskimo pipe


Chinese rooster-claw pipe


Pipe of the Shah of Persia


Terracotta pipe made by J. M. Alberto Paronelli
(can anyone read the Hebrew?)


Pipe plates and porcelain pipes


Austrian porcelain pipes


Austrian pipes and detail of the pipe plates



“When I Am Dead”: pipe plate written and painted by
J. M. Alberto Paronelli


“When I Am Dead”

It is like as not, when I am dead,
All I have done, and thought, and sung and said
Will be but as the transitory smoke
That from my Pipe from sight so swiftly sped.

When I am dead, mayhap from out my tomb
The green tobacco plant will rise and bloom
Whose blossoms will remind folks of my songs,
While ghosts will haunt them of my pipe’s perfume.

I sang of love, of girls, of birds and flowers;
I sang of clouded and of sun-lit hours;
I sang of smoke, and dreamed perhaps of fame;
Yet knew I well that all things time devours.

Where are the songs that charmed the early times,
That rose and flourished in how many climes?
In the great limbs of forgotten things
They rest and so perhaps will fare my rhymes.

Alberto Paronelli’s text spirals around and around after this poem, with what looks like story, verse, and anecdotes. I will leave the mysteries of it to you–

Astonishing, isn’t it? If you want to take a second, even more interesting visit, Ariberto has an amazing 360 degree tour of the museum available on the Paronelli website that I discovered just a few minutes ago while finalizing the blog. You know where I’ll be.


Many thanks to Ariberto Paronelli
for permission to use his photographs!
Visit him at Paronelli.it

Fumare in Pax!

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Tom Greene
Tom Greene
6 years ago

Many thanks once again, Mark!

Don Smith
Don Smith
6 years ago

That was an especially refreshing trip to Italy.
Thanks, it went well with a cup of coffee and a bowl of Sweet Killarney.

Mark Irwin
6 years ago
Reply to  Don Smith

Thanks, Don & Tom! Happy IPSD, and glad you enjoyed it.

6 years ago

A grand day to you Mark, and WOW what a great post!