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Belluno: valley of glasses
Rome - (Adnkronos Multimedia) - The history of the industrial district for eye-wear in Belluno has almost legendary roots. In fact, 1285 is the ascertained date for the existence of a Venetian glass manufacturer who produced "vitreos ab oculis ad legendum" - reading glasses. The first use of the term "glasses" can be traced back to 1317 when it appeared in a trade document giving a license to a local merchant to sell a progenitor of what we now call glasses. The market for these glasses spread throughout the Veneto Region thanks to the itinerant trade and in 1878 production took off on an industrial scale, through the work of Angelo Frescura, who opened a factory in Calalzo di Cadore, near Belluno.
From that date to this, all the area of the Province of Belluno has witnessed a steady industrial growth with regard to the production of glasses. In fact, the extension of the district now covers the entire area of the Province of Belluno: Cadore, historical area of origin for the Italian eye-wear industry still today an area with the heaviest entrepreneurial density, Agordino, where there is the first firm to take its place in a world classification, and then Longarone, Alpago, Feltrini. This district produces all that concerns the world of glasses: frames, sunglasses, small components, machinery and equipment for production, electroplating treatments, glass cases and lens. These are the figures for the district: four large firms of world size; 170 medium-sized industrial firms with more than 13.500 employees (94% of which are firms with less than 100 employees); 650 artisan firms with around 1.700 employees; sales exceeding 2 billion euro, constituting 85 percent of Italian production, accounting for more than 80 percent on international markets. The leading sales markets are Europe, with exports of 42 percent, and North America, with 41.6 percent of exports.
In the Belluno district for eye-wear the presence of a high concentration of entrepreneurial activity is connected also with the separability to which the productive cycle for frames lends itself. It remains, even with the already implemented and growing mechanisation and know-how of the productive process, a manufacturing product which requires - even for as much as 60 percent - a number of manual work applications. This has had, over the course of a few decades, three important consequences which have encouraged the proliferation of a growing number of firms of all sizes: the possibility of developing, in a very broad way, deeply rooted technical knowledge; the possibility of starting up an autonomous activity with modest capital and investments; the possibility of immediate work in a high-frequency entrepreneurial context.
Today, the 'Made in Italy' trademark in this sector is recognised the world over because of its excellent quality, unique style and modern design. Given the outstanding design and the quality product, it is not surprising that Italian glasses today represent half of total sales in the medium-high sector. Italian producers now dedicate their creative resources, as well as their technical abilities to an ever more diversified range of optical products that include frames, sunglasses, lens, components, machinery and accessories, and they are always present with the talent and creative power of their designers, producing collections for numerous international designers. Their competence and talent have played a fundamental role in gaining the consensus of markets abroad, as is shown by the substantial percentage of exports amounting to 80 percent of production. Some final significant data: over the past ten years Italian exports for glasses have increased in an astonishing way by more than 400 percent.
Area: Province of Belluno
Specialised production: glasses
Number of towns: 69
Surface area: 3.678 km2
Population: 211.000 inhabitants
Number of firms: 930
Sales: 2 billion euro
Export quota of sales: more than 80 percent