Home > Focus On
Canneto, the toy district
Rome - (Adnkronos Multimedia) - A farming tradition going back millennia, along the banks of the River Oglio just before it flows into the great Po, and a name, Canneto, which conjures up a vision of low plains and great lakes. But in this corner of northern Italy, industry has deep roots, going back centuries. Not heavy industry, such as mechanics or textiles, so important to the history of Italy's development, but rather a special kind of industry, that of toys and, above all, dolls. Thus, due to the stubborn initiative of one man, Luigi Furga Gornini, who in 1880 established the first small factory of porcelain and a rag dolls, Canneto sull'Oglio became one of the most special Italian industrial districts, entirely dedicated to toys: dolls, rocking horses, children's bicycles and puppets.
Today, the district of Canneto sull'Oglio represents a small but solid productive reality, involving the territory of seven town council districts in the province of Cremona and two in the province of Mantova. In the toy factories of Canneto 600 people are employed, all highly qualified in a unique productive sector, accounting for 16 different companies. They now represent a consolidated element of local tradition and, unlike most of the industrial businesses in the area, are relatively large and have been present on international markets for decades. Overall turnover is almost € 100 million, a significant part of which is realised on European markets, despite the strong competition from Asian manufacturers.
The history of the district began with the business adventure of Luigi Furga Gornini, and his passion for carnival masks, which led to him opening his first craft workshop. But he immediately realised that with papier-mâché and ceramics he could create objects which would give pleasure to a wider and more stimulating public, that of children. Thus, in 1880, the first Italian doll factory was born. The first articles had heads made of a wax composite material and papier-mâché bodies; subsequently their heads would be made from biscuit pottery, initially imported from Germany, which were mounted on wooden, papier-mâché and 'compo' bodies. Then there came dolls in felt, papier-mâché, stuffed fabric, collage, polystyrene and vinyl, the last of which was particularly popular with the company.
In the early 1900s there also began to develop a network of small and large local companies dedicated to the production of dolls and toys in general, including Giulio Lorenzini, Zanini and Zambelli, FIBA and Bieffe. This is how the area of Canneto started on the road to becoming one of the most important districts in the sector on a European level. After the 1970s, the traditional toy however, went through a period of crisis. New products from the East arrived, and the tradition of dolls began to go into decline. But the businessman of Canneto sull'Oglio didn't lose heart, and realised the new needs of the market. An example is Grand Soleil, which has become over the decades one of the most important industries in the entire area of Mantova. Established many decades after Furga, in 1963, as Grazioli Giocattoli, it started to produce accessories for dolls (pushchairs, prams) with tubular steel and fabric, which later helped it move into the field of camping furniture, and later, using a new injection moulding system for plastic, garden furniture. It did so without losing its commitment to toys, which continue to represent around half of the company's turnover, especially after taking over the Furga brand, which still today is a benchmark in the Italian and European toy market.
Area: provinces of Mantova and Cremona
Product specialisation: toys
Number of town council districts: 9
Surface area: 116 km2
Population: 54,000 inhabitants
Number of businesses: 16
People employed: 600
Turnover: 100 million euros
Exports: around 30%