Let’s discover together the centuries-old tradition of the fourth pole in Italy in the leather production field.
The origins of leather art and industry in the Milanese district are rooted in the Roman times. Belongs to Milan the only example in the Latin epigraphy of merchant of leather’s production tools (known as ““comprator mercis sutoriae”), an example that presupposes the presence of this particular commodity and the growth of this market in the area.
The evidences of works related to leather processing carry on also in the Early Middle Ages, during which appear the “employees of leather sector”, as well as from the 10th century on. During the Age of the City States, in 1288, was compiled a list of occupations in which “cerdones” (the shoemakers) and “pellipari” (the tanners) are included, but it is only starting from the Lordship Age that we have more detailed information, thanks to the statutory rules about functions and tasks of trade associations.
In the following centuries, the importance of the sector increases in Lombardy, particularly in Milan and in the nearby areas, also favoured by the presence of the Navigli and all the many small water courses. In the aftermath of Italian unification, the art of leather is second only to the silk and wool sectors, and Lombardy is fully-fledged included among the largest national leather producers.
During the last century, a real geographical area where the tanning industry is experimenting an unprecedented development emerges near the municipality of Milan: it’s the leather District of Turbigo – Castano Primo. Here starting from the 20s several tanneries were opened, and some of them still exist today. It’s here that, after the world war, Francesco Ramponi moves his first steps in the leather field, starting to work in a tannery in Turbigo and finally, in 1944, founding with some shareholders his own tannery, in the heart of one of the main poles in Italy.
After the Second World War and its inevitable economic repercussions, between the 50s and the 70s the District of Turbigo – Castano Primo starts to grow again and ends up incuding hundreds of leather companies. This is when Francesco Ramponi decides to go on by his own, thus in 1960 the tannery takes its current name, Conceria Stefania, and in short time it becomes one of the most important companies of the pole.
Since the middle 80s, a slowdown phase has begun in the district: different economic choices has led several companies to stop their business and sell the factories. Only few have survived, and one of these is Conceria Stefania: today the company owns three industrial plants that cover a total area of 40.000 square metres and the production is 12 times higher than the beginning.
Overall, the District of Turbigo – Castano Primo – although its extension is smaller than in the past – still represents the fourth pole in Italy in the leather field, covering alone about 4% of the whole national leather production and maintaining some of the core companies in the sector.