Schio, 26 km north-west of Vicenza, became one of the most important textile centres in Italy in the second half of the 19th century, although until the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 it belonged to the Habsburg Empire.
The industrial monuments in the region are interpreted by the Open Air Museum which provides trails identifying the principal buildings and explaining their histories, and a ‘laboratory’ that provides an introduction to Schio, and facilities for research.
Textiles were being manufactured in the area in the 18th century when wool and yarn were distributed to domestic workers. The 4-storey Conte Wool Mill was built in the 1860s for the company founded by Antonio Conte in 1757, and remained in the ownership of the Conte family until recent years, and is being adapted as a hotel.
The industry was transformed by the activities of Lanificio Rossi, the woollen cloth company founded by Francesco Rossi and continued by his son Alessandro Rossi (1821-98). The mill that takes its name from Francesco Rossi was built in 1819, and was followed by a succession of factories constructed for his son, most notably one of 1849 and La Fabbrica Alta, a six-storey building of 1861-62, 80 m long and 13.9 m wide, designed by the Belgian architect Auguste Vivroux (1824-99). Lanificio Rossi became a joint stock company and was quoted on the Milan stock exchange from 1872. In 1859 Alessandro Rossi laid out the Jacquard Gardens on some of the land that had been purchased for La Fabbrica Alta. The park was designed by the architect Antonio Caregaro Negrin (1821-98) and included a glass house in the shape of a half-moon, and the Jacquard Theatre which provided accommodation for workers’ organisations. A project to restore the gardens began in 1994.
New Schio is a workers’ colony inspired by the ideas of Robert Owen and Sir Titus Salt that was designed for Rossi by Antonio Caregaro Negrin and built between 1872 and 1888. By 1890 about 1,500 people were living there. A programme of rehabilitation began in 1990, and is generally acknowledged to have been successful.
In 1885 Giuseppe Saccardo, a former employee of Lanificio Rossi, began a company producing spools, shuttles and cardboard and wooden tubes for textile manufacturers. In 1890 he moved his factory from the centre of Schio to the neighbouring Tretto hills, where he built a large complex of multi-storey buildings whose machines were worked by hydro-electric power. The business encountered difficulties in the 1960s, and is now owned by an association of craftsmen. A programme of rehabilitation was completed in 1991, and the building now houses small businesses and craft workshops.
Other industrial monuments in the Schio region include the Cazzola Woollen Mill of 1860 which is still operating, the Barattoni pasta factory of 1879, the Italcementi Cement Factory, the Summano brewery and several hydro-electric power stations and saw mills.