Last month we decided to re-start our joyful collaboration with Venice in Pattern writing about the wonderful Cotonificio Olcese, here the link.
This month we will stay nearby with another incredible tale about some special people and a crazy place, telling a story of emotions.
Personality: Operaie tabacchine (i.e. female tobacco workers)
Place: Manifattura Tabacchi (i.e. Tobacco Factory, Santa Croce).
We would like to go on with the discovery of a rather hidden side of Venice, which is its industrial past.
Moreover, we would like to link the building, a Tobacco Factory, to the amazing women populating it not so far away.
Nowadays, most tourists know Piazzale Roma as the first and only way to get to the historical centre of Venice by car. However, the first bridge between Venice and the mainland was completed only in the 1861. Before that year, the boat was the only mean to get to Venice.
That is why Piazzale Roma area has been ignored for centuries. It was a huge swamp until the XIV century, when a nunnery was built.
The area gained economic interest with the industrial revolution, when the main Venetian trade route was slowly shifting from the sea to the mainland and Santa Croce was strategically located facing the West.
This is why Girolamo Manfrin supported the building of the tobacco factory between Rio delle Burchielle and Rio di Sant’Andrea starting from the 1786. Soon, the area became a huge industrial area gathering some of the biggest and most important factories of Venice.
The original building was later enlarged by Giuseppe Mezzani e Antonio Zilli and it is, still now, a great example of modern industrial architecture. With its red façade and its beautiful chimney, it is a landmark for all the students and commuters walking towards Santa Croce and Dorsoduro from Piazzale Roma.
No longer profitable, the Manifattura closed its activities only the 1st January 1997, but recently, a big “work in progress” cartel has appeared on the front of the building, letting us hope that a big retrofitting project is yet to come 😉
A great part of the workers employed there (1536 out of 1741 in 1887) were female workers called “tabacchine”. Working conditions were particularly hard and the tabacchine became famous for their trade union activities which mark historical pages of the workers’ and women’s movement in Venice. One of the most famous was Anita Mezzalira. She was hired in 1901, when she was only fifteen years old. She joined the trade unions and the Italian Socialist Party, becoming the promoter of the unrest of 1914-1915 that led to a two-month strike one of the most important in the history of the category. In 1946 she was elected to the Municipal Council of Venice, becoming the first woman to join the council of the city of Venice. Anita died in Venice in 1962. In 2009 a street on the Lido was named after her.