For the weight they have in the general economy of the Italian state, the first place among industries belongs by far to the textile industries: they are those that have made the greatest progress in recent times; they normally employ about 650,000 people, 16% of the total population employed in industries, and determine a movement of money that, between imports and exports, is close to 10 billion lire. The silk factory stands out, for which Italy has an absolutely pre-eminent place in Europe. It is located in northern Italy, where the mulberry tree finds favorable conditions of development in the subalpine hilly regions (eg, on the morainic amphitheaters) and in the high plain, and where therefore sericulture has been able to take on great development as a domestic occupation , which especially awaits the female element. Out of 52, 7 million kg. of cocoons produced in 1930, 85% came from Lombardy (about 35%), from Venezia Euganea (about the same) and from Piedmont taken together. Sericulture still has some importance in Emilia, in the Marches, in Tuscany, in Calabria, in Venice Tridentina. France, which after Italy is the largest producer of cocoons in Europe, gave less than 3 million kg in 1930. The production of raw silk spun in Italy exceeded 5½ million kg. in the years 1928 and 1929 (according to official calculations; other calculations give even higher figures, around 6½ million), then it contracted, slightly in 1930, much more in 1931, due to the decline in thirst (perhaps ⅓ of less than in 1930). On average about 90% of raw silk is spun from cocoons produced in Italy, hence this industry still retains its purely national character. Part of the raw silk is exported (plain, double or twisted) mainly to France, the United States, Switzerland, Germany; another part is woven in Italy. The silk weaving mills are mostly in Lombardy and have about 25,000 mechanical looms and 3000 hand looms; they normally employ 30,000 workers. But a large part of the factories now also work on rayon (artificial silk) and in the production of fabrics the two origins are not statistically distinct. This rayon industry is a very recent industry, which has developed very rapidly in Italy, due to the good market of the product; from 1926 to 1929 production (excluding waste) more than tripled, exceeding 32 million kg. per year (maximum 34.6 in 1931); the production plants (27) are located in Piedmont and Lombardy. There are no precise statistics on the total production of silk products (natural silk and rayon), but we can get an idea, considering that at least half, and perhaps more, of the product is normally sent abroad. And exports, continuously increasing from 1922 to 1927, in this year they reached 1182 million lire (compared to the current value), remaining above one billion even in the following two years; the very considerable decrease in 1930 (737.4 million lire, represented for 244.1 million by silk products and 493.3 by rayon products) is due not so much to the contraction in the size of the exported goods, but to the growing proportion of rayon products, which are worth much less , and the general decline in prices. Exports have two main directions: in the first line Central-Western Europe (Great Britain, in the first place; then Switzerland, France, Germany), in the second line America (United States, Argentina; to a small extent also Brazil ). A minor current starts in Egypt.
Another branch of the textile industry, with ancient traditions in Italy, is the wool one, once fueled mostly by Italian raw materials. Today, however, the Italian production of raw wool is relatively scarce (180-200,000 quintals of dirty wool; 90-100,000 quintals of washed wool, perhaps half of which is used for spinning) because sheep farming is rather aimed at obtaining milk and meat: most of the wools processed in the factories are imported from abroad (mainly natural wool, but also washed, combed and waste wool). The wool industry was in significant growth until 1930; it has 800 combing machines, 520,000 carded spindles, 610,000 worsted spindles, 21,000 mechanical looms and 2,000 hand looms; it normally employs 75-80,000 workers. The main centers are in Piedmont (Biella, Cossato, Borgosesia, Valle Mosso, Alessandria, Vercelli, etc.); followed by Lombardy (Bergamo, Gandino, Desio, Lodi, etc.); Veneto (Schio, Arsiero), Venice Tridentina (Rovereto), Tuscany (Prato), etc. Most of the woolen products are absorbed by national consumption; in fact, for fabrics, about 300,000 q. consumed in Italy, in recent years, about 280,000 were national fabrics; the small residue of imported fabrics is almost exclusively represented by very fine quality. But the Italian industry, on the other hand, feeds a considerable export, which has grown from 1924 onwards with great momentum (70-80,000 quintals a year) and which shows no signs of decreasing (instead, in the last two years, the export of Mixed fabrics). More than half of this export is directed to Asia (India, China), then to Europe (Great Britain);
Nourished for the most part by the national product is the hemp industry which processes an average of 300,000 quintals of national hemp, and 40,000 of imported hemp (including Manila hemp), while the flax industry, which is of little importance in Italy , works on average just 70,000 quintals, of which 50,000 are imported. The hemp and linen spinning mills are at the forefront in Lombardy; also in Veneto, Emilia, etc .; have over 120,000 spindles; the weaving factories have 8000 looms. The workers employed are 20-25,000 (over 5-6,000 employed in the manufacture of hemp ropes). Yarns, fabrics and ropes are widely exported; since 1930, as a result of the general economic depression, exports have contracted considerably.
The cotton industry, on the other hand, was recently introduced in Italy, which however quickly gained second place among the textile industries, although it works almost entirely on raw materials imported from abroad. In 1871 the raw cotton imported to feed the Italian industry was about 270,000 quintals; by the end of the century it had risen to over 1¼ million, in recent years it was around 2-2½ million (falling only to 1.7 million in 1931 due to the current economic depression). The progress had therefore been quite remarkable. Raw cotton comes mostly from the United States, then from India and Egypt. The cotton industry normally employs 250,000 workers and has about 6 million spindles (spinning and twisting) and 150,000 mechanical looms; of these about 100. 000 are due to the Lombard factories; over 30,000 to the Piedmontese; 7000 to Veneto; followed by Liguria, Tuscany and Campania. An average of 2 million quintals of yarns are produced (average 1926-29), which provide for national consumption (strongly contracted in 1930), leaving a margin of 10-12% or more for export; the production of fabrics reaches 1.5 million quintals, of which approximately one third is exported. The export is aimed at the Balkan countries (Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece), Turkey, Egypt, India; in short, to the Levant, where Italian sales are increasingly spreading, conquering very distant markets (fabrics now also arrive in the Dutch Indies). Among the American countries, only the Argentine Republic is a client of Italy to a very large extent. Still in 1930,
Lastly, among the textile industries that process imported material, it is worth mentioning the jute factory, which imports 500-550,000 quintals of fiber (mainly from India) and transforms it into bags, various fabrics and other manufactured goods, partly exported. The factories are concentrated in Terni, Alessandria, Bergamo and surroundings.
An overall idea of the importance that textile industries have on the economic balance of Italy can still be had by considering the global value of exports which, according to Mortara’s calculations, can be summarized in the table above.