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Tiles of Italy

by Rita Bellano

Bellano Tile has been importing tile from Italy since 1978, when the industry in Italy was developing at a very rapid pace. At the Italian Chamber of Commerce of B.C. event held at the Bellano Tile showroom, an authentic Tuscan tile line, which dates back to the traditions of the 1400ís, was introduced to the Vancouver market. The success of this event is a confirmation that Italian design still commands attention.

Italy has been the leader in the tile industry since the middle ages. Today it is made up of 253 companies of various sizes. These companies range from small artisan studios producing hand made products in centuries old traditions to large publicly traded corporations which produce the latest in porcelain material for commercial projects such as airports. In Italy the producers employ close to 32,000 people and manufacture more than 630 million square meters of tile annually. Seventy percent of those sales are in exports to foreign markets. According to Assopiastrelle, the equivalent of the chamber of commerce for the Italian tile industry, Italy is responsible for 40% of the entire world trade in tiles.

This is evident with the success of the Cersaie, which is the most important tile trade show worldwide. Cersaie, held annually in Bologna, is where the industry displays its innovations. It receives close to 100,000 visitors from all over the world every year.

Italian tile has its roots in the Middle Ages when it was used for decorating the walls and floors of religious and public buildings. Tiles were introduced to Italy by the Islamic and Moresque cultures, however, the actual use of tile predates history and examples can be found that are believed to be 16,000 years old. As with many other products, in the history of Italian design, the Italians borrowed from other cultures and then improved upon the products using Italian ingenuity and artistic creativity.

The 1980ís saw the development of the monocottura or the single firing method of producing tile. This was a major innovation for the production of tile and set Italy far above the rest. It was a process where both glaze and clay were fired at the same time, eliminating the extra firing that was necessary with the bicottura method that was how Italy had produced tiles. This new method created a much thinner product that reduced shipping costs as well as the cost of production. The monocottura tile was also stronger and could be used on high traffic commercial floors. Bellano Tile was one of the first companies to import this product to Vancouver. It took a great deal of salesmanship to educate the consumer to the fact that this new thin product was in fact more durable than what was previously on the market.

The Italian tile industry has always emphasized new technology and takes great care to reinvest in technological innovations. According to Assopiastrelle the amount of reinvestment is approximately 6 to 10 percent of the industries total turn over. Again, it has paid off. As other countries started to catch up to Italy and began to gain a portion of the world market in monocottura production, Italy responded with new technology that sets it apart from all other producers. The late 1990ís brought us porcelain tile and particularly glazed porcelain. Porcelain production now makes up 42.5% of the total Italian tile production. With the advent of porcelain tile the Italian industry enters into many new areas of application, especially in commercial and industrial areas. This new technology has produced a tile that is ideal for areas such and airports and railway stations. It has the durability and artistic design that would make our Roman engineering ancestors very proud.

We encourage you to come and visit the showroom at Bellano Tile and experience Italian tile. Whether you are looking for a hand made Tuscan cotto, which goes back to the traditional roots of Italy or a product to use on the floor of a busy international airport--Italy can provide. Italians have been perfecting their ingenuity and design since before the Etruscans, so it is no wonder that they have so many products to offer the world.

Please check the following link for more information on the Italian tiles: www.italiatiles.com/cti/home.nsf/Home_eng


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