The intuition of Narciso
Narciso Delladio is the fifth of eight children. He is from Val di Fiemme, a willing and resourceful youngster. He emigrated, and worked a few years in Venice as a bricklayer and put aside enough money to return to the valley and open up a shoemaker's shop in Tesero, , just like his father and some of his brothers. Born in 1890, he married Luigia, twelve years younger than him, when he was thirty-one years old. He had very few things in his shop: a stool, a bench and a few tools. He started making wooden clogs for the woodsmen and special boots with nails which were very popular at the time. His customers were farmers, lumberjacks and farm workers from the valley and then one or two excursionists or tourist passing through who appreciated the Dolomites and those strong leather work shoes which he made and which were also suitable for excursions and alpine ascents. Alpinism was fashionable. Narciso had the intuition to realise the vocation of his workshop and the possibility of differentiating himself from the competition by making mountain boots instead of work boots.
He develops some other models making lighter shoes, with the aim of selling his products to holiday makers and alpinists from afar, usually willing to pay more and better than the locals. Narciso had original ideas, he developed the idea of a shoe with posterior lacing which he fine-tuned by listening to the advice of the more expert woodcutters. He is an innovator and has progressive ideas, he loves modernity. He has a passion for engines and is fascinated by technology, he studies Esperanto enthusiastically which he considers the universal language of the future. In 1926 he dares to buy one of the first cars, a Fiat 509 with which he offers a transport service to tourists who are increasing in number and come and go from the Dolomites. The car though, above all, is useful to Narciso because it helps him understand the potential linked to the tourists and excursionists who are visiting the Dolomites and therefore indirectly the vocation and the potential tied to his activity as a shoe maker. In 1928 he does not miss the chance to visit the trade fair in Milan, a name is needed for his shoe shop, which he defines as Sportiva to differentiate it from the other shoe shops, who instead continue to work mainly with lumberjacks and farmers. This is a turning point, taking part in the Milan Trade Fair (Fiera di Milano) proves to be a success but above all proves to be the opportunity to make the company known beyond the borders of Trentino. And it is this date and episode which ‘officially’ triggers off his real activity. In the meanwhile Narciso’s family has grown, three daughters have arrived, Anna, Narcisa, and Clara and only one son, Francesco, who preferring work to school will quickly support his father, side by side in the shoe making lab.
The second generation
The Second World War has come and gone for the Delladio family without any traumas. Francesco has grown up but he is too young to go to war, the whole family has moved to the farm house ‘maso Stava’ from where it can count on cow’s milk and fresh eggs every day. In the sad context of the War, being a shoe maker is a precious job, Narciso repairs soldiers’ boots and in exchange obtains butter, sugar, coffee and flour and everything that is needed to sustain his family. Gradually his son Francesco working alongside him takes over from his father both in the shoe making work as well as in the transport service, until increasingly he takes over the entire management of the family business. The lab is situated right in the centre of Tesero, near the town’s main square. On the lower floor there are four work men, because the cutting and the assemblage of the uppers is still hand-made and needs strong fingers and arms. The three sisters work in administration and sales and deal with the shop, while their home is upstairs.
From left to right: A glimpse of Piera and the inside of the La Sportiva lab. The certificate attesting the participation to the Milan Fair in 1928. Narciso Delladio and his wife Luigia together with Francesco and his daughters Anna, Narcisa and Clara in a 1942 picture
The turning point
At the end of the fifties the Delladio family has a shoe making activity which is well underway. It also owns a shop in Predazzo, a town which will become strategic later, since in terms of selling the mountain shoes, since it is the base for the Guardia di Finanza Alpine School, to which La Sportiva will soon become official supplier as it already was to the Alpine Training Centre of the Police in Moena. Francesco becomes increasingly independent in the decision-making, he is also very resourceful and determined. The family’s business experiences a large leap forward thanks to him with the idea of expanding and building new headquarters for production. It is a real gamble, which Narciso does not oppose, even if sceptical, leaving room for his son. The decision is to build a factory outside town, far from the houses, in an area called Piera where there are only fields and there isn’t any electricity. It is 1960, everyone tells Francesco that he is crazy, but he is convinced and stands his ground. Time will prove him right. In the meantime he has married Giuseppina and has had four children: Lorenzo, Luciano, Claudia and Marco who grow up, study and spend their summers in the farmhouse in Val di Stava, from June to September. Nonna Luigia, their grandmother, is always present, busy educating them. Once the factory at Piera has been built and launched even the Francesco Delladio family moves over there. In the new house all the children have to do is walk down a flight of stairs and they find themselves among uppers, cutters and sewing machines. Study, work and family life mix into one. Lorenzo, the eldest, after studying and doing his military service in the Police, works alongside Francesco in the management and direction of the company, in the meantime even Luciano, Claudia and Marco grow up and start working with their parents.
A TYPICAL DAY IN VAL DI STAVA
«We spent every summer in the farmhouse in Val di Stava, for us kids it was fun but also difficult: we woke up at 7.30 am and without having breakfast we would walk to mass, the church was over a kilometre away. During the walk we were not allowed to run or play, we had to recite the rosary with our grandmother Luigia. Once back home we would have breakfast and then go into the woods and pick blueberries or mushrooms, on different days. To refuse or to disobey our grandmother was unthinkable. In the afternoon we had homework to do and then before going off to play we had to clean the mushrooms or berries, depending on what we had picked. The berries would be poured into an old blanket of felted wool, then lifting the corners up the fruit would roll into a bowl, without the leaves and branches which would get stuck in the wool. By 8 p.m. we were back in bed».