Lucca is the undisputed paper capital of Europe.
While its history stretches back into the distant past, it remains a dominant presence today, as home to many of the industry's leading brands and innovators.
The earliest evidence of paper making in the Lucca area can be traced to the 1300s but the first real paper mill which heralded the birth of modern manufacturing was founded by the printer Vincenzo Busdraghi with substantial financial backing from the Buonvisi family in an old mill, which was bought and re-built, and took the name of Villa Basilica in the mid 1500s.
Until the mid 1600s this remained the only paper mill in the State of Lucca, but thanks to capital invested by some of the area's wealthy families and the technical knowledge of certain Genoese immigrant paper manufacturers, the paper industry grew quite quickly. The Biagi family, stands out in particular, and was to manage the industry for nearly a century. This brought about the birth of other eight paper mills on the territory, all managed by local wealthy families among which the Montecatini mill in Piegaio, the Biscotti mill in Villa, the Tegrimi mill in Vorno.
This flourishing scene gave way to the war of the cloths - a fight between a group of merchants on one side, who tried to export the product through the port of Viareggio, and the paper mill entrepreneurs on the other side, who were very much attached to the territory and wanted to keep the raw material in the country.
The paper entrepreneurs get the upper hand and manufacturing came out all the stronger.
In the eighteenth century, in spite of the withdrawal of the Biagi family, which had established cooperative relationships with the Bonvisi, from the paper industry, there followed a period of great expansion thanks mainly to the export of paper to new markets such as Sicily, Spain, Portugal and, eventually, the Americas.
At the end of the century, owing to the International political transformation caused by the French revolution and the Napoleonic wars, by which the Lucca region itself was not unscathed, there was a major economic crisis which caused smaller and less up-to-date paper mills to close down.