Posted on 08/06/2017
Belluno is not famous, but it could be. Backed majestically by snowcapped Dolomites, the historical town offers a mix of stunning views and Renaissance architecture. Among it’s other accolades: birthplace of John Paul I (who was Pope for 33 days); Alpine Town of the Year 1999; and centre of The Valley of the Glasses.
Making glasses is a regional speciality, like Milan does fashion, or Turin does cars. Italy’s like that. Every region, and regions within regions, can boast a specialised culture of making. But Belluno doesn’t boast. And the local people are still doing the making, despite globalisation. It’s for this reason that the world’s finest eyewear artisanry happens, yesterday, today, and tomorrow, in this clear-skied un-famous place.
It’s here that each pair of KITEs is made. By hand. Local artisans cut and fuse Mazzucchelli acetate to create frames, cushioned nose-pads, tapered temple tips and lens bars. Our makers supervise the tumbling process which polishes, and then polishes some more. Human eyes and hands check, polish, check, adjust, check, and pack… before the artefacts take flight to our London laboratory, where the glazing happens.
We read somewhere that sunglasses were invented way back when in the Valley of the Glasses, because the shepherds needed eye-protection from the high-altitude light and the dazzle of snow. It would make sense of the region’s vibrant eyewear-making culture. But it’s legend, rather than fact.
Roman emperor Nero wore optical emeralds at the arena. In medieval China some enterprising people wore anti-glare eye-panes made from smoky quartz. And in Georgian times an English optician, renowned for his microscopes and double-hinged spectacles, treated certain vision problems with blue or green tinted lenses.
Hmm, so the facts may not live up to the legend, but this unique region’s connection with eyewear is indisputable. 1285 - the year that a Venetian glass manufacturer produced reading glasses. 1317 - the first mention of the term ‘glasses’ appears in a local trade document. 1878 - glasses production begins on an industrial scale when a factory opens in Calalzo di Cadore, near Belluno.
Fact not folklore, Belluno now produces half of the world’s premium eyewear including KITEs, which wear their MADE IN ITALY stamp with pride.