MUSEOWEB dell'economia varesina

Fratelli Galli

The roots of the enterprise

The company was already active in the area at the end of the nineteenth century. Just a few years after leaving his job at Pomini in Castellanza, Davide Galli, together with his brothers Antonio and Giuseppe, purchased a large plot of land in Marnate from the curia of Olgiate Olona. It was here that the brothers established their first sawmill business, making use of electrical machinery. An electrical energy license was purchased from the company Vizzola. During the night, when the electricity was not being used, it was sold to the municipality of Marnate which, as early as 1901, could already boast of having both public and private electrical lighting.

In 1908, the Galli brothers purchased the right to harvest an oak forest in Abruzzo for the production of railway sleepers, which would be used for the construction of the railway in the Olona-Valmorea valley. The material, however, proved to be unsuitable for this use and was transformed into charcoal, while the sleepers were produced using local wood. During the First World War, while the men were involved the conflict, the family's women maintained the company's activities. In 1922, Davide Galli and his son, Augusto, registered the company at the Chamber of Commerce of Milan (which had jurisdiction over the territory of Marnate at the time) under the name of F.lli Galli Sas, indicating the company's activities as sawmill services and carpentry.

The business from the 1930s up until World War II

During the 1930s, the F.lli Galli company purchased forest land in Val d'Ossola and Augusto's younger brother, Giuseppe, 20 years his minor, went there to take charge of the company activities. The extra work made it necessary to lease a local sawmill, which would supplement the production work carried out in Marnate. The cutting of the forests required a significant increase in hired labour, which eventually reached a total of 250 workers. The entire logistic structure also had to be adapted to the new dimensions: supplies had to be organized, cable cars had to be built and the timber had to be transported to the main production facility.

In 1935, the demand for structural timber increased dramatically due to a commitment, on behalf of a number of local companies, to building prefabricated houses for Ethiopia. A serious crisis arose in 1943: Giuseppe was killed in an accident and neither his brother, Augusto, nor his cousins, ??Pietro and Natale, were capable of replacing him in Val d'Ossola. He was eventually replaced by Antonio's younger brother, Amedeo, who had already been working at the sawmill in Marnate. The crisis was marked by the liquidation of the company, which appeared to foretell of its end.

At the end of the Second World War, however, the new generations joined the company: Augusto's son, Gian Mario, and Pietro's son, Orlando, took over full control of the company's management. That same year, thanks to their contribution, it was decided to purchase a large forest in Calanca Castiglione, in Val Segnara, a lower valley of Valle Anzasca. This allowed for the development of a strong business, selling both wood for construction, as well as firewood. A business involving the resale of coffins was also initiated and continued up until the 1970s.


From 1956 to the 1970s

After having been officially released from liquidation status in 1956, the company became directly involved in the intense development phase of post-war reconstruction. The building boom increased production for the carpentry sector, while the continuation of exports driven by large companies in Legnano also encouraged the production of packing crates. The importance of purchasing forests for harvesting, on the other hand, decreased rapidly and the last of the lots were harvested half way through the 1960s.

This decrease in direct cutting was a result of rising costs: year after year, higher safety standards had to be ensured for the workers and deforestation sites increasingly required on-site commitment on behalf of the owners. At this point, it became cheaper to purchase wood that had been cut by producers and to dedicate the company to the subsequent processing phases. With the depletion of the forests, the sale of firewood decreased to include only the offcuts that remained following the manufacturing of the packaging crates.

For over two decades, from the fifties to the seventies, Gian Mario Galli was politically involved in the Municipality of Marnate and, on behalf of the Christian Democratic Party, held the offices of city councilman and commissioner of public works, and later held the office of mayor for a period of ten consecutive years.


The arrival of the latest generation. From 1981 to the present

In 1981, the enterprise became a limited liability company and its name was changed to Fratelli Galli srl. Despite having been involved in the family business as a boy, Lorenzo Galli only officially joined the company in 1986, after having worked for ten years as a high school teacher. His sister, Franca, also joined the company soon after to take on the role of accounting manager. These were the years in which computers were assuming an increasingly important role, above all within the scope of company book keeping and Autocad design for carpentry work and packaging materials.

During the eighties, and for a good portion of the nineties, the overall market conditions did not show any of the significant changes or fluctuations that were taking place in other sectors. The economic fatigue of the last decade, however, has begun to take its toll. In fact, the consumption of structural timber has changed in recent years. The widespread use of the so-called "attic" roof has increased the demand for "technically flawless" timber, with no defects (splits and/or twists) whatsoever. For these reasons, it has become more common to make use of glue laminated timber (comprised of bonded layers of wood) produced in Austria, as well as in the Italian region of Trentino-Alto Adige. The roof is prepared in pieces that are cut so as to be interlocked upon assembly. These are checked using CNC machinery and then rapidly assembled on site.

This has led to the decreased use of sawmills, which still remain, however, the best systems for obtaining the most natural possible timber: in fact, glue laminated timber is artificial and is therefore inert; it is not alive, it doesn't breathe and it doesn't settle like natural wood. Today, the production of packaging elements is becoming increasingly important for the company. In contrast to the 1950s, these products now require much more sophisticated processing techniques. The frequency of exports from one continent to another, combined with the dangers associated with the spread of harmful insects inside the wood itself, have resulted in strict standards that require the packaging elements to be treated with pesticides. These items must be thermally treated at authorized and specialized facilities, registered and then stored separately. This results in additional charges which, in turn, affect the final cost of the product.

The company currently employs approximately 25 workers. To this day, the F.lli Galli company is still a reference point for many local businesses, a fact which is highlighted by Lorenzo Galli's involvement within various industrial associations of the Province of Varese.