The decision to build a tobacco factory in Borgo Sacco (a former city that was incorporated into Rovereto) began in the mid 1800s in the context of high unemployment that resulted from a crisis in silk production. Borgo Sacco was situated in the middle of an area used for tobacco cultivation. The cultivation and processing of tobacco had begun toward the end of the 1500s around so called "masere", a form of centralized farming. With the construction of the Borgo Sacco plant, the surrounding area of Vallagarina focused on tobacco production.

On March 20, 1851, an agreement was signed between the Austrian Royal Ministry of Finance and the Municipality of Sacco headed by Antonio Gasperini. The total cost of the project was enormous: 175,000 crowns. Borgo Sacco provided the land and the materials, but even nearby Rovereto participated by donating 4,000 florins and potable water equivalent to 1,600 florins. The mechanical power needed to move the machines came from a water wheel moved by an underground water channel that passed through the factory.

Construction work on the Borgo Sacco Royal Tobacco Factory began in the same year. The factory was built on the plans of engineer Latzel of the Vienna public works administration and the construction was directed by Giovanni Smith e Giovanni Rezzori.

Start of production

Manifattura began production in 1854-1855 with two laboratories of 220 workers each. Production began with four products: the Virginia cigar, sniffing tobacco, tobacco extract made from residues, and hand-rolled cigarettes (this was an experimental product that was quickly dropped).

Before the First World War (1914-1918) the cigar plant was one of the most important in Austria, especially renowned for its production of Virginia cigars. For several decades, the Manifattura Tabacchi was on of the most important industries in Trentino, with the highest employment capacity around. It was also a place of many social innovations, often begun by women workers who were in the majority. The first employer provided nursery was established, as well as an emergency loans bank. Even the first workers union was formed inside the walls of the Manifattura.

World War I and after

During World War I, the Manifattura Tabacchi was heavily damaged and production, including employees, was transferred to Austrian factories in Linz and in Bohemia. At the end of the war, Trentino province became part of Italy and the Manifattura Tabacchi came under the direction of the state monopoly. When the factory reopened on March 19, 1919, all 1,400 workers who were in service before the conflict were rehired.

In the following years, production increased substantially thanks to gradual improvements to processes. This led to a drop in employment to around 700 in 1935 in contrast to nearly 2000 at the start of the century. 

In the same years, the popularity of the Manifattura Tabacchi grew considerably thanks to promotional activities using the designs of Fortunato Depero, the celebrated artist from Rovereto.

World War II and later changes

Throughout WW II production continued despite bombings which did force production to the underground floor of the main building. Damage to the factory was not extensive. In 1948 a new expansion and modernization plan led the way to modern production methods. Cigar production was halted in 1953 and the factory was reoriented toward cigarettes. In the 1960s, tobacco production declined in Vallagarina, the area around Borgo Sacco and Rovereto. Previously it had been the source of about 70% of the tobacco used in production at the Manifattura.

In 1969 the Manifattura Tabacchi began to produce for Philip Morris. The following year a new, highly mechanized production facility was opened in an area next to the old factory. The Borgo Sacco factory worked with 22 "Standard" machines made in the USA and 13 cigarette packaging machines able to produce 120 packets of cigarettes per minute. A tobacco chopping machine of that era made 1,200 cuts per minute. In the succeeding decade occupation stabilized at 700 employees. Progressive mechanization of production processes meant that men became the higher share of employees. 

Recent years

The relationship between Philip Morris and the State Monopoly continuted until 2000 when the Manifattura Tabacchi became property of the Ente Tabacchi Italiani (ETI, the national tobacco agency). ETI was founded in August 1998, but by 2000 became a private company. In 2003, as part of the privitized ETI, the Manifattura Tabacchi of Borgo Sacco was sold to British Italian Tobacco, the italian branch of British American Tobacco (BAT). Following loss of production quotas for Philip Morris, the Manifattura Tabacchi continued to shed employees. In 1999 the factory had 270 workers, but by 2004, they were just 154.

Prodcution stopped permanently on March 31, 2008, when BAT decided to concentrate production in Lecce, Italy, and chose to close Borgo Sacco's Manifattura Tabacchi. The main reason was that closing a factory in Trento would have had less negative impact with respect to closing a factory elsewhere. 

This text is a condensed version of the Wikipedia article “Manifattura Tabacchi di Rovereto”: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manifattura_Tabacchi_(Rovereto).