At the Pirelli factory in Rome, one of the favourite dishes is Southern Barbecue – slow-cooked pulled pork, hand shredded into strips and usually served with sweet tomato sauce flavoured with pepper and molasses. As they relax among the city’s seven hills, the “Romans” like nothing more than to dig into a plate of those succulent strips of meat. It’s what you would expect 70 miles north west of Atlanta, Georgia, although they do like pizza too. Keep in mind that “barbecue” is used in the South only as the name of the dish and never in the sense of a “cook-out”.
Rome, Georgia, where Pirelli’s US plant is located, does really have seven hills like its ancient namesake. It was because of the geographical similarities between the two cities, which are both traversed by broad rivers too, that America’s European settlers called it Rome. Favoured by river transport, it grew into a market and trading centre and is now the largest city in the state’s North West. The Italian connection continued with the arrival of the Pirelli factory, where the first tire was cured in 2002. Since then the plant, which is one of the smaller ones in the group, has focused production on bigger Premium sizes aimed at the North American premium car and especially the SUV market, and is now supported by production from a new plant in Guanajuato, Mexico. Despite its relatively modest scale, its 226 employees include expatriates from Italy, Brazil, Germany, England and Venezuela, and most of them are sure to be Southern Barbecue fans.
Pirelli chose the Rome location because a number of its major customers were moving to the Southeast of the USA and today BMW, Audi, Porsche and Mercedes, among others, manufacture in the area. As Americans’ taste for these prestigious European marques has grown so has local production of Pirelli tyres, which are made to be precisely the same in every facility around the world and fitted as standard equipment on many of these models.
The Rome plant produces around 450,000 pieces (gross) per year. They are all premium products for cars, light trucks and SUVs, ranging in sizes from 17” up to 30”, with an average weight of 17kg per tyre, which is the highest average weight for any factory in the Pirelli group. Almost 70% of production goes to premium carmakers like BMW, Mercedes Benz and Cadillac, and a significant part of the remainder is exported outside the USA.
ROME’S CAPITOLINE SHE-WOLF
Whether it was the attraction of the name or the advantages of the location, in the late 1920s another Italian company, with an American partner, chose Rome as the site for a rayon production company. In 1929, this enterprise drew the attention of the then leader of Italy: Benito Mussolini. We will never know how it came about, but in 1929 Mussolini, undoubtedly intrigued to learn of the other “Rome”, sent the small American city a statue of the Capitoline she-wolf suckling the infants Romulus and Remus as a gift. It was after all the symbol of “Rome”. Eleven years later, the statue found itself involuntarily protagonist of the course of history and there were attempts to destroy it, so it had to be hidden to be saved. Today, it again sits in front of the municipal building and thankfully reminds people of the Rome’s ancient history, art and beauty.