The major purpose of this paper is to discuss the impact of global networking on Italian industrial districts (IDs). Today, in many Italian IDs we can observe a trend towards opening up the local system of value and moving beyond the pre‐existent links, which district firms had little control over and were basically limited to the purchase of raw materials and the sale of finished products. These IDs are becoming an integral part of a network economy. The opening up process is particularly evident in several areas of north‐east Italy. Our analysis is based on four empirical cases and indicates the IDs have responded in different ways to the change in the competitive environment.