The Workers’ Village of Crespi d’Adda, UNESCO World Heritage

Among the Italian heritage of UNESCO, the Village of Crespi d’Adda is one of the most interesting and probably also one of the least known. Crespi d’Adda is the most important example of industrial village in Europe, perfectly preserved until today. It represents the ideal workers’ village, where family and working life are in perfect harmony. Crespi d’Adda was founded by the Crespi family in 1875. At that time it was very popular the idea of the enlightened entrepreneur and philanthropist, who takes care of the needs of his workers. The Crespi family wanted to give all employees a house, with orchard and garden, and provide all the necessary services to the community: church, school, hospital, leisure club, theater, public baths. This social experiment was built on the bank of the river Adda, in the province of Bergamo.

Crespi d'Adda, the river Adda
Crespi d’Adda, the river Adda

Today the inhabitants of Crespi d’Adda are for the majority descendants of the factory workers. The factory remained in operation until 2003. The factory, a cotton mill, is situated along the river Adda, near the castle of the Crespi family in medieval style. It represents the enlightened rule of the master.

Crespi d'Adda, the castle of the Crespi family
Crespi d’Adda, the castle of the Crespi family

The workers’ houses in the English style are lined up neatly to the east of the factory along parallel roads.

Crespi d'Adda, the workers' houses
Crespi d’Adda, the workers’ houses
Crespi d'Adda, the workers' houses
Crespi d’Adda, the workers’ houses

To the south there are the villas of employees and executives in eclectic style.

Crespi d'Adda, the villas of the executives
Crespi d’Adda, the villas of the executives
Crespi d'Adda, the villas of the executives
Crespi d’Adda, the villas of the executives

On the hill the house of the doctor and the priest. The church, the school and the small hospital are located near the factory. The church is the exact copy of the church of Busto Arsizio, the hometown of the Crespi family.

Crespi d'Adda, the church
Crespi d’Adda, the church

The leisure club was meant to promote the recreation of the workers and their families. Here the workers met after the day’s work to carry out cultural and sports activities. The factory is characterized by towering smokestacks and buildings along the main street of the village, which ends in the eclectic style cemetery.

Crespi d'Adda, the cotton mill
Crespi d’Adda, the cotton mill
Crespi d'Adda, the cotton mill
Crespi d’Adda, the cotton mill

The mausoleum of the Crespi family is a pyramidal tower that dominate the workers’ tombs, small crosses neatly arranged in the lawn.

Crespi d'Adda, the cemetery
Crespi d’Adda, the cemetery
Crespi d'Adda, the workers' tombs
Crespi d’Adda, the workers’ tombs

The factory founders were Cristoforo Benigno Crespi and his son Silvio Benigno Crespi, members of the powerful family Crespi, owner of the main Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera. Their goal was the perfect harmony between the factory needs and those of workers. The goal was only partly achieved. In fact, during the period of maximum development of the factory, only a portion of the 4,000 workers could live in the village. Crespi were still innovative entrepreneurs for the times. Crespi d’Adda was the first Italian town to be equipped with electric lighting. On December 5, 1995 UNESCO included Crespi d’Adda between the world heritage sites of culture (World Heritage List) as “Outstanding example of the phenomenon of workers’ villages, the most complete and best preserved in Southern Europe.”

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