The Crespi d'Adda Worker's Village

3 minutes to read

Crespi is the name of a family of cotton manufacturers from Lombardy. This family realized an "ideal workers' village" nearby their factory, along the Adda river. The Villaggio Crespi d'Adda is an entire town, built from nothing by the owner of the factory for his workers and their families. The workers were provided with homes, gardens, vegetable gardens and all necessary local services. The Village, described as an "exceptional example of the company town phenomenon, the most complete and best-preserved in Southern Europe", received a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1995. Indeed, this village is the perfect model of an architectural complex that illustrates a rather significant historical period: that of the birth of Italy’s modern industry. Not only, but the Site was maintained in its best possible form, and to this day still bears its original urbanistic and architectonic aspects. Crespi d'Adda is situated in the Region of Lombardy, in the province of Bergamo and it is part of the municipality of Capriate San Gervasio. It is 17 kilometres from Bergamo and 35 from Milan. There is only one road entering and exiting the village. The tranquility of the setting and the urban design are best appreciated by a walking visit, which should take no more than four hours at a relaxing pace. The town has a symmetrical layout. This makes it possible to identify clearly all the buildings. Currently, none of these can be visited inside. There are associations that offer guided tours and can meet the needs of individuals, groups and schools.

The village is a complete town, constructed by the owner of the factory for his employees and their families. The workers were provided with homes, gardens, vegetable gardens and all necessary local services, while the owner satisfied all needs of his employees, both inside and outside the factory, predating any official state benefit. The village consisted of a factory (a cotton mill), the eclectic castle of the owner, workers’ houses, a cemetery, a wash house and a church. A day in Crespi d’Adda is not only a cultural visit, but above all an opportunity to be transported into the last century and identify with the life and customs of long ago.

The Crespis at the time were textile industrialists that decided to give life to their concept of the "ideal modern work city,”. Specifically, the original idea belonged to Cristoforo Benigno Crespi and his son, Silvio Benigno; the two were captains of industry whose intention resembled the construction of a sort of feudal fief. Thus, the habitation of the masters themselves was symbolic for both authority and benevolence toward the workers and their families. The residents of the village consisted only of the factory’s employees, meaning the life of the community revolved entirely around the factory, its rhythms and demands. It was the master that provided all the needs of the employees and their dependents; such included housing and all the public places necessary to a real and functioning community life: church, school, hospital, recreation club, theater, public baths, clothing and food shops, etc.

The urban layout of the village is extraordinary. The factory is situated along the river, next to the castle of the Crespi family. The factory is in the neo-Medieval style, with a splendid central entrance rich in decorative elements, and particularly tall smokestacks. Next to the factory rises the imposing, Medieval-style main villa with its tower, symbol of the Crespi Family’s power. The workers' houses, of English inspiration, are lined up in order along parallel roads to the East of the factory, and to the South there is a group of enchanting villas for clerks and directors. The houses of the physician and the priest overlook the village from a hill, while the church and the school are placed side by side facing the factory.Further south, in a separate zone are the homes of the factory’s managers, as well as the splendid villas reserved to the company directors. The main street, almost a metaphor for the factory worker’s life, runs from the factory, past the village and to its cemetery, characterised by the Crespi chapel - a decorated tower-pyramid of exotic taste and eclectic style, which is the tomb of the Crespi family.

The Legend:

The Crespi d'Adda Village is not just an authentic example of a worker's village but also a place shrouded in mystery. The legend says that the village was not built in that place at random but that it was a gate for another dimension. Inside the cemetery there is an unusual pyramidal mausoleum, which is actually said to be a kind of catalyst to attract creatures not from this world, a kind of a pagan temple to evoke unnamed entities ... In addition to being a mysterious place, the cemetery is also famous for the sighting of the ghosts of dead workers. Personally, I don't know if this legends are true or not but i went there a couple of time and the perfectionism and order of this place give me a sense of deep anguish. Order and perfection often give the idea that secrets can be concealed behind.

The author

Eleonora Ruzzenenti

Eleonora Ruzzenenti

I am Eleonora, from Italy. I share with you a frenetic passion for travelling and an insatiable curiosity for different cultures. On itinari, you will find my stories about Italy.

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