Silvio Crespi (1868-1944) was a politician and textile entrepreneur whose father, Cristoforo, had founded the Crespi d’Adda Workers’ Village in the province of Bergamo. He had a clear vision of the theoretical basis on which the town had been built: “After a day’s work, a worker must be happy to go back home: thus an entrepreneur must make sure his workers are comfortable, serene and at peace; he must use any means he has available to nourish their affection and love for their home. Because those who love their home also love their family and country, and will never fall victim to vices or negativity. The far-sighted investor’s favorite moments in the day should be when he sees his workers’ healthy children play in gardens full of blooms, running into the arms of their fathers as they happily come back from their shift; when he sees workers relax, gardening or keeping their house clean and tidy; when he discovers any idyllic or everyday instance of domestic happiness, and between his eyes and those of the worker a ray of empathy and frank, honest brotherhood can shine. That is when the absurd worries about class struggles vanish, and the heart can open up to higher ideals of peace and universal love…”
Crespi’s point of view on social issues was obviously influenced by paternalism and strong utopic opinions. Yet, walking around this ideal city, built between the end of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s, you may lose yourself – and some of your cynicism – among the small, neat workers’ houses, the school (which is still active), the Medieval-style manor house, the sanctuary, the factory, and the cemetery.
Crespi’s moving Enlightenment ideals truly came to life here, solid and dignified – so much so that, in 1995, the Unesco decided to include Crespi d’Adda in its World Heritage List.