The harlequin town of Crespi D’adda

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Italy, Travel

The first image emerging in my mind before the term factory town used to have much in common with a hostile location, ghost streets, unhappiness. The Italian workers village Crespi D’adda managed to break these personal myths of mine.

Crespi D’adda was built in the end of the 19th century when Mr. Cristoforo Crespi decided to set up his textile manufacturing business in the valley along the river of Adda.
With an astute mind Mr. Crespi perhaps had ideas not only in the field of textile production (since his factory was famous for its manufacturing technologies), but in the human resources management as well. Inspired by the models of the English factory towns, together with his son, he had in mind a building an entire town for his workers. Along with the beautiful houses there were a school, a church, a theatre and a cemetery. The architectural planning was carried out by architect Ernesto Pirovano, who designed the Neo-gothic castle, where the Crespi family lived. Most of the buildings were characterised with typical elements from the Veneto region, where Mr. Crespi was born. Even the church, projected by Luigi Cavenaghi appeared to be a mini-version of the church in the hometown of the founder.
A road encompassed by cypress trees was leading to the mausoleum of the family Crespi. The building was designed by Gaetano Moretti, and personally chosen by Cristoforo Crespi for a winner in an architectural competition. The Art Nouveau structure evokes a Mayan temple and fascinates with an eastern decorating elements. The mausoleum opens a view from above towards the entire village.

Unfortunately the outstanding management and creative attitude did not manage to save the family business from bankruptcy cause by the economic crises in 1929 when Crespi had to sell the factory and the living complex.

In 1994 Crespi D’adda entered the UNESCO’S World Heritage List and according to the official documents of the cultural organisation, unlike other famous factory towns (like Krupp in Germany) Crespi D’adda did not undergo major changes, but preserved the genuine architecture in a perfect manner.

This weekend we also had the honour to see that no urban decay affected the village.
Taking a stroll among the nowadays family owned harlequin houses we were only guessing what kind of cosy homes are hiding behind those petite gardens, arbours with stone benches, air-drying laundry or windows with lace curtains.

Crespi D’adda was full of life, with young people enjoying a walk in a sunny day, laborious gardeners preparing there front yard for the new season, neighbours chatting through the fence and napping on the threshold cats.

All the historical facts in this posts are taken by the UNESCO’S report on the property which could be found here:  in English and French.

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