There are not many factory towns on the UNESCO list, and Crespi d’Adda in northern Italy is a fascinating one.
The UNESCO World Heritage List includes more than a thousand properties with outstanding universal value. They are all part of the world’s cultural and natural heritage.
- Country: Italy
- Date of Inscription: 1995
- Category: Cultural site
UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre’s short description of site no. 0730:
“Crespi d’Adda in Capriate San Gervasio in Lombardy is an outstanding example of the 19th- and early 20th-century ‘company towns’ built in Europe and North America by enlightened industrialists to meet the workers’ needs. The site is still remarkably intact and is partly used for industrial purposes, although changing economic and social conditions now threaten its survival.”
Planning a visit to Milan and a car trip in the surrounding region I discovered that of all 47 World Heritage Sites in Italy, only two were located here. The “Last Supper” is the extremely acclaimed and famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci. The other is Crespi d’Adda, of which I had never heard of before. Browsing a few guidebooks was of no help; Crespi d’Adda was not even mentioned. The best source of information was the web page of the heritage site itself.
The Crespis were a family of industrialists intent on not only creating business but also on taking care of their workers. To this end they built a cotton mill factory, a school, hospital, cemetery, grocery store, houses for workers and villas for the functionaries. In addition to a castle for themselves. They planned everything, and laid everything neatly out. In short, they took care of every need in this cradle to grave microcosm.
It is today the best preserved “company town” in Southern Europe, but it is by no means unique compared to the rest of Europe. The factory is closed, the hospital likewise. The houses are still in use, and some of the residents had their ancestors working in the factory. Crespi d’Adda is a very fascinating place, less than an hour east of Milan.