Crespi d’Adda, an outstanding example of historical workers’ village

An exceptional example of a workers’ village, perfectly preserved and alive, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It’s Crespi d’Adda, an Italian variation of the “company towns” built in Europe and North America between the 19th and early 20th centuries to provide housing and services to employees of local industries, with the aim of ensuring a stable workforce.

Crespi d'Adda ©AnnaNosari

The village is located in Northern Italy, between two rivers, Adda and Brembo, in the province of Bergamo, and it was founded by Cristoforo Benigno Crespi around his textile factory, then developed by his son Silvio, who had studied the structure and operating of the “cotton mills” in Germany and Great Britain.
The atmosphere of this village, founded in 1878, completed in the late 1920s and inhabited mainly by the descendants of the first workers, is suspended and fascinating. Walking through its small streets, settled in an orderly pattern that unfolds around the main road, you can admire the multi-family houses, each with its own garden, distinguished according to the role that the first inhabitants played in the factory – about fifty homes for the workers, more elegant villas for the managers – and imagine life at the time.

Crespi-dAdda ©Archivio-Storico-di-Crespi-dAdda

Various services and benefits were planned for the workers, such as a school, a sports center, a clinic, a consumer cooperative, a small theater, wash houses, a hydroelectric station that provided free energy. The factory buildings and offices, as well as the church and the castle, residence of the Crespi family, were
located on one side of the main road, on the left bank of the Adda River, while the village with the houses developed on the other side. The life of the people and the entire community of Crespi d’Adda revolved around the factory, its times and its needs.

Crespi d’Adda, the workers’ village today

Today, with less than 500 inhabitants, Crespi d’Adda is a rare case of an authentic and perfectly preserved workers’ village, with its urban and architectural structure practically unchanged, having survived time and social and economic changes thanks also to its position, partially isolated, between the two rivers.
The buildings, both public and private, are in their original condition. Very few changes have been made, including a different color for the houses – originally white and with brick decorations – and some changes in use for some structures.

Crespi d'Adda ©AnnaNosari

Crespi, a UNESCO heritage site

Included in 1995 by UNESCO in the World Heritage List – at the time, it was the eleventh site in Italy, the third in Lombardy and the fifth in the world for industrial archaeology – Crespi is a truly exceptional example, the most complete and well-preserved workers’ village in southern Europe.
This important accreditation was achieved more than 25 years ago, thanks to some young local university students gathered in the “Marx Brothers Social Center”, who were able to make the world understand the value of this small Italian village and protect its integrity from attacks by speculation.

In their project for the defense of the village, alongside the ambitious idea of ​​nominating it to become a world heritage site, they had planned furthermore a series of actions for the promotion and development of culture and tourism.

Crespi-dAdda ©Archivio-Storico-di-Crespi-dAdda

Just because of its timeless charm, the village has inspired several directors who have set their stories here, with short and feature films, commercials, music videos. Among these, “18 regali” (18 presents) by Francesco Amato, starring Vittoria Puccini and Benedetta Porcaroli, which tells the true story of Elisa Girotto and her legacy of love for her daughter; “Guida romantica a posti perduti” (Romantic guide to lost places) by Giorgia Farina with Justine Trinca and, in 2011, “Hypnosis”, a horror film shot in the cemetery by two directors making their feature film debut, Simone Cerri Goldstein and Davide Tartarini.

In addition, just since 2005, more than 40 videos and commercials have been shot here, as well as an episode of TV show “Masterchef”, set among the workers’ houses and the industrial structures of the beginning of the century.

“Crespi d’Adda aspires to look to the future without simply being satisfied with the memories of its glorious past,” underlines Giorgio Ravasio, president of the Crespi d’Adda Association, in his book dedicated to the history of the workers’ village. In conclusion, one more reason to go and visit this wonderful place.

All the information for the visit:

Crespi d'Adda ©AnnaNosari

How to get to Crespi d’Adda workers’ village

By car, from the A4 motorway, exit at the Capriate San Gervasio toll booth and then follow the signs. Crespi d’Adda is a Limited Traffic Zone from February to October including Saturdays (from 1:30 p.m. to 16:30), Sundays and holidays (from 13:30 to 19:00).
Visitor parking outside the ZTL is available during hours when cars are not allowed (Euro 5.00 per vehicle).

By public transport:
From Bergamo: from Bergamo train station, the bus towards Trezzo sull’Adda stops at Crespi.

From Milan: from Gessate (green line M2), take the ATM bus towards Trezzo sull’Adda to the terminus; from here, take the T.B.S.O. Locatelli bus towards Bergamo: Crespi d’Adda is the second stop.

(Anna Nosari)