Crespi d'Adda is a historic settlement and 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 intact and is partly used for industrial purposes, although changing economic and social conditions now threaten its survival. Since 1995 it has been on UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites.
In 1869 Cristoforo Benigno Crespi, a textile manufacturer from Busto Arsizio (Varese), bought the 1 km valley between the rivers Brembo and Adda, to the south of Capriate, with the intention of installing a cotton mill on the banks of the Adda.
Cristoforo Crespi introduced the most modern spinning, weaving and finishing processes in his Cotton Mill. The Hydroelectric power plant in Trezzo, on the Adda river just a few kilometers upwards, was built up around 1906 for the manufacturer Cristoforo Benigno Crespi. The settlement which was built in 1878 next to the cotton-mill was a village, a residential area provided with social services such as a clinic, a school building, a theatre, a cemetery, a wash-house and a church.
Both the town and the factory were illuminated thanks to electric light. The village of Crespi d'Adda was the first village in Italy to have modern public lighting. The workers houses, of English inspiration, are lined up in order along parallel roads to the East of the factory. A tree-lined avenue separates the production zone from the houses, overlooking a chequer-board road plan. The whole architecture and town planning (except the first spinning department, created by engineer Angelo Colla), was submitted to the architect Ernesto Pirovano.
In 1889 the son of Cristoforo, Silvio Benigno Crespi, started work in the factory as a director, after spending time in Oldham, England. He turned away from the large multiple-occupancy blocks in favour of the single-family house, with its own garden, which he saw as conducive to harmony and a defence against industrial strife. He put this policy into practice in 1892 and the years that followed, with success, since there was no strike or other form of social disorder for the fifty yers of Crespi management.
The Great Depression of 1929 and the harsh fascist fiscal policy resulted in the Crespi family being obliged to sell the entire town to STI, the Italian textile enterprise, which transferred it to the Rossarl e Varzi company in 1970. It then passed to the Legler company, which sold off most of the houses. It was last in the hands of the Polli industrial group, which employed some 600 people, as compared with the 3200 employed during the years of maximum activity.
Today the village is inhabited by a community largely descended from the original workers. The factory stopped production only in 2004, its field of activity throughout its working life having been cotton textile production.References:
The Palazzo Colonna is a palatial block of buildings built in part over ruins of an old Roman Serapeum, and has belonged to the prestigious Colonna family for over twenty generations.
The first part of the palace dates from the 13th century, and tradition holds that the building hosted Dante in his visit to Rome. The first documentary mention notes that the property hosted Cardinal Giovanni and Giacomo Colonna in the 13th century. It was also home to Cardinal Oddone Colonna before he ascended to the papacy as Martin V (1417–1431).
With his passing, the palace was sacked during feuds, and the main property passed into the hands of the Della Rovere family. It returned to the Colonna family when Marcantonio I Colonna married Lucrezia Gara Franciotti Della Rovere, the niece of pope Julius II. The Colonna"s alliance to the Habsburg power, likely protected the palace from looting during the Sack of Rome (1527).
Starting with Filippo Colonna (1578–1639) many changes have refurbished and create a unitary complex around a central garden. Architects including Girolamo Rainaldi and Paolo Marucelli labored on specific projects. Only in the 17th and 18th centuries were the main facades completed. Much of this design was completed by Antonio del Grande (including the grand gallery), and Girolamo Fontana (decoration of gallery). In the 18th century, the long low facade designed by Nicola Michetti with later additions by Paolo Posi with taller corner blocks (facing Piazza Apostoli) was constructed recalls earlier structures resembling a fortification.
The main gallery (completed 1703) and the masterful Colonna art collection was acquired after 1650 by both the cardinal Girolamo I Colonna and his nephew the Connestabile Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna and includes works by Lorenzo Monaco, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Palma the Elder, Salviati, Bronzino, Tintoretto, Pietro da Cortona, Annibale Carracci (painting of The Beaneater), Guercino, Francesco Albani, Muziano and Guido Reni. Ceiling frescoes by Filippo Gherardi, Giovanni Coli, Sebastiano Ricci, and Giuseppe Bartolomeo Chiari celebrate the role of Marcantonio II Colonna in the battle of Lepanto (1571). The gallery is open to the public on Saturday mornings.
The older wing of the complex known as the Princess Isabelle"s apartments, but once housing Martin V"s library and palace, contains frescoes by Pinturicchio, Antonio Tempesta, Crescenzio Onofri, Giacinto Gimignani, and Carlo Cesi. It contains a collection of landscapes and genre scenes by painters like Gaspard Dughet, Caspar Van Wittel (Vanvitelli), and Jan Brueghel the Elder.
Along with the possessions of the Doria-Pamphilij and Pallavacini-Rospigliosi families, this is one of the largest private art collections in Rome.