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Happy days at the Eni holiday camps

14 July 2023

The children of Eni employees had the opportunity of enjoying special holidays. The company's summer camps in Cesenatico and Borca di Cadore were a pioneering example of corporate welfare, offering the group's employees and their families free holidays full of stimulating social experiences and contact with nature.

The project for the seaside holiday camp in Cesenatico began in 1937 at the behest of Agip, which entrusted it to the architect Giuseppe Vaccaro, and as early as July 1938 it housed the first group of 300 children of the company's employees. It was a state-of-the-art building based on the idea that its little guests should never miss the view of the sea.

Equally progressive was the settlement in Borca di Cadore, 12 kilometres from Cortina d'Ampezzo, a project that was strongly desired by Enrico Mattei, who commissioned it from architect Edoardo Gellner in the mid-1950s. It is one of the first examples of environmentally sustainable architecture in Italy. The project was revised and extended several times over time and consisted of an impressive settlement with 600 small detached houses, a camp for 600 children, a campsite with fixed tents, a church, two hotels and a large community centre, all of which was available to Eni employees. The innovative building solutions adopted by Gellner make this project a model of successful integration with the landscape.

"A pioneering example of corporate welfare"

Documents you can read

For the seaside holiday camp in Cesenatico, you can browse the pages extracted from the minutes of the Agip Board of Directors' meeting of 14 September 1938 on the establishment and start-up of the Cesenatico holiday camp (Agip organi sociali b.1 l.14) and the 1949 Agip circular on the procedures for registering children of employees and on instructions for participation in holidays (Agip ricerche e produzione, b.205 f.303).

To learn more about the design and construction phases of the Borca di Cadore settlement, you can view the perspective sketch of the model houses (by Edoardo Gellner, 1955, no. 236a), the drawing of the complex as a whole (by Edoardo Gellner, 1955, no. 236b), and the general plan of the village (Agip, 1957, no. 236).

Photos of Borca and Cesenatico

In summer and winter, Borca di Cadore was a popular destination for the thousands of families of Eni employees. It was an opportunity for a peaceful and enjoyable holiday in contact with nature and a time for personal and collective growth.

The smiling faces of the children busy playing at the summer camp in Cesenatico speak louder than any other description. It was an exemplary holiday camp in all its material and moral aspects, with a family atmosphere, where the days were divided between play and rest, with rules to be observed under the careful supervision of the staff.

"An opportunity for a peaceful and enjoyable holiday"

The films on the holidays

Eni produced two films, now preserved in the archives, to narrate life in the holiday camps: Un villaggio per le vacanze (A holiday village), by Giuseppe Taffarel and Ritrovarsi in estate (Meeting again in summer), by Francesco Barilli.

Giuseppe Taffarel was a documentary filmmaker from Veneto and an ex-partisan like Enrico Mattei. He recounted the holidays in the camp of the children of Eni employees in a film made in 1963. In an interview the director recalled: "Mattei told me: 'I have this village in Borca di Cadore, what can we make?' I spent four days in Anterselva with him at home working. We made a draft and the structure of the documentary came out of that. Then we left: I got the crew ready and went to Borca. I think the shooting went on for 25 days. He used to call them 'welfare projects', he was very interested and enthusiastic about this concept for his employees, for this world that revolved around the company. Once he came to watch me shoot one of those sequences with the children. He stood there in silence. It was one of the most lyrical moments of the documentary". Taffarel recalls: "Mattei would give vouchers to reimburse the cost of the journey to those arriving from the south and from the most distant places. He cared a lot about these children. One of these staff members, a beautiful, blond woman, said he was "fixated" because he cared so much about everything being clean, neat, tidy. That was a problem, because keeping such a large holiday camp under control in a certain way is not easy. It looked like a military organisation".

Director Francesco Barilli set out to narrate life in the Cesenatico holiday camp a few years later, in 1970. Barilli directed documentaries and films and was also an actor and a screenplay writer. In this film he did not use a narrating voice much, but let the images speak. He used a simple, straightforward style, with surprisingly beautiful images.

"Mattei would give vouchers to reimburse the cost of the journey to those arriving from the south"

Beyond the holiday camps

Ecos magazine followed the development of the employees' children's holidays also after the 1960s. The children's preference for the different types of summer camps followed the trends and mindset of the time, as did the topics and narratives chosen by the magazine for its feature articles. Among the initiatives open to the general public, one that stands out is the hosting of children from Chernobyl in Cesenatico (as was done in 1976 in Borca for the children from the earthquake-stricken region of Friuli, in northeastern Italy).

1.The Seventies and 'self-management'. Ecos magazine dedicated two features to the Alfedena campsite in Abruzzo in less than a decade, covering the themes and using the expressions that were typical of that time. In the interviews, young people emphasised their preference for the less hierarchical and more flexible way of managing this campsite compared to the Borca facility: decisions were taken in assemblies and there was more horizontal participation in all phases of daily management; the experience of contact with nature was less guided, more natural (1973). Ecos published a more detailed report on the Abruzzo Natural Park in 1981.

2.The Eighties between tourism and the environment. Besides interviewing the young guests, the magazine's editorial team also focuses on the facilities, in terms of quality and environmental impact. Borca and Alfedena are complexes built in environmental contexts of enormous value: in the 1980s, two reports on the relationship between tourism and the environment, which at the time were perceived as almost mutually antagonistic, highlighted the needs and commitments of Semi- Società Esercizio Motel Italia, which also managed external accommodation facilities for Eni (including Pugnochiuso and Stintino).

3.Young and old. A presentation of the summer camp for employees announced a new initiative: the employees' own children, chosen from among the applicants and appropriately trained (1986), were to be included among the entertainers. The presentation also featured 'baby quality control' statistics on the participants' level of satisfaction. In 1991 the Cesenatico holiday camp hosted a group of children from Belarus during the summer holidays. It had already opened its doors to children outside Eni in 1976, after the earthquake hit Friuli.

"Ecos magazine followed the development of the holidays also after the 1960s"