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Ermenegildo Zegna’s eight thousand “children”


She was christened Prassede. “A ‘refined’ name,” she says, “that’s always made me feel important”. A name that was a tribute at the time and is now a link with the past, given that Prassede Baroni, 77, who lives in Turin, has memories of the institution known as the “Home of the Mother and Child” in the Zegna Welfare Center, an innovative project designed by Count Zegna to provide social services to the employees of his company and the rest of the inhabitants of Trivero.

It was in Trivero in fact that Prassede Baroni was born, on 10 February 1940, the year that the Maternity Clinic was opened in the Zegna Center. The Clinic’s first born girl recently came to Casa Zegna, with her daughter and grandchildren, to open “Roots and Wings. Building the future, from the Zegna Center to the world”, an exhibition that this year is looking at the brand’s hallmark welfare system from the viewpoint of people’s experiences of maternity, past and present.

Back in 1940, Prassede Baroni was preceded by the Clinic’s 1st born, Ermenegildo Pasciutti (3 February 1940), who died soon after, and 2nd born, Mario Lampo (7 February 1940). In the town’s parish register for that year (the original of which is at the exhibition) we read, “…. of husband and wife Andrea Baroni and Luigia Gotti, new parishioners; named Nina, Prassede, after the grandmothers of Countess Zegna”. So, Ermenegildo after the Count, Mario after his brother and Prassede after Ermenegildo’s wife: the first babies born at the Center were given their names as a tribute to their families’ benefactors.

“I remember the Maternity Clinic well,” Prassede Baroni tells us. “The delivery room was next door to our lodgings in fact, where I lived for 22 years, before moving to Turin. My father, Andrea, was a lifeguard at the Zegna Center’s swimming pool, because we come from San Pellegrino Terme, where Ermenegildo Zegna used to “take the waters”. That was where the Count met my father and asked him to work in the new pool he was building. And so it was: I was the last of four kids, after Romildo, Mariangela and Olga, and the only one born in the Biella area, in Trivero.” Then came the move to Turin, where Prassede worked as a secretary. Regarding her name: “I have a curious and very refined name, one that very few have. In fact, the first man who told me he liked it I married,” she adds.

The clinic that emerges from this personal account was very complex and an object of interest at the time. After those first three births and up to 1971, nearly 8,000 babies were born there. The Zegna health center was seen as an “institution” in fact: it was even visited by Maria Josè and Ida Einaudi. On the ground floor were the doctor’s surgery, dentist’s surgery, X-ray room, dark room, chapel and laundry. On the 1st floor, the swimming pool, bathrooms, showers and changing rooms, light therapy, inhalations and powder treatment rooms, lodgings, kitchens and pantries. On the 2nd floor, the “solarium” terraces, maternity patients’ bedrooms  and rooms for new born babies and infants.

Places that come vividly back to life in the “journey” offered by “Roots and Wings”, as do the people that inhabited them, like Prassede Baroni, who gave the exhibition a photo of herself, as a new born baby, with her mother, back in 1940.

Giovanna Boglietti, “Eco di Biella”

The “Roots and Wings” exhibition will be open every Sunday, from 14.00 to 18.00, till 29 October.


Casa Zegna

Via Marconi, 23 – Trivero (BI)

Tel. 015 7591463

Will be open every Sunday, from 14.00 to 18.00, till 29 October.

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