Enrico Mattei’s ideas. The most precious legacy
Infrastructure, culture, innovation, company welfare: Enrico Mattei’s ideas are a model in these areas and a precious legacy - they continue to resound in the world today. His innovative, original, even revolutionary ideas were at the base of the establishment of the infrastructure that united post-war Italy, the magazine Il gatto selvatico (“The Wild Cat”) and other cultural activities, the promotion of scientific research with the Scuola Mattei, sustainable development in the communities the company worked in and initiatives related to the welfare of workers and their families. Innovation, a passion for challenges, confidence in the young, integration and research are just some of the values that Mattei left behind. He was an unquestionably important figure in post-war Italian history. The legacy of his actions in the development and economic recovery of the country. The years in which Eni takes shape, with a capacity to face extreme challenges and to look to the future with confidence.

The Italian Miracle: natural gas, oil and infrastructure united a country

Italy came out of the war beaten and destroyed and the economy of the country was on its knees. Mattei sensed immediately that natural gas, hitherto unknown in Europe, was the keystone that would get the great economic boom of the 1950s underway in Italy. It was a one-way bet, enabling Italy to increase its supply swiftly and at very competitive prices. To help the country to grow it was necessary “to create networks” by setting up a system of virtuous relationships between businesses. Partnerships with Italcementi, Fiat and Pirelli, built the Autostrada del Sole, the huge artery that links the north and south of the peninsula, creating a physical connection between the Italians in the years of mass motorisation. It was also in those years that the Agip service stations were built, allowing travellers not only to fill up with fuel but also to have a break and a rest, crucial to set off again and travel safely.

Il gatto selvatico (“The Wild Cat”), a source of culture and knowledge

In 1955 Enrico Mattei commissioned the poet Attilio Bertolucci with the task of creating Eni’s company magazine, Il gatto selvatico. The result of this partnership was an intelligent, cultured monthly magazine, accessible also to non-experts. Stories by important writers appeared in the magazine from the beginning: Anna Banti, Giovanni Comisso, Carlo Emilio Gadda, Natalia Ginzburg, Raffaele La Capria and Leonardo Sciascia wrote original short stories, often illustrated by the gifted Mino Maccari. The magazine also featured the early work of young intellectuals such as Alberto Bevilacqua, Goffredo Parise and Enzo Siciliano, who, at the time, were fledgling writers of 25 years of age.

Art and cinema
In 1958, Mattei supported a big exhibition in Milan dedicated to 370 emerging artists. Works by many of them, from Arnaldo Pomodoro to Piero Dorazio, Renzo Vespignani and Luigi Boille, soon became part of Eni’s private collection, which to this day proudly holds work by Giorgio Morandi, Filippo de Pisis, Renato Guttuso and Felice Casorati. Also the cinema played an important role in the company’s communications strategy. Mattei commissioned the young Bernardo Bertolucci to tell the story of the journey of oil from the Zagros mountains in Iran all the way to Europe. The result was “The oil road”, the only documentary ever made by the director and considered, even by Bertolucci himself, to be the first step towards the second phase of his filmography, that of “the epic”.

Looking to the future with the talent of today: innovation and scientific research

Eni’s laboratories in San Donato Milanese are are an unquestioned example of excellence in scientific research in Italy. Chemists, physicists, engineers, biologists, selected from the among the youngest university students in Italy, work closely to promote an interdisciplinary research method, able to establish networks between academic and professional training, which is of crucial importance for the country’s development. In the area of innovation Eni boasts a groundbreaking record with the foundation, in 1957, of “Agip Nucleare” and the subsequent construction a nuclear power station in Latina, which, when it opened it was the biggest nuclear reactor in Europe. In this way Mattei regains a leading position in the Italian school of physics, that included groups of students trained by Enrico Fermi, who had chosen to pursue nuclear development for peaceful ends. In short, the values identified by Mattei for training were innovation, internationalism, experimentation, but above all confidence in new generations. In 1958 the “Scuola Mattei” opened, which has since continued bet on the young; the real energy of the future.

Integration and sustainable development

In December 1954, an agreement with Egypt shook the world’s oil industry to its foundations. Faced with the old-style ‘colonial’ contracts used by the big oil conglomerates, from the 1950s, Eni chose to redress the balance of the existing system by establishing an equal relationship with producer countries, creating the basis for a model of responsible economic development. The understanding included the direct participation and equality in the decision-making process on the part of oil producing countries through the setting-up of joint ventures and permanent professional training activities for supervisors and local managers. “The oil is theirs” Mattei loved to repeat, convinced that it was necessary to make the producing countries autonomous from the point of view of energy supplies, choosing dialogue and respect for cultures. This approach lies at the heart of what Eni today defines as its commitment to sustainable development.

The workers (and their families) - at the centre of business initiatives

From the outset Eni, distinguished itself with a policy that was very conscious of the role of its employees, who consequently developed a strong and proud sense of belonging. This attention to employees, pre-empted by about thirty years the concept of “company welfare”, and can be seen in a series of initiatives introduced to facilitate the workers’ activities within the group. To begin with, the construction of Metanopoli, the ‘city of natural gas’ in San Donato Milanese: an entire area dedicated to state-of-the-art offices, homes for employees (available at very affordable prices); areas for leisure activities, such as a stadium with a football pitch, a swimming pool, cinema, theatres and even a church, dedicated to Saint Barbara, decorated by the greatest artists of the period. In Borca di Cadore and Cesenatico, camps and colonies were set up for the holidays of employees and their families.


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