A RESPONSE TO THE CRISIS IN WELFARE SYSTEMS. Letizia Moratti is the former Rai (Radiotelevisione italiana) president, was the Italian Minister of Education, Universities and Research, served as the mayor of Milan, and today is Chairwoman of the Board for UBI Banca, a leading Italian banking group.

Do you dedicate a lot of time to the San Patrignano drug rehabilitation facility?

The two cornerstones of my life are my family and San Patrignano.

How would you describe this community today?

San Patrignano is an example of excellence in this industry, and it is admired and imitated in many countries throughout the world.  The community is not just focused on helping people recover from addiction and aiding troubled youth, but it is also a true social enterprise with some unique qualities that make it cutting edge on the Italian landscape.  Actually, San Patrignano is set up as a modern social enterprise thanks to some key factors, such as the fact that it is free, self-sustainable, and offers proven results.

Social enterprise?  Isn’t that almost an oxymoron?

On the contrary. It is an answer to the unique challenges modern society is facing today, such as demographic growth, the aging of the population, and the emergence of new risks and social needs.  Current social problems require a new way of thinking and acting, actions that encourage new welfare systems and a favorable business ecosystem, with social objectives, like San Patrignano.  The emergence of social enterprises is linked to those types of organizations.  Indeed, social enterprises have social aims as part of their business models.

Are there many other examples beyond San Patrignano?

Certainly.  Today, social enterprises represent 10% of the GDP in Europe, with an impact on employment, considering there are more than 11 million workers.  The European experience has increased the ability to create different business models, which are typically quite effective.  Actually, there are many positive examples in many European countries that fall under the “non-profit” umbrella.

Can you mention some?

The Community Interest Companies introduced by the British government, designed for social enterprises that want to use their profits and assets for public good.  The unique flexibility of this model and the effective results achieved allowed for an impressive 10,000 CIC businesses to be started in the first ten years since the initiative was launched in 2005.  Naturally, we can’t overlook the positive experience in Italy with social cooperatives.  There are about 14,000 of them.  These are models that respond to the crisis in welfare systems that we are seeing today.


Traditional systems are ever less sustainable for individual countries and, already today, there is a gap of billions of euros between demand for public services and the ability to meet that demand.  In Italy, for example, it is estimated that, by 2025, that gap will be seventy billion euros.  We need to really change the paradigm in order to fix this, accepting a new way of thinking about the economy.  Social enterprises are a cornerstone of this.

“Social enterprises are a cornerstone of a new way of thinking about the economy.”

San Patrignano is a community for life located in the Italian province of Rimini that welcomes those suffering from drug addiction and marginalization and helps them to once again find their way thanks to a rehabilitation programme that is above all, a programme based on love. It is free, because love is a gift.

Let’s go back to San Patrignano.  You were one of the co-founders of the recovery community, along with your husband Gian Marco Moratti.

The community was founded in 1978 by Vincenzo Muccioli.  My husband and I got involved in 1979.  Over the years, we increased our commitment little by little, and we later contributed to the founding of the Fondazione San Patrignano.

What motivated you to do this?

A desire to widen our horizons personally.  We were looking for a cause to support.  Gian Marco’s father suggested we think about young people, because we often think they don’t need any help, but this certainly isn’t true.  Then when we met Vincenzo Muccioli, we all became friends.  We were really impressed by Vincenzo, a “normal” person who had opened his doors to addiction issues.  We made a contribution, and we continued visiting San Patrignano when there were only about ten or twelve young people at the time.  Using an almost paternal approach, Vincenzo Muccioli was able to help people who, in those years, were not being listened to or helped by others.

Today, how many young people are there at San Patrignano?

About 1,300, with a total of 27,000 passing through over the years.  The early nineteen-nineties were difficult because of the AIDS crisis.  We had more than fifty deaths per year.  Now, fortunately, AIDS can be treated.

What is the method used?

It is a unique method.  A completely drug-free approach that lasts four years on average.  Periodically, it is subjected to rigorous scientific evaluation.  Three years after completing the treatment, more than 70% of the people are completely reintegrated into society and don’t use any drugs.

How many people work at San Patrignano?

About 220, and almost half are our former kids who have chosen to live and work at San Patrignano, which was a dream and part of founder Vincenzo Muccioli’s vision.  They are in charge of the various areas in terms of the social, management, and operational aspects of the community.

Are there foreigners at San Patrignano?

Yes, there are about one-hundred foreigners, and I want to point out once again that San Patrignano is absolutely free, but perhaps we aren’t well-known enough yet with the general public.  We have certainly been recognized from a scientific point of view by various universities, in the United States as well, such as Cornell University, which recently attested to the effectiveness of our rehabilitation methods.  We would like for San Patrignano to become ever more a model to follow.  Typically, rehab facilities, of which there are many in the United States and other English-speaking countries, include short stays and often don’t have very good results.

Do you have medical personnel?

We have a medical centre for the young people in the programme, with all of the specialisations necessary.

Can the young people choose the work they want to do?

The young people take part in all of the training opportunities available in the community.  Slowly, over time, they refine their skills, and then they start spending more time in one area or another depending on how suited it is to them but also in terms of allowing them to have an effective recovery.

“There are about one hundred foreigners, and San Patrignano is absolutely free.”

How old are the people who come to you?

The average age is twenty-six, but there are even fifty-year-olds.  We also have boys and girls under the age of eighteen.

Is drug use on the rise in Italy?

Yes, unfortunately, and there are more women than in the past and more very young people, even twelve and thirteen years of age.  Now people combine synthetic drugs with cocaine and heroin.  Alcohol use has also really increased with young people, and there is really no difference from region to region and between big cities and small towns.  Unfortunately, drugs are very widespread, and I have to say that marijuana is a gateway drug.  In addition to helping in the recovery of young people, San Patrignano is also very important in preventing addiction.  We created a programme with the schools that takes place in auditoriums in order to reach as many students as possible, with personal stories so that is more a talk among young people than a lesson.  That way they understand each other.  This is very important because, unfortunately, drug use is underestimated in today’s world, we don’t place as much emphasis on the dangers of drug use today as we did in the past.

What role do you play?         

I feel like I’m part of the big San Patrignano family.  I have a house inside San Patrignano, and I go almost every weekend.  The days are very intense with one meeting after another about new projects, like, for example the Forum for Economic Sustainability or Forum for Prevention.

How does the community survive?

Economic sustainability is a fundamental value for San Patrignano to guarantee its independence and existence because only the ability to sustain itself and its independence from outside parties will allow the San Patrignano model to maintain its own identity.  Fifty per cent of its profits come from its various products and activities: the dairy, the bakery—last year alone, we made 38,000 panettone cakes—the weaving mill where we make beautiful scarves and blankets. We also work with decorative elements.  But we also have fundraising activities.  We get donations from friends and special projects, like the art collection we recently started.

Can you tell me more about that?

It is an endowment, the first of its kind in Italy, a small legacy that can be used in case of exceptional need.  We decided to take the path of a contemporary-art collection due to the key role and great importance that the community has always placed on the concept of beauty.

How so?

We wanted to create something that didn’t just have value as an “asset” but that also had meaning in terms of linking art and beauty with the social meaning of community.  To this end, we involved some of our friends who are collectors and we asked them to share in this challenge, coming up with a list of artists that we would like to involve.  This is how we got our start.

An overview of the site of the rehabilitation community of San Patrignano in the Italian province of Rimini.

Rehabilitation takes many forms at San Patrignano. The dairy is one of them.

San Patrignano Collection: Pietro Ruffo. Italia a Pezzi. Inchiostro e acquerello su carta applicata su tela. cm 280 x 220. 2018.

San Patrignano Collection: Mario Schifano. En plein air. Olio e smalto su due tele. cm 200 x 200. 1970s.

San Patrignano Collection: Enzo Cucchi. Per le Marche sul mare. Olio su tela e ceramica. cm 127 x 202 – cm 11x24x15, asta lunghezza cm 55. 1980.

San Patrignano Collection: Vanessa Beecroft. VBSS.002. Digital C-print. cm 324 x 250. 2006-2017.

“Almost all of the artists we’ve asked for pieces have made a donation.”

How have you built your collection?

I have to admit that we’ve been surprised by the generosity of the artists, gallery owners, and collectors who believe and believed in this project and appreciate the work the community is doing. For example, Carlo Traglio gave us an important selection of works from the Transavanguardia: Cucchi, Chia, and De Maria.

How many works do you have?

We have more than fifty works from artists from Italy and abroad.  We have historic artists like, for example, Jean-Paul Riopelle, all of the Transavanguardia and Agnes Martin.  We also have a wide selection of contemporary artists like Yan Pei-Ming, Vanessa Beecroft, Zhang Xiaogang, and Pietro Ruffo.  Then we have works from great masters who are still living and are extremely generous, like Michelangelo Pistoletto with one of his self-portraits.  We have paintings as well as sculptures in the collection: from Alberto Garutti all the way to Mona Hatoum.  Finally, the collection includes different types of techniques, like a video by Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg and a large ink-jet print from Silvio Wolf.  We have also had a lot of help from collectors like Miuccia Prada.  She wrote to various artists who then donated their works.

Where is the collection housed?

The city of Rimini will house the works inside the new Contemporary Art Museum in the Palazzo del Podestà and the Palazzo dell’Arengo.  This is in the historic centre of the city and will be inaugurated after a major requalification project.  Clarice Pecori Giraldi, an advisor to the Fondazione, will coordinate the curation.

Are new works still arriving?

Yes.  We continue to receive donations from various artists.  The way these works come together is also a meeting of different cultures in the name of providing a welcoming refuge.  Almost all of the artists we’ve asked for pieces have made a donation.

There aren’t many contemporary art museums in Italy, are there? Not even in Milan…

My regret as the mayor of Milan is to not have created a contemporary art museum, even though there was a plan for it in the execution phase.  Fortunately, I was able to create the Arengario, the Twentieth-Century Museum.  I’ve always thought of art as a driver for development.  I’m happy that the mayor of Rimini was able to think big.  I think this will be one of the most beautiful contemporary art museums.


Milan, June 2019


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