Cucinelli had bowled into Rome that morning from Umbria, a mountainous region north of the capital, where he lives in a hilltop village called Solomeo. Solomeo is not far from Perugia, and dates to the twelfth century. Its population in the last census was four hundred and thirty-six. Over the past thirty years, as his company has grown from a one-man operation to a business employing five hundred people, with an annual turnover of more than two hundred million dollars, Cucinelli has been renovating the village. He has enacted a peculiar fantasy of beneficent feudalism, with himself as the enlightened overlord, and the residents, many of them his employees, as the appreciative underlings. A castle with walls of honey-colored stone, several feet thick, has been converted into a factory; its chambers hum with the sound of knitting machines, its basement rumbles with ceaseless laundering. A Renaissance villa close by has been turned into a dining hall for employees; with a vaulted ceiling and views of the hills, it is often mistaken by tourists for an attractive restaurant. Cucinelli contributed to the restoration of the village’s Church of St. Bartholomew, which was founded in the late twelfth century and rebuilt in the seventeenth. He has repaved streets, restored squares, and built a woodland park. In addition, he has constructed a two-hundred-and-forty-seat theatre, crafted in the architectural vernacular of the sixteenth century. It has a pseudo-classical portico whose large Latin inscription, “B. CVCINELLI CVRAVIT A DOMINI MMVIII,” recalls the façade of the Pantheon, in Rome.
I'm rather in favour of enlightened feudalism.
I was horrified to read a story in an Umbrian newspaper that the local bishop - who shall remain nameless but whom I've long since nicknamed Bishop Skinny McFancypants - who is well known for his great love of his local tanning salon - suggested that in order to make the "new basilica" into a "global tourist attraction" it should be rebuilt as a synthesis of "modern and ancient" styles.
I was briefly in despair until I remembered the fact that Mr. Cucinelli had already called dibs on the Basilica and was close friends with the monks.
This is the Chiesa di San Bartolomeo in Mr. Cucinelli's village of Solomeo, just outside Perugia, which he paid to restore.
I would call this acceptable