The Cavalieri del Lavoro

The Cavalieri del Lavoro are business men and women decorated with the Ordine al “Merito del Lavoro” (Order of Merit for Labour) by the President of the Italian Republic. The title “Cavaliere del Lavoro” is recognition for results obtained in the world of business, the creation of development and jobs but above all for the commitment to ethical and social responsibility aimed at improving living and working conditions in Italy.

Many great personalities from the Italian economy and pioneers of early technical and scientific industrialisation, creators of the “economic miracle” and the social development of the country and the affirmation of “made in Italy” and business culture have been Cavalieri del Lavoro. Amongst them Guglielmo Marconi and Angelo Salmoiraghi, Gaetano Marzotto, Giovanni Battista Pirelli, Giovanni Agnelli and Giovanni Treccani.


The honour ‘al Merito del Lavoro’ (Knight of Labour) is one of the most exclusive of all knightly orders. Instituted in 1901, the honour of ‘Cavaliere del Lavoro’ is awarded every year on Republic Day to Italian entrepreneurs who have distinguished themselves in the fields of agriculture, industry, commerce, tourism, services, crafts, banking, and insurance. To be eligible for the award, candidates must have worked continuously in their sector for at least 20 years with autonomous responsibility, and their business activities must have made a significant contribution to economic growth, social development, and innovation.

The ‘al Merito del Lavoro’ award is conferred by the President of the Republic on the proposal of the Order’s Council, chaired by the Minister of Economic Development. The appointments are linked to Republic Day.

The decoration consists of a cross bearing, on one side, the emblem of the Republic and, on the other, the inscription “al Merito del Lavoro 1901”, the year in which Giuseppe Zanardelli promoted the institution of the Order of Chivalry for Agrarian, Industrial and Commercial Merit – as the Order was then called – to reward those who, through their “charitable work”, had contributed to the modernisation of the country after the unification had achieved territorial and political continuity.

The number of inductees is very small. No more than twenty-five Knights of Labour may be appointed each year, as established in 1934.  Great personalities of the Italian economic world, pioneers of the first industrialisation, technicians and scientists, creators of the ‘economic miracle’, of the country’s social development and of the affirmation of ‘Made in Italy’ and business culture, have been Cavalieri del Lavoro.

The ceremony for the awarding of the honour by the President of the Republic has been held at the Quirinale Palace since 1991.


The action of the Knights of Labour is inspired by solidarity, merit and the values of work and is expressed through the activities promoted by the National Federation of the Knights of Labour. The Federation has the task of keeping the prestige of the Order high. Founded as an Association in December 1914, on the occasion of the second national congress in Rome, the Association was transformed into a Federation in 1922.

The Federation promotes the presence of the Knights of Labour in the main themes of social and entrepreneurial development through numerous initiatives: annual congresses on themes defined on the basis of a multi-year programme, thematic workshops, the realisation of studies and research, publications, and projects. The Federation also publishes “Civiltà del Lavoro”, the journal of the Knights of Labour, supports the “Lamaro Pozzani” University College of the Knights of Labour, promotes the Alfieri del Lavoro Award, and contributes to the enhancement of the Federation’s moral heritage through the Historical Archives.

Elected in 2019, the current president of the National Federation of the Knights of Labour is Maurizio Sella. The following have presided over the National Federation of the Knights of Labour: Raffaele Cappelli (1915-1915), Teofilo Rossi di Montelera (1917-1917), Ercole Antico (1919-1923), Giovanni Raineri (1923-1944), Enrico Pozzani (1946-1966), Furio Cicogna (1966-1973), Bruno Velani (1973-1981), Alfredo Diana (1981-2001), Mario Federici (2001-2007), Benito Benedini (2007-2013), Antonio D’Amato (2013-2019).



Inaugurated in 1971, the College contributes to the education of deserving students through a cultural and human experience characterised by interdisciplinarity, curiosity and a critical sense. The ‘Lamaro Pozzani’ University College of the Knights of Labour hosts around 70 students from all over Italy, enrolled in various degree courses, selected through particularly rigorous tests. For the 2022-2023 academic year, 14 students were admitted from a shortlist of 504 applicants.

Thanks to the support of the Knights of Labour, the College not only offers students hospitality, but also high-quality supplementary teaching programmes, language courses, meetings with personalities from the institutional, business and cultural worlds, experiences abroad and international exchanges.  As proof of the excellence of the educational model of the “Lamaro Pozzani” University College of the Knights of Labour, in 2019 the Ministry of Education, University and Research, by its own decree, recognised it as a “University College of Merit”.

In 2021/2022, the College celebrated its first 50 years. To mark the occasion, the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, sent a letter to the President of the Federation, Maurizio Sella. ‘It is a source of pride for the Federation over which you preside,’ Mattarella wrote, ‘to have, with farsightedness, given birth to and developed an experience of enhancing the talents of our young people, which – alongside that of the Alfieri del lavoro – has participated in the selection of professionalism and skills that have established themselves in the world of institutions, public administration, and business, to the benefit of the social capital of the Republic.

The Knights of Labour’s commitment to excellence in education is expressed not only through the “Lamaro Pozzani” University College of the Knights of Labour but also in the “Alfieri del LavoroAward. This initiative culminates each year with the awarding of the 25 best students in Italy at the Quirinale, in conjunction with the presentation of the honours to the new Knights of Labour.

The number of awardees is linked to that of the Cavalieri del Lavoro, appointed each year on Republic Day, to mark the continuity of commitment in study and life. The presentation of the certificate of honour at the Quirinale Palace signifies public and solemn recognition for achievements in study. With the certificate of honour, the Medal of the President of the Republic is also awarded.

The ‘Alfieri del Lavoro’ Prize was instituted by the National Federation of the Knights of Labour in 1961 to coincide with the centenary of the Unification of Italy and the 60th anniversary of the Order ‘al Merito del Lavoro’. It was authorised by a circular of the Minister of Public Education, issued in September 1961, and destined each year to 25 students who had finished high school with top marks.

The twenty-five students are chosen no more than one per province from among the best students recommended by school headmasters from all over Italy. The following requirements are currently required to be recommended: a minimum grade of 9/10 in the middle school leaving certificate, at least an 8/10 average for each of the first four years of high school, and a grade of 100/100 in the state exam.


The Historical Archive of the National Federation of the Knights of Labour with its 3,000 files represents a significant documentary heritage that in 2011 obtained the recognition by the Ministry of Culture as “Property of particularly important historical – archival interest”.

With the intention of documenting more and more of the history, people, and places that have marked the life and presence of the Federation, the documentary material preserved in the Historical Archive has been supplemented with the acquisition of two important archival fonds of photographs. The digitisation and cataloguing project of these two fonds involved around 200,000 photographs, of which 5,000, the most significant, can be consulted on the Federation’s website in a photo gallery from 1959 to the present day.

Ordine al Merito del Lavoro (Order of “Merit for Labour”)

The “Merit for Labour” knighthood was introduced by King Vittorio Emanuele III of Italy in 1901. Today the decoration is bestowed by the President of the Italian Republic who appoints 25 new Cavalieri del Lavoro on Republic Day (2nd June) each year.

Since 1901, 2,797 Cavalieri del Lavoro have been appointed.
This site contains over 2,500 profiles of Cavalieri del Lavoro (in Italian).

Federazione Nazionale dei Cavalieri del Lavoro (The National Federation of Cavalieri del Lavoro)

All Cavalieri del Lavoro can become members of the National Federation of Cavalieri del Lavoro once they have received the Order of Merit for Labour.

The President of the National Federation of Cavalieri del Lavoro is Maurizio Sella.

The main activities of the Federation are (all links are in Italian):