Thursday, May 8, 2014


While some friends were off in Sicily enjoying beautiful scenery and Greek temples, a few of us, including Ruth Lo and Dietrich Neuman -- were beginning a somewhat darker form of tourism -- what we are tongue-in-cheek calling "Fascism Week." We went on tuesday to EUR; to Sabaudia on Wednesday; and over the weekend our travels into the dark past culminates in a visit to Mussolini's hometown (and current fascist rallying place) of Predappio.  We will cleanse our souls with a visit to the Tuscan town of Cortona on Saturday night.

EUR (Esposizione Universale Roma) is a vast residential and civic institutional space to the south of the city designed to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Mussolini's March on Rome and the advent of fascist rule in Italy.  It is a bizarre and oddly intoxicating place of wide avenues, travertine classical extravaganzas, slogans ("a people of poets and artists and heroes!"), and empty museums to the history of Italy and its diverse regions.  

The world's fair of 1942, which Mussolini hoped might match the spectacle of Hitler's 1936 Olympics, never happened because of the war.  The district remain unfinished, and is still unfinished.  The "square colosseum," one of the most visible building on the Roman skyline has been empty for years.  Fendi -- yes, the handbag maker -- is taking it over as a store and office.

Viva la Rivoluzione!

Håkan Hökerberg, my friends from the Swedish Institute, with the Colosseo Quadrato in reflection

A statue with arm raised in the fascist salute. Later boxing gloves were put on the hands, and a "caption" added to indicate that this was a boxer.  The salute was changed to an eager athlete raising his hand.

The image of Mussolini is rare in public places in Rome.  Here he is, astride a horse.  The woman in front of the horse are taking off their wedding rings, to donate to Il Duce and his cause.

We managed to sneak into the Congress Hall which is largely unused.  Nearby a Fuksas-designed conference center lies hundreds of millions over budget and unopened.

The unfinished murals in the folklife museum depict traditions across the country.  The one in the center was to depict a wedding ceremony in Sardinia.  The fascists were obsessed with increasing the population of the country, as is in evidence in the image, below, of this massive stele in the shadow of the Colosseo.

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