Friday, May 9, 2014


Think Seaside, Florida, Bruno Taut's Hofeisensiedlung in Berlin, early modernist developments in Holland, even small-town California, circa 1950.  Sabaudia is, as it proudly announces, a "garden city." It exhibits a gentle modernism that is quite appealing.  The glorious post office (now a community center) by architect Angelo Mazzoni, for example, is one of the best of Italy's rationalist buildings of the 1930s that I have seen.  With Dietrich Neumann, Ruth Lo, and several fellows of the Finnish Institute, I roamed this lovely beach town, and had lunch overlooking the ocean.  The rich and famous apparently like to take over the villas in the summer and enjoy the sandy beaches.

There is, of course, another side to the town.

Sabaudia, and Latina, and several other new towns were part of the massive Pontine marshes reclamation effort under fascism.  People from the north -- some poor, some politically troublesome -- were forced to move to these small towns and take on lives as farmers and laborers.  In these towns, which retain many of the symbols of fascism, including the fasces (which is used, in abstract form, for the city's symbol!), the image of Mussolini, and his words on buildings, the built vision of fascism still remains fairly intact.

It was a confusing experience, to stroll among impressive early modern homes and public buildings and then come across, in the back room of the community center, a bust of Mussolini.  And equally troublesome to find that the main symbol for the business improvement efforts is something that looks curiously like a fasce.  And the there is the church (pushed to the side, off the main square, so that the Casa Fascio, fascist party headquarters would have prime siting across from the city hall), marked by a glorious mosaic over the front entrance, Mary watching over her people, and a familiar bald head in the background, holding the sheaf of wheat which he has harvested from the land.

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