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Fascism is still alive in Italy in the form of architecture

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During the 1920s, Il Duce, the leader of the Fascist party, promised to bring Italy back to the glory of Rome. Nationalism reigned with SPQR banners on parade and patriotic songs were heard in the streets and on the propaganda movie reels at the movies. A Fascist salute reminiscent of the Roman salute was posed by neophytes.

Beyond making the trains run on time, he improved transportation and the infra-structure of Italy. Many railroad stations were built in the rationalist style of symmetry and geometry with little ornamentation like Santa Maria Novella a Firenze e Milano Centrale. Milano Centrale is a monumental structure that models the bombastic architecture adorned with fascist icons on the facade.

This architecture reached its zenith with il palazzo Della Civiltà Italia in EUR (Esposizionale Universale di Roma).This site was planned as the future site for the 1942 World’s Fair to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Fascism. In 1960 Il Duce’s dream was realized. Rome became the center of the world when the city was chosen to be the host for the 1960 Summer Olympics. Today both of Rome’s soccer teams Lazio and Roma call it home.

After World War I, the country was in tatters, unemployment was rampant and there was a housing shortage for returning veterans from the Great War. In the beginning many came from il Friuli- Venezia e Emilia Romagna but afterwards many came from Lazio and the south near Sicily. Il Duce dreamed about a Fascist Utopia. He found a marshy area 75 kilometers from the capital which was surveyed for development. The area had been a swamp since Roman times. Il Duce ordered his engineers to drain the marshes, clear the vegetation, and settle several hundred families.

Latina was built where there was once a stark land. He offered the veterans an opportunity to prosper and flourish in an area called “Littoria.” In return for this generous gesture by Il Duce, full-time membership in the Fascist party was required. Quid pro quo. The etymology of Littoria derives from the Latin word “Lictors” who were the Roman soldiers who carried the tied sticks or fasces that is the party’s namesake. The city coat of arms motto is “Latina, olim palus.” (Latina, once a swamp).

Today Latina is a city with a population of 125,000. It has become a prosperous economic zone specializing in pharmaceuticals, chemical products and agriculture. Many structures like the railroad station and fountains are built in the
Nationalistic Rational style that is mirrored in Milano Centrale and favored by Il Duce and his followers. “Littoria is a living Fascist monument,” says Riccardo Pece, the head of the tourist office. “One of the good things Mussolini did was drain the swamps, get rid of malaria and distribute land to peasants and settlers. He gave them a house in exchange for their labour and sweat. That’s why people still nourish affection for him.”

Lou Thomas
Author: Lou Thomas

Lou Thomas was born and raised in Philadelphia, in a family with origins in Abruzzo. He is a Temple graduate who has been teaching Italian for 20 years at all levels. He attained a master’s degree in teaching Italian from Rutgers University. The sounds of Vivaldi and Jovanotti fill his classroom. His favorite quote is Il vino e’ la poesia della terra.

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