The Ugly Face of Italian Fascist Architecture

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The Foro Italico in the north of Rome manages to combine the ludicrous with the appalling

It is found in the north of Rome and is, in a way, the most incredible thing I have ever seen. Imagine a monument constructed by the Nazis for the glorification of Adolf Hitler and his achievements that for some reason survived WWII – only to be integrated, a few years after, into the building complex of a prestigious global event that Germany had the honour of hosting, say: the Olympic Games.

Unthinkable, surely. But such a monument exists – with the only difference that you have to replace Hitler’s name with that of Mussolini. And Germany, of course, with Italy.

Therein , you might say, lies the rub. Nobody has ever managed to remain angry with the Italians for long.

"one pillar of bridge leading to Foro Italico, an example of Italian fascist architecture"

I knew the history of the Foro Italico and was well aware, for example, that it had formerly been the “Foro Mussolini”, that it had been built in the 1930s as a 20th century version of a Roman forum and that it had been conceived to bolster the Fascist government’s attempts of portraying its leader Benito Mussolini as a “modern-day Caesar”: so the obelisk at its entrance gates – with MUSSOLINI DUX engraved in huge letters on its side – could not surprise me.

"Mussolini obelisk at the entrance of the Foro Italico - example of Italian fascist architecture"

The official excuse for not removing the obelisk at the end of WWII was – wait for this – that it was “too heavy”. Removing the “Mussolini, the Leader” inscription was also deemed to be “impossible”.

(Question: If this had been Berlin, and the obelisk had borne the inscription “Adolf Hitler, our Fuehrer” – do you think they would have been able to come up with a different solution?) 

I also knew of the Stadio dei Marmi before our visit. This is a sports stadium that is surrounded by 60 statues, each of which portrays an athlete who is practicing his discipline while at the same time representing one of Italy’s provinces. (After last week’s trip to the EUR for “the good” side of Fascist architecture – this is both the bad and the ugly. My personal favourite among the statues is the hockey player, who, for reasons unknown, is the only athlete who has kept his trousers on.)

"Statue of the hockey player in the Stadio dei Marmi - examples of Italian fascist sculptures"

The one thing in the Foro Italico for which I was not prepared, however, was the approach to the (later-built) Olympic stadium, featuring mosaics and engraved stone blocks. These give you nothing less than a brief introduction into the history of Italian Fascism, from the end of WWI: the moment when Italy “had, finally, acquired its own Empire” …

"Pavements in the Foro Italico - example of Italian fascist architecture"

… via the establishment of the “movement” …

"Inside the Foro Italico in Rome"

… to the moment when Imperial past and present culminated in the person of a single man …

"Il Duce mosaic on the pavements of Foro Italico as example of Italian fascist architecture in Rome"

… so good they named him eight times. Comfortable to know, then, that Italy was “dedicating its youth” to this great man.

"Pavements with mosaic depiction of warriors in Foro Italico in Rome"

And this was where the “youth of the world” congregated, only 15 years after the end of WWII (for the 1960 Olympics: you can see the Olympic Stadium in the background in some of the photos): the place to which a modern, democratic Italy had invited them.

The mind boggles …

To visit the Foro Italico, take Tram Line no. 2 to Mancini (the line starts right outside Flaminio metro station near Piazza del Popolo). Cross the Tiber river on the near-by Ponte Duca d’Aosta, and you will see both the stadium and the obelisk.

Read about the beauties of Fascist architecture here.

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10 comments to The Ugly Face of Italian Fascist Architecture

  • Huma Abedin

    These are important pieces of architecture and should remain for the world to enjoy. If you need to destroy something, destroy communism.

  • Regnery

    Proud that my grandfather fought for Mussolini. I have been to Italia, but never been to the place, will look for it next time i go there. As for all you ignorant haters i dare you to come and break OUR relics, we will turn you into dust.

  • I’m glad to have helped, Ismael. I was also rather taken aback the first time I saw it and made it a point to write about it and the remaining Fascist architecture still around. Few people know they are still around in Italy, when one doesn’t know where to look. But there you are. Thanks for dropping by!

  • Ismael Reyes

    I am so glad that I found this article! Thank you for the explanations and comments on your views of what you saw.
    My wife and I just came back from a trip to the Olympic stadium and took pictures of the Obelisk. I noticed the MVSSOLINI on the front of the Obelisk but couldn’t believe it so I took a picture and researched it and found this article.

    They were having some type of sporting activities and wouldn’t let us in to see the rest of the stadium so we could see the rest of the Fascist remains.

  • How very interesting!!! I visited Rome so many times but it never occurred to me that there was still are monuments to Mussolini.

  • WoW very interesting, I visited Rome but never really noticed. I will for sure look at things differently when I visit next time, sad indeed.

  • How sad!! I say we invite all of the Jews and Italians affected by the two regimes and ask them to knock down the monuments!

  • Wow, they actually said that. That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.

  • I totally agree, Luke. It should have been destroyed years ago. And thanks for dropping by.

  • It’s a disgrace that those monuments are still in public view. If the excuse was that they are too heavy, then I’m sure that a wrecking ball would solve that problem.

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