In the eternal city of Rome, nothing seems to be eternal – when the train from Florence slowly pulled into Rome Central Station, I found that the camera in my satchel disappeared. I decided in a fit of rage to stay away from those classic Romes. I was eager to open up Rome’s wounds, starting with Mussolini’s fascist era. In the south of the city lies an interesting neighborhood, abbreviated as EUR, where I started.
The full name of EUR is “Rome World Exposition”. It was originally a new area planned for the Rome World Expo. However, it was a grand event that had never been held – it was originally scheduled to be held in 1942 and witnessed the dictator Mussolini’s coming to power. The celebrations that marked the 20th anniversary of the fascist regime in Italy were interrupted by the Second World War.
On April 26, 1937, Mussolini personally planted the first tree in the EUR neighborhood, which was then named E42, which means “Exposition 1942”. The then high-spirited dictator united all the national architects who were working for fascism. Until 1939, there was a lot of construction here.
Mussolini was a journalist, but he was very fond of architecture, so in his era, architects were reused, just like film directors were highly respected in Hitler’s era. The fate of the EUR neighborhood, just like Hitler’s Germania, ended up only in the dictator’s dream due to the cruelty and length of World War II.
Although short-lived, EUR showed the rationalism and futurism imagination of talented Italian architects in the 1930s – tall and neat concrete buildings mostly made of gray and white granite and marble looked solemn and ascetic, and pedestrians were dwarfed by the language of power. Crossing the extremely wide road, you can see huge parks and corridors as far as the eye can see. Everything seems monotonous, tough, and repressive, just like the temperament and will of fascism.
After the end of World War II, faced with the legacy left by fascism, the Italian government believed that this area had the potential to grow into a “central business district” and therefore decided to retain and continue to develop it. The most representative building in EUR is the Italian Civilization Palace located in the core of the block. An arch of astonishing size was supposed to be built here (but it had to be abandoned due to insufficient technology). Nowadays, a square box-shaped white 6-story palace stands, 4 There are 54 arches on each facade, and the top of the facade of the building is engraved with: “The people – poets, artists, heroes, saints, thinkers, scientists, navigators, immigrants.” When I walked here at noon, the strong
sunlight When the light shines on this palace, it looks like an awe-inspiring and inviolable monument. The outside world praises the Palace of Civilization as the “Square Colosseum”, and this is true. However, those few lines of declaration-like words were actually part of Mussolini’s speech when he was preparing to invade Ethiopia in 1935. The place on Sunday was more like a ghost town, with a palpitating emptiness.
What’s even more paradoxical is that this one of Mussolini’s most proud architectural heritages is now rented as a long-term headquarters by luxury goods giant Fendi. Fendi also hired top architects to carefully and cost-effectively repair it. Left-wing commentators quipped, “Exhibiting luxury furs in a fascist building is a natural fit.”
In Mussolini’s plan, EUR would be filled with fascist party offices and government agencies. Today, it has indeed become the home of some Italian government ministries, state-owned enterprises and several museums. In 2021, Italy chose this place to hold the Group of Twenty (G20) Summit, once again putting it in the spotlight – there is no doubt that this place is spacious, convenient, brand-new and comfortable. It is difficult to imagine putting a large-scale international conference in this place. old city of rome.
There are even Mussolini’s reliefs and statues remaining in some corners of EUR, but Italians don’t seem to be bothered by this. They respect and protect history, but it is as easy to turn over as the sunshine of the Mediterranean. Presumably the residents here care less about the so-called historical burden or the shadow of fascism than we tourists. What’s more, after the continuous post-war expansion and reconstruction, this place has long become a high-quality living area in Rome.
Legendary director Fellini said that EUR is a place that resembles a movie studio – it not only appeared in director Fellini’s masterpiece “Eight and a Half”, but also appeared in Antonioni’s “Eclipse” and Bertolucci’s “The Same”. “The Rogue”. Today, on the official website of the EUR Development Agency, the government defines this neighborhood as a “metaphysical, monumental, idealistic” neighborhood. The fascist leader had been hanged long ago, but the new city he created has survived on its original track. It is hard to say what kind of situation this is.