FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Fascist architecture in Rome

Posted in Italy, Rome by folkestonejack on October 4, 2013

I have long been intrigued by a picture in my old guidebook of the “square colosseum”, a striking building from the 1930s which looks like nothing I have seen anywhere else. It has been described as an iconic construction in the fascist architectural style, which harks back to the styling and imposing scale of buildings from ancient Rome.

The Square Colosseum

The Square Colosseum

I didn’t really know anything about this architectural style before my trip, but a little research on the internet helped me plan some modest diversions on our visit to Rome to take a closer look at two locations where you can still find many other buildings and monuments that exemplify the fascist style of architecture – Esposizione Universale Roma (EUR) and the Foro Italico.

The “square colosseum”, officially known as the Palazzo della Civiltà del Lavoro, was inaugurated in 1940 as the centrepiece of a world fair proposed for 1942. A number of grand buildings were constructed in the EUR district whilst others were planned but never made it off the drawing board. Today, the district has become a desirable place to live and in a strange way reminds me a little of the new town vibe of Milton Keynes.

One of the statues around the Stadio dei Marmi

One of the statues around the Stadio dei Marmi

In contrast, the Foro Italico (originally named the Foro Mussolini) was developed as a sporting complex that would show the world the athletic prowess of the new order – this is particularly evident in the Stadio del Marmi which is surrounded by 60 sporting statues. It’s an impressive sight, regardless of its origins, although the attempt to blend the classical with modern sports renders some of the statues more than a little absurd – I can’t recall many skiers whose costume consists solely of a fig leaf! Might be a tad cold on the slopes…

Amongst the other features of this complex are an obelisk dedicated to Mussolini, some remarkable mosaics (sadly in a state of disrepair in places) and a swimming pool decorated in a heroic style. Leading up to the site is the Ponte Duca d’Aosta, a simple bridge with intricately carved panels at each end. All of this is a fascinating glimpse into the plans that Mussolini had for his vision of a new Rome, though it is just as well that this was never allowed to come to full fruition if the destruction wrought on the historic centre of Rome by the creation of the Via dei Fori Imperiali is anything to go by.

A mosaic in the Piazzale del'Impero

A mosaic in the Piazzale del’Impero

It is easy to visit both sites. To get to Foro Italico, take the metro to Flaminio and then take Tram no 2 from the end of the line at the Piazza de Popolo all the way to Piazza Mancini, which is just a short walk away from the Ponte Duca d’Aosta. The site now incorporates gates for the Olympic stadium (which now hosts football) and the tennis courts but these were open to wander through when we visited – although we had to make do with a more distant view of the Stadio del Marmi as work was underway to turn the stadium into a temporary concert venue.

Information on the complex can be a little scarce, but there is a good walk in the book ‘Rome the Second Time’ and a useful blog post on the Foro Italico on their website.

EUR can be reached on metro line B. Our visit took us to EUR Magliana (nearest to the Square Colosseum) and across the central square to the Museo della Civiltà Romana (a morning trip, as the museum closes at 2pm). After a couple of hours marvelling at the exhibits inside we ended our visit with a short walk to Laurentina at the end of the line.



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