Monday, May 9, 2011
RST Top 40. #5: Foro Mussolini/Foro Italico
Fascism's legacy is everywhere in Rome. But only in three places--EUR, to the south of the city; the University district, in central Rome; and the Foro Italico (originally called Foro Mussolini)--did the Fascists create the grand, monumental, architectural complexes intended to bring glory to the regime and the Duce and to illustrate dramatically Fascism's ideological commitments. A city within a city, the Foro Italico complex was dedicated to youth, sports, and physical fitness--all Fascist obsessions. The chief architect was Enrico Del Debbio, assisted by rationalist Luigi Moretti. It opened in 1932 and comes in at #5 on the RST Top 40. That it still exists owes something to the American soldiers who occupied the site after Rome was liberated in 1944.
We take readers of Rome the Second Time through Foro Italico at the end of Itinerary 9 (Monte Mario), as we come eastward toward the Tevere off Monte Mario. To best appreciate the Foro on its own, we suggest an approach from Flaminio, over the Ponte Duca d'Aosta (itself an example of Fascist moderism, completed in 1939). Here you'll see (or you won't see, if it's still shrouded for restoration), the most prominent symbol of the Foro and the Fascist regime: a 60-foot obelisk, known as "The Monolith," with the name MUSSOLINI prominently displayed. To the left of the monument (if our memories serve us) is the Natatorium (pool building); if it's open for an event, or just plain open, wander in and have a look at the splended mosaics.
Returning to the obelisk, continue directly beyond it to the Piazzale del'Impero (Grand Piazza of the Empire), an area favored more by skateboarders than tourists. At your feet are an extraordinary set of mosaics by Gino Severini and other distinguished artists, each with a Fascist or imperial theme and many with a Fascist slogan, among them Mussolini's 1936 pat on the back, "Italy finally has its empire." The piazzale's marble blocks, at 5' high a bit of a challenge for the skateboarders, commemorate what the Fascists remembered as their achievements: the March on Rome, the conquest of Ethiopia, and so on. A few new ones added after the war, celebrate Fascism's fall and the emergence of a democratic state. The piazzale was designed by Luigi Moretti.
A set of late-modernist structures toward the Tevere, designed as the International House of Students in the late 1950s, is today notable mostly for the extent of degradation. Still, evocative.