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Roads and Ruins

Roads and Ruins: The Symbolic Landscape of Fascist Rome

  • Book Info
    Roads and Ruins
    Book Description:

    Drawing on a wide variety of sources, including war diaries, memoirs, paintings, films, and government archives,Roads and Ruinsis a richly textured study that offers an original perspective on a well known story.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-9737-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. PREFACE: Death on the Via del Mare
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. INTRODUCTION: Rome and Fascism
    (pp. 3-15)

    Fascist Rome has always elicited great interest from scholars largely because the Eternal City was, in the words of Emilio Gentile, the site of fascism’s most extensive ‘petrification of ideology.’¹ Nowhere else could one grasp the ideological pretensions of fascism, which used the Roman cityscape to trumpet its dream ofromanità. Scholarship on fascist Rome can be divided into two groups, centred on urban planners and culturalists. In the 1970s and 1980s, historians of urban planning denigrated fascism’s attempts at city planning, arguing that the regime’s policies were ultimately counterproductive. Italians such as Antonio Cederna severely criticized fascist planning as...

  6. CHAPTER ONE The Landscape of the War
    (pp. 16-33)

    In 1928, ten years after the end of the First World War, Friulian writer Chiro Ermacora made a pilgrimage to the ancient city of Aquileia near Venice to render homage to the ten unknown soldiers buried next to the ancient basilica. These were the ten who had not been chosen to be honoured as the Unknown Soldier in Rome in 1921. Ermacora was writing an elegiac book on the region of Friuli, in northwestern Italy, the site of many of the most ferocious battles of the First World War. Aquileia was not too far behind the Carso front, where Italian...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Roads to Rome: The Blackshirts and the città nemico
    (pp. 34-53)

    ‘Sire, I bring to you the Italy of Vittorio Veneto!’¹ With these words, Mussolini greeted the king, Victor Emanuel III, on 28 October 1922. On that day the blackshirts marched through Rome triumphantly celebrating their supposed revolution, while Mussolini, in top hat and coat-tails was given the post of prime minister by the king in the Quirinal Palace. Mussolini’s pronouncement reflected the fascist belief that the heroic Italy, that which fought and won the battle of Vittorio Veneto in the closing days of the war, was embodied in thesquadristiwho were formed around the ideals of thearditi. According...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Demolitions: De-familiarizing the Roman Cityscape
    (pp. 54-75)

    In the spring of 1937, a small gallery off the Piazza Venezia in Rome called the Galleria Cometa, not far from Mussolini’s headquarters, opened an exhibition calledDemolizioni(Demolitions), a collection of paintings by Mario Mafai. This gallery, which took its name from the comet depicted in the coat-of-arms of Pope Leo XIII, had opened only two years earlier and had already acquired a good reputation among the artists and literati of the Eternal City.¹ Thus, when this curious exhibition opened it immediately attracted attention. By 1937 Mafai was a well-known member of the Scuola Romana, a group of neo-expressionist...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR ‘An uninterrupted racecourse’: Fascism’s Roman Roads
    (pp. 76-100)

    This scene depicts Piazza Venezia on 10 June 1940. A mass of Romans has crowded into every nook of the piazza to hear Mussolini announce that Italy has entered the war. The author of the article inCapitolium, from which the above quotation is taken, claimed that Italy in 1940 was repeating the call to war made by Scipio against the Carthaginians during the Roman Republic. This was a fulfilment of the regime’s policy ofromanitàand proof, according toCapitolium, that history works in cycles. Just as a small and devious mercantile empire had prevented the Republic’s claim to...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE The Palazzo and the Boulevard
    (pp. 101-120)

    In December of 1933, as large swaths of Rome fell to the pickaxe in the demolitions for the Master Plan, the fascist regime announced a competition for the Palazzo Littorio, or fascist party headquarters. Still basking in the glow of the Decennale (tenth-year anniversary of the March on Rome) and enjoying some degree of consensus at home, the party believed that now was the time to construct a monument to itself in the heart of the Eternal City. This desire was increased by the great success of the Exhibition of the Fascist Revolution held in the Palazzo delle Esposizioni on...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Resurrecting a Pagan Landscape
    (pp. 121-134)

    ‘Could fascism be the principle of the anti-European restoration?’ Thus began Julius Evola’s short bookImperialismo pagano, published in 1928 by the obscure Ar publishing house.¹ The Sicilian, Roman-born aristocrat had been hovering around the margins of fascism since it came to power in 1922, contributing articles to such leading fascist journals as Bottai’sCritica Fascista, but he never joined the party out of disappointment at the regime’s compromises, the most important being the impending agreement with the Vatican in the Lateran Accords. Evola belonged to a group of intellectuals and artists who called themselves ‘traditionalists,’ inspired by the French...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN Return of the Roman
    (pp. 135-154)

    Thus wrote Nino Tripodi, a future supporter of neo-fascism, on witnessing the triumphal visit of Adolf Hitler to Rome in May 1938. That week, Italy and the world were treated to an unprecedented spectacle. Rome, the Eternal City, city of popes, was transformed into a stage ready to greet the dictator of Germany. Although the German leader would visit Florence and Naples during his week in Italy, Rome was his base to which he would return, spending the majority of his time there. For the occasion, the fascist regime spared nothing in its decoration of the Eternal City, filling the...

  13. CONCLUSION: The Cinematic City
    (pp. 155-162)

    During his visit of May 1938, Adolf Hitler spent most of his time in his high-powered Mercedes-Benz travelling on the Eternal City’s fascist boulevards. Hitler experienced what thousands of Romans had lived with throughout the 1930s; they had seen the city transformed before their eyes from the viewing platforms provided by the roads. This experience of the Roman cityscape was captured a year later by urban planner Gustavo Giovannoni, who had been part of the 1931 Master Plan commission: ‘We who live in this era are almost oblivious to the immense transformations which are occurring in front of our eyes...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 163-202)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 203-216)
  16. Index
    (pp. 217-232)