The astute visitor to Rome - and many other Italian cities - will be struck by the many examples of Fascist iconography that can still be found in the urban landscape today. It is not unusual to come across the fascio littorio, the date written in Anno Fascista (i.e. the "year of the Fascist Revolution") or statues of grotesquely muscled supermen.
I am currently exploring the political and cultural debates over these "remains" in greater depth, but for now wanted to share some brief impressions and photos. I recently spent a day in Latina, a town about 70 km south of Rome that was born in 1932 as Littoria. This was one of the "new towns" built in the Pontine Marshes, a malarial zone drained as part of Fascism's agricultural reclamation program (bonifica agraria). As a result, it is one of the youngest cities in Italy, and to this day is filled with stunning examples of interwar Rationalist architecture - most notably, the clock tower of the town hall. There are many explicit examples of Fascist iconography throughout Latina - as seen below (click to enlarge):
One interesting thing to note is the uneven treatment of these symbols - some of them have been politically "neutered" or partially defaced, while others are in pristine condition. Evidently there was no comprehensive, coordinated effort to reckon with these remains. It also seems that some have been preserved for "aesthetic" reasons - as though one can look beyond the political implications of a saluting Blackshirt.
As I will discuss more in work to come, the material legacies of Fascism are complicated, involving debates over conceptions of Italian historical and cultural patrimony; the politics of historical preservation and destruction; and the true nature of Mussolini's regime. For now, though, suffice it to note that this is not a simple case of preserving Latina's aesthetic and architectural character.
Things become messier when one considers a prominent marble inscription on the main clock tower, which reads: "Farmers and peasants should look to this tower, which dominates the plain and is the symbol of Fascist power. Converging on it they will find, when needed, help and justice." Remarkably, the plaque is not a relic of the 1930s - instead, it was erected in 1999 by Latina's neo-Fascist mayor. He also tried to name several streets after regime hierarchs and restore other statues and monuments from the fallen regime.
By coincidence, the day of my visit was also the monthly antiques market. As seen below, plenty of Fascist artifacts were in evidence. Should these be read as trinkets or curios, or is there something more profound behind the fascination of these objects?
Again, lest all these items be dismissed as innocuous relics of a bygone era, one final set of images, taken in the buildings around the central piazza. These show graffiti from some kind of neo-Fascist/neo-Nazi skinhead group, which seems to be competing for territory with some young Communists. Am I conflating too much, or do these tags in some way suggest that the willingness to accommodate (or even celebrate) the Fascist past has poisonous effects on contemporary society? Only a few days ago, a scandal erupted when a poster appeared on one of Latina's main roads; mounted just in time for the holiday celebrating the postwar Republic, it praised Mussolini's pro-Nazi Repubblica di Salò.