Predappio museum to undo fascist pilgrims

casa del fascio

ROME - The former House of Fascio shines light on a problem deep in the national soul of Italy. Standing in Predappio, the hometown of Mussolini, this building was constructed in 1934 as the nation was gripped by fascism. Operating beyond its mere bureaucratic function, the building was a centre for propaganda and “education.” Its very architecture, with its square concrete columns and rectangular tower, was designed to imitate the municipal towers of the middle ages. The house, now abandoned, is to be turned into a museum with a strong anti-fascist message the mayor of Predappio, Giorgio Frassinetti, said, “fascism is not Italian.”

 To explain the symbolism behind the tower is to understand something of the issue I speak of. Mussolini created the fascist ideology in reference to Italy’s past: the Rome of the emperors, the Florence of the Medici. The term “fascist” originates with the Roman symbol of strength, the fasce. Mussolini drew from the glory of the past, the authoritarian governance advocated in Machiavelli’s The Prince, a book he wrote a forward to, in order to create a new Italy in the image of former glory. Contradicting the mayor, Marcello Flores, the historical coordinator of the project committee told me “fascism IS Italian,” and deeply so.

 Italy has a strange relationship with its fascist past and nowhere is this clearer than in Predappio. “Three times a year, crowds of fascists gather: Mussolini’s birthday, the march on Rome, and the day he died,” Flores told me. In the past there had been various violent clashes between the fascists and anti-fascists but apparently things have calmed down considerably.

 This gathering of fascists speaks to an issue at the heart of memorialising elements of the past, even if every effort is made to show the abhorrent nature of it, there is no guarantee that everyone will see it that way. Germany tore down Hitler’s residences, removed every swastika, and burnt their flags. Italy did not. “Italy has never realty faced its past, most have a fairly healthy perspective. A minority, however, embrace it,” said Flores. “There are about three stores in town that specialise in fascism memorabilia, it is hard to say, but much of this is nostalgia for a strong Italy. Some of it is, of course, something else.”

 Indeed, there is something else. These shops sell what they refer to as “furher wine,” bottles of wine with either Hitler or Mussolini’s face on the label. It seems that this project, therefore, is a worthy one. This country has active political parties that identify as fascist, there are people that show up three times a year in this town to celebrate the march on Rome, it is not true to say that tearing down some buildings will help anyone. The need to educate as an inoculation against nostalgia is clearly vital if one hopes to see the streets of Predappio empty on Mussolini’s birthday.


Wine in Predappio