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Monday, March 28, 2011

On the Road in Libya: The Arch of the Fileni

Here at the multi-story headquarters of Rome the Second Time, we once again feel compelled to temporarily suspend our regular programming to bring you a timely special report.  It replaces another timely special report. 

According to this morning's paper, rebel troops are on the move in Libya, freed from the trap at Ajdabiya, pursuing the retreating Libyan army around the Gulf of Sirte and through the Sirte desert through Brega, Uqaylah, and Ras Lanuf, heading toward Qaddafi's home town of Surt. 

Arch of the Fileni, c. 1940
 This act in the Libyan drama has been played out on a highway that follows the coast line.  And what an historic highway it is.  The equivalent of Eisenhower's interstate highway system, the road unites eastern Libya (Cyrenaica) with western Libya (Tripolitania).  It was built and paved only in the 1930s, a truly monumental accomplishment, by mostly Libyan crews working under the occupying colonial power, Italy, which had invaded the country in 1911.

For a time (and perhaps still) it was known as the via Balbia, or the via Balbo, after Italo Balbo, the larger-than-life figure who became governor of Libya in 1934 and under whose watch the highway was completed three years later.  The formal name for the 822 kilometer highway was the Litoranea-Libica. 

What the rebel army didn't see as they approached Ras Lanuf from the east was an enormous arch, built over the new highway in 1937 as a sign of the road-building, unifying achievement, as well as Italian might and hegemony.  The Qaddafi regime demolished  the arch in 1970--blew it up with dynamite--just a year after the whacky dictator took power, no doubt because the new government didn't savor a prominent reminder of 3 decades of European colonial rule.  He had a point. 

The flamboyant Balbo stood for what
the Italians wanted to be. 
The Arch of the Fileni, as the Italians called it, was of enormous symbolic value, perhaps especially for Balbo.  In 1933, the energetic Fascist--and a skilled pilot--had led an expedition of 25 Italian aircraft on a 19,000 mile journey from the airfield at Orbetello (in Tuscany) to Chicago and back, becoming a national hero on his return.  (It was only 6 years after Lindbergh's historic crossing of the Atlantic, and the Italians were aviation fanatics).  Balbo and his fellow aviators were rewarded with the ultimate demonstration of Mussolini's admiration: a trumphal march under the Arch of Constantine.  "The Duce has conceded to us," Balbo explained, "the culminating moment of the triumph of Rome."  Together, Balbo and the Arch of Constantine symbolized Italy's return to the glory and dominance that the Fascists identified with imperial Rome. 

March 1937.  Mussolini at the dedication. 
Balbo must have been pleased, then, when Mussolini announced he was coming to Libya in March to celebrate the completion of the highway, and that the ceremony would reprise the triumphal proceedings of 1933.  For the evening dedication, Balbo had surrounded the isolated arch with flaming tripods and illuminated the upper reaches of the structure with searchlights.  Airplanes buzzed overhead.  Positioned around the arch was a representative assortment of Libyan soldiers, Italian and Libyan work crews, and native honor guards aboard camels.  Ugo Ojetti, Balbo's art critic and friend, was there, describing Mussolini's arrival, the power of the moment, and the Duce's remarks to those assembled.  "He speaks to them in syllabes," wrote Ojetti:  "Be proud to have left this symbol of fascist power in the desert."  "Workers and natives begin to strike the air in two tempos: 'Duce du ce...Do ce do ce.'"  Later, as Mussolini observed the glorious arch from his tent, "the Arabs begin to shout joyfully, to strike tambourines, to twist and jump, to dance and to whirl...."  The Arabs wouldn't always feel that way. 

Bronzes of the Fileni brothers, originally in the
slot (see photo at top)  just above the curve of the arch.
The arch was generally known to Libyans, and not surprisingly, as El Gaus (The Arch).  In the desert campaigns of World War II, the allied armies referred to it as The Marble Arch.  It was commissioned as the Arch of the Litoranea.  It was more commonly known, at least to Italians, as the Arch of the Fileni, for an event that took place long before, on the very spot that Balbo had chosen to erect his monument.  

Many centuries ago, when the country was divided between the Carthaginians on the West and the Greek Cyraneans on the East, the two peoples had agreed to settle their disputed border by an unusual method.  At the same hour of the same day, ambassadors of the Carthaginians were to leave Carthage and march east, while ambassadors of the Cyreneans were to leave their capitol and travel west.  The border between the nations was to be located at the place of their meeting.  The team from Carthage, two brothers named Philaeni (Fileni in the Italian spelling), pressed hard and made good time, while the representatives of Cyranea failed to move with the same haste.  When the groups met, the Cyraneans, assuming that the Carthaginians had jumped the gun, refused to agree to the original terms of the compact.  Instead, they offered the Fileni brothers a difficult choice: either they could be buried alive then and there, and mark the border with their graves, or they could agree to allow the Cyraneans to advance westward as far as they wanted--but under the same penalty.  "Without hesitation, according to a 1940 retelling of the story, "the brothers accepted the first alternative."  In gratitude, the Carthaginians built two altars over the tomb.  Erected adjacent to the altars of the Fileni, Balbo's arch commemorated this act of selfless courage, inspired by the nation.  Above the arch, an inscription paid homage, on the one hand, to the power of the city of Rome ("Oh, kind Sun, may you never look upon a city greater than Rome"); on the other hand, to the Fileni brothers, for "their sacrifice for the greatness of the Patria."  

Fragments of the bas-reliefs.  On the left, salutes to
Today, all that remains of the Arch of the Fileni are two bronze statues (photo above left) of the Fileni brothers, and fragments of bas-reliefs, all "stored" in a field at Madinat Sultan, in case anyone should care to visit.  Until recently the remnants were behind a fence but accessible--if you could wake up the guard. 


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor in Rome

Liz and the unsuspecting Eddie Fisher--with Burton?
"The only word Elizabeth knows in Italian is Bulgari," her 5th husband, Richard Burton, once remarked, referring to the storied merchant of jewels.  Richard had kindled the Bulgari passion in Elizabeth in 1962, when the two were in Rome for 215 days filming Cleopatra (1964) on mammoth sets on the lot of Cinecitta'.  Though already married (Liz to Eddie Fisher), the lovebirds had secretly rented a pink stucco bungalow in Porto Santo Stefano, on the promontory of Argentario, perhaps an hour from Rome.  (Scandalized at hearing of her conduct, a member of Congress sought to have English-born Taylor banned from re-entering the United States.)

A forlorn Richard and Elizabeth following a car
accident in or near Rome, 1962

Wearing Bulgari Serpenti, 1962
 While trying to manage their affair, deal with the Vatican's condemnation of Elizabeth as "a woman of loose morals," figure out a future for themselves, and process the likelihood of an imminent visit by Richard's wife, Elizabeth became ill.  She had her stomach pumped at Salvator Mundi Hospital and, later, Richard sought to soothe the beast with a $150,000 emerald brooch from Bulgari.  It was the beginning of a love affair--with Bulgari this time--and in June, 2009 this affair was consummated with a spectacular showing of some 500 of Elizabeth's Bulgari items at the Palazzo delle Esposizione on via Nazionale.  That occasion was the 125th anniversary of Bulgari's store in Rome.  As Margo Jefferson wrote in the New York Times in 1999, Taylor was "full of no-nonsense shamelessness."  "Whether it's about how she ages or what she wears, she has, bless her heart, made the principles of good and bad taste equally meaningless."  On the set, she wore diamonds while playing dominoes.  She was vulgar but not vain.   

As Cleopatra
Cleopatra enjoyed some success at the box office, but not enough to justify the extraordinary cost of production.  The set for Alexandria, the Egyptian capital where the real Cleopatra met Julius Caesar in like 56 BC, was the largest, most elaborate, and most expensive ever made.  But if the film was an economic bust, it was a highly symbolic one.  With Roman Holiday, it was the best known of a group of the "Hollywood sul Tevere" (Hollywood on the Tiber) films, many of them filmed on sets at Cinecitta' and collectively responsible for drawing a generation of film stars to the Eternal City--among them Deborah Kerr, Gregory Peck, Rod Steiger, and Dick and Liz--and in the process helping to create the glamorous and decadent era of via Veneto and the paparazzi.  (See our post on Hollywood films made in Rome in the postwar era.)

Made in the early 1960s, at the height of American power and hubris,  Cleopatra was a visual representation of the nation's world dominance in the postwar era and of its dreams--not to be realized--of a future characterized by American hegemony in the world.  And the scene that best captured that historical American moment featured Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra, entering Rome on a massive 30-foot pedestal pulled by hundreds of slaves, to the acclaim of thousands.   

1961, with Eddie Fisher and
Kirk Douglas and his wife
Taylor did not appear in Spartacus (1960), another of the Hollywood-sul Tevere films, but she had been drawn to Rome in 1961, accompanied by her husband Eddie Fisher, to celebrate the film's 1st anniversary with its star, Kirk Douglas (today, after her death, Taylor is being called the last movie star--but Kirk's still alive).  

With Eddie Fisher
Elizabeth was in Rome at least two other times.  She and 3rd husband Mike Todd were there in 1958; later that year he died in the crash of a plane named "Lucky Liz."  With Eddie she attended the opening of the Rome Olympics in 1960.  

Rome 1966.  An informal moment.  Liz in a cast
with a '60s look, Richard as Hemingway

And she was back again in 1966, for no obvious reason.  On the 28th of March, she showed up with Richard at Rome's Opera House, her hair in an exaggerated, fantastical bun decorated with bands of jewels and a jeweled hairpin that spilled over onto her forehead.  Looking a lot like Cleopatra.  Elizabeth Taylor lived most of her life in Beverly Hills, and New York was a second home.  But Rome--especially the delicious, over-heated Rome of the early 1960s--was a grand stage for a woman of great appetite and enormous talent. 


Saturday, March 19, 2011

RST Top 40. #9: Piazza Augusto Imperatore - Rome's most abused piazza

Piazza Augusto Imperatore – the piazza named after the dominating Roman emperor, Augustus – comes in at #9 on our Rome the Second Time Top 40 list, even though it sits smack in the middle of the old Roman city.

Augustus' tomb
We know it’s a bit hard to love. The piazza is dominated by Augustus’ tomb, a tomb so mistreated over the years (bull fighting arena, concert hall, planned tomb for Mussolini) and so degraded – graffiti, garbage, fences - that almost no one looks at it. The last time we met friends at the piazza for a drink our view was of construction fences. Perhaps that’s the good news – that the government is trying to rehab the tomb.

Piazza A Imperatore with Augustus' tomb
Okay, so why #9 – as if being an epicenter of Roman history is insufficient? Piazza A. Imperatore has also a) amazing Fascist buildings, mosaics, and design, b) many restaurants and bars inside and out (mostly run by ‘Gusto), c) an outdoor arts and antiques market on some Sundays for much of the year (we found some wonderful Gio Ponte plates there – and even bought them), d) the Ars Pacis, one of ancient Rome’s most famous artifacts – a monument to peace, or should we say, war, housed in Richard Meier's controversial building that surrounds it (see Bill's Nov. 24, 2010 post on Italy's "Starchitects").  Add in a couple churches, shops, walks along the Tiber, and that’s our #9.

The Ars Pacis inside Meier building
One more tip – if you don’t want to imbibe at ‘Gusto’s rather overpriced, tho’ well-located places, try “cheap bar” around the corner. The nickname is ours. We found “cheap bar” during a driving (as in drove us, soaked and running for cover, off our scooter) rain storm one day, had a great hot lunch and Euro 2 glasses of wine. It’s a stone’s throw from the Ars Pacis at the corner of via di Ripetta and via della Frezza – apologies, but we don’t even know the name.

Inside "cheap bar"

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Walking in Goethe's footsteps: home in Rome series part 1

A famous but rather odd painting of Goethe amid the Roman
ruins - it's in Casa di Goethe.  Goethe thought it was
a good likeness.
Goethe’s sojourn in Rome made him a changed man, according to Goethe himself. The greatest of German writers (e.g. Faust) and polymath, Goethe literally fled to Rome and went from being a depressive German (apologies to Bill) to an emotional expat. Some say it was because he had sex for the first time in Rome (per no less than WH Auden, writing that Goethe's diary “is that of a man who has known sexual satisfaction”).  And this is after Goethe wrote The Sorrows of Young Werther – from whose fame in part he was fleeing. We like to think it was Rome itself that brought joy to Goethe, and that’s the way his diary reads.

Goethe looking out the window of the casa.
You can put yourself here;  the window is identified at the house
Goethe called 3 September when he arrived in Rome “the birthday of my new life.”

You can step in Goethe’s steps, look out his window, and feel his presence (with some effort on your part) in the “Casa di Goethe” – or Goethe’s home – in the center of Rome, via del Corso 18 – a few steps from Piazza del Popolo.

The good news about the well-organized Germans is that the “home” is well managed and maintained, with very good temporary exhibitions, as well as some permanent ones.  But well-maintained also means it is rather soul-less, and feels like the 21st century, not the 18th. That’s why it takes some effort to be transported back to Goethe’s time.  As Goethe said in the 1700s, “What the barbarians left, the builders of Modern Rome have destroyed.”  [The best version of that line plays on the name of the fabulously rich Roman family, the Barberini - what the barbarians ("barbari") didn't destroy, the Barberini did.]  One can imagine what Goethe would think now.  One really has to stretch one’s imagination to see the “delightful view of our garden and of neighbouring gardens in all directions, for our house stood on a corner.”

The exterior of Goethe's house on via del Corso
You can check out the hours, exhibitions, and some of the holdings of the “home” at the website – in English. A visit used to be free, then was Euro 2 and now is Euro 4 – but still worth it, in our opinion.

It’s worth it because Rome so moved Goethe, much like it does us. Of course, he did some things we haven’t – he visited the upper galleries of the Sistine Chapel (tho’ have to admit, we were high up on the scaffolding when Michelangelo's Last Judgment there was being restored), ate meals there and napped on the papal throne; climbed Trajan’s Column; bathed in the Tiber (“from a well-appointed and safe bathing machine”!).

Here’s what he says in his diary:

“Now, at last, I have arrived in the First City of the world!...All the dreams of my youth have come to life….In other places one has to search for the important points of interest; here they crowd in on one in profusion.”

St. Peter’s: “has made me realize that Art, like Nature, can abolish all standards of measurement.”

And on visiting the Sistine Chapel: “At present I am so enthusiastic about Michelangelo that I have lost all my taste for Nature, since I cannot see her with the eye of genius as he did.”

On the Coliseum at twilight: ”Once one has seen it, everything else seems small. It is so huge that the mind cannot retain its image; one remembers it is smaller than it is, so that every time one returns ito it, one is astonished by its size.”

And that’s just a bit of his writings that sang to us. For more, read his Italian Journey. Plus we’ll quote from him here and there in future posts. If you’re not too well-informed about Goethe, Wikipedia does a decent job of explaining this incredible mind and person.


Note: We’re calling this “home series, part 1” because we will feature in short order, 2 other homes you can visit – Pirandello’s and DeChirico’s.

Evidence that the painting of Goethe is iconic.
Added by Bill

Friday, March 11, 2011

More bizarre behavior from Gadhafi

Gadhafi's tent in Villa Pamphili, Rome
As a follow-up to Bill's post on the Italy-Libya connection, we offer an example of the ruthless dictator's bizarre behavior:  his insistence on putting up a large tent in Rome's largest park - Villa Pamphili (see post on the park).  Gadhafi has done the tent bit in Italy more than once, but the first time - and his first visit to Rome - was in June 2009, when he came to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the historic agreement with Italy that involved reparations (as described in the earlier post).  Apparently the tent stunt is to acknowledge his bedoin heritage (tho' he sleeps in the palatial buildings near the park, we're told).  On some of those occasions he was accompanied by "Amazonian bodyguards" and 30 Berber horses.  Crazy is as crazy does.

Berlusconi's "slavish" attention to the Libyan dictator has been roundly criticized of late, of course.  I suppose shutting down Rome's largest park was minor in the scheme of things.  Bloomberg had a good piece on Berlusconi's kow-towing to Gadhafi, and its repercussions.  Watch the company you keep.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Libya: the Bitter Fruits of Italian Colonialism

Buds? Italian Prime Minister Silvio
Berlusconi and Libyan leader
Moammar Gadhafi
As the conflict in Libya ebbs and flows, we thought our readers might be interested in knowing more about Libya's historical relationship with the western nation that has been most significant in its past: Italy.  More specifically, could the century-old relationship between Italy and Libya provide a ground for overtures that could lead to a resolution of the conflict?

Probably not. And here's why. 

Italy's deepening relationship with Libya began 100 years ago, when Italy invaded the north African nation, a country dominated by the Ottoman Turks since the mid-1500s.  When the colonial tie ended in the 1940s, the Italian and Libyan economies remained linked in a variety of areas, including oil, banking, arms and foreign trade.  According to the 3/6/11 New York Times, Italy is Libya's largest trading partner.  Nonetheless, in other ways the relationship has been congenial only since the mid-1980s; in 1986, Italian Prime Minister Bettino Craxi bought some Libyan good will by warning Moammar Gadhafi that the United States was about to bomb Tripoli.  The two nations took another step forward in 1999, when a left/liberal Italian government apologized to the Libyan people and formally acknowledged its reprehensible conduct as an occupying colonial power.  In Libya, the Italian premier condemned the killings of Libyan patriots and agreed to return to Libya the Venus of Leptis Magna, confiscated by Libya's Fascist-era governor, Italo Balbo, and given to the Nazi Hermann Goering.  In 2008, Italy and Libya signed a "Friendship Treaty" with Libya (suspended by Italy last week), followed by a commitment by Eni, the Italian energy company, to invest billions in Libyan oil and gas.  A mixed picture. 

The Arch of Marcus Aurelius.  As in Rome,
the occupying Italians chose to reveal the
arch by tearing down many nearby structures

Let's go back a bit.  The Libyan revolution of 1969, the revolution that produced Moammar Gadhafi, has been described by one historian as a "direct reaction to the negligence, torture, and disdain suffered by the Libyan Arabs during half a century of colonization."  The following year, the Gadhafi government confiscated the properties of some 20,000 Italians living in Libya, while insisting that the expropriations were insufficient compensation for colonial damages.  So let's return to 1911 and the colonial occupation and find out what happened.

Although the Italians presented themselves as "returning" to North Africa (it had been colonized by the ancient Romans, and Tripoli featured the Arch of Marcus Aurelius--see photo above left) and assumed that Italian soldiers would be welcomed as "liberators" from Turkish rule, the Libyans didn't see it that way.  They made common cause with the Turks, who lost the war anyway, signed a treaty with Italy, and left in 1912. 

The Italian army encamped near Tripoli

But Libyan resistance to occupation did not end, and those opposed to Italian colonial status fought on--for another 20 years.  The resistance was especially notable in the Cyrenaica region--the eastern part of Libya, and the area that today is under control of the anti-Gadhafi forces.  During the 1910s, resistance was especially strong among the Sanusi, a tribal and religious movement/group with its own army that in 1916 declared itself an official state.  Sanusi resistance in the east meant that the Italian state could not expand beyond the coast until 1922.  There was resistance, too, in western Libya; in 1915, the Tripolitanian resistance had an estimated 15,000 fighters.  The creation of a Tripolitanian Republic in 1920 delayed full Italian occupation of Tripolitania--meaning northern and eastern Libya--until 1925.  Eastern Libya--Cyrenaica--remained at war with the Italians for another 7 years. 

Resistance leader Umar al-Mukhtar
The occupying Italians were frustrated and, one presumes, angry.  As resistance escalated, so did deportation of troublesome Libyans, including several thousand who were packed off to Italy.  Later, the entire population of the Jabal area of Cyrenaica was deported.   In 1931, the Fascist regime in Libya constructed a 270 km barbed wire fence on the border between Egypt and Libya to limit aid to the resistance coming in from the east.  That same year, it conducted a public execution of Umar al-Mukhtar, the 69-year-old resistance leader, before some 20,000 Cyrenaican tribesmen, thereby creating a martyr to the resistance cause.

In the late 1920s, perhaps still mystified that some Libyans failed to understand what Italy was trying to do in their country, the Fascist authorities decided to put local populations that supported the resistance in internment or concentration camps, isolating them from the rebels.  Between 1930 and 1933, 16 internment camps were opened in the Cyrenaica region.  About half the population of eastern Libya--about 100,000 people--was forced into the camps.   Many of them were farmers and herders who consequently lost their occupations and their animals and were forced into inactivity.  Of those interned, about forty percent--40,000 people--died.  Most Libyan resistance to Italian rule ended in 1932, 21 years after the invasion. 

The Italians had elaborate--one might say, grandiose--plans for Libya that went beyond subduing the local population.  Among the sensible ideas was a road-building program designed to knit the eastern and western sections of the country together.  Not so sensibly, Libya was to serve as a place for millions of unemployed Italian workers and underemployed Italian farmers.  To create space for these destitute hordes, Libyans were forced to sell their lands to Italians, or the lands of rebel tribes were expropriated, the Libyans were put into camps, and the lands were given to Italians. In 1933, sheep-herdng families from Affile, outside Rome, arrived to take up expropriated lands.  The areas dominated by the Sanusi--still without enthusiasm for the Italian occupation--were among the first to be dealt with in this way. 

Fascist bon vivant Italo Balbo
became the Governor of Libya in

Despite the lofty goals, few Italians were resettled: by 1934 only about 1,000, and by the end of the decade, only about 30,000--well short of the "millions" anticipated.  Most of this work was accomplished under Balbo, a strong-willed Fascist who had risen to heroic status by leading a squadron of aircraft from Italy to Chicago and back in 1933.

Arch of the Fileni
One can get a good measure of the high tension that surrounded the colonial project some 25 years after its beginnings by looking at Benito Mussolini's March, 1937 visit to Libya--his second of three, and by far the most successful.  One of his goals was to celebrate Italian road-building projects in the country, particularly the essential and welcome Litoranea highway, tying east and west.  To emphasize the road-building achievement and Italy's civilizing mission, Balbo had comissioned the Arch of the Fileni.  The ceremony took place at night, the Arch illuminated by searchlights and flaming tripods, the Duce's appearance welcomed (or so it seems) by the shouts of Libyan soldiers, work crews, and native honor guards, some aboard camels.  It was all very dramatic. 

The highlight of Mussolini's visit was the Tripoli Trade Fair, where he was committed to showing that Italy, although a Christian country, was sympathetic to Islam.  His first act, unveiling a statue of Julius Caesar that bore a curious resemblance to the Duce, seemed unlikely to contribute much to that goal.  But the main event was yet to come.  The following day Mussolini arrived at a sand dune outside Tripoli, riding a black stallion (he was an avid horseback rider).  He was greeted by 2,000 Libyan calvarymen who cried out that he was "Founder of the Empire" (not exactly true), then presented him with the "Sword of Islam" before he galloped back to Tripoli for a major public address.  He played to the Muslims in his audience and to the 9 million Muslims who were not part of the Italian north African empire.

"Fascist Italy," Mussolini announced, "intends to guarantee the Muslim people of Libya and Ethiopia peace, justice, well-being, respect for the laws of the Prophet: and it wishes, moreover, to demonstrate sympathy towards Islam and towards Muslims the world over.  Soon, with its laws, Rome will show how anxious it is for your future welfare.  Muslims of Tripoli and Libya!  Pass on my words through your towns and villages, right into the tents of the nomads.  You know that I am temperate in my promises, but what I promise, I fulfill."

By this time most Libyans knew that Mussolini was anything but temperate, and the Duce's promises were greeted with considerable skepticism.  A special dose of skepticism was reserved for Mussolini's claim to be "Protector of Islam," a role that for most Libyans ought properly to be assumed only by a Muslim. 

Mussolini's less temperate side emerged full blown in only a few years, when he threw an unprepared Italian nation into a fateful alliance with Hitler's Germany.  North Africa would become a key front in the ensuing world conflict, and the allied campaign in the region was well underway when Mussolini made his next visit to Libya in 1942.  In 1943, Italian rule in Libya came to an end. 


With thanks: The material in this post is gathered from the excellent essays in Italian Colonialism, ed. Ruth Ben-Ghiat and Mia Fuller (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2005).  See also Bill's earlier post on more of the uglier side of Italian colonialization, including use of mustard gas.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

RST Top 40. #10: Luigi Moretti's ex-GIL


Ex-GIL?  What's that?  It means ex- (former) GIL, that is former Casa del GIL (Casa della Gioventu' Italiana del Littorio), which translates House of the Italian Fascist Youth.  Today's it's part art gallery, part athletic center, part movie theater.  Some of it's been recently restored, most of it hasn't.  The photo above left, taken for an architectural magazine, shows the building in its Fascist-era glory.  But even in its current condition l'ex GIL is a powerfully evocative example--perhaps the best in Rome--of high rationalist Fascist architecture.  And we dig that stuff.  So it makes our Top 10, albeit just barely.   

The ex-GIL is on Itinerary 3 in Rome the Second Time, and amply described there, so all you cretins who haven't yet bought the book should click on "Buy Book" above.  While you wait for your copy to arrive, here are a few details:

The building was designed by one of Rome's true architectural geniuses, Luigi Moretti, whose work was the subject of a recent exhibition at the MAXXI gallery in the Flaminio district.  It was constructed between 1933 and 1936.  There's some great Fascist sloganeering on the side facing the Largo/movie-theater parking lot (you'll know it when you see it); an enormous, unique permanent map of the rather measly Italian empire on an interior wall; and, around back, toward the small soccer field, one of the most graceful stairways ever designed.  (While you're there, think about all the Italian teenagers who went through the place, trying their best to make their bodies correspond to the Fascist [and Roman] ideal).  There's some other stuff, too.  Poke around.  When you're done, Nuovo Sacher, Nanni Morretti's movie house, next door on Largo Ascianghi, is worth a few minutes; it was built about the same time. 

The theater on via Induno, in a photo from 1983/84.  Notice the
strong horizontal lines.

Getting there: L'ex GIL is sandwiched between viale di Trastevere, via G. Induno, and Largo Ascianghi.  If you're in classic Trastevere, it's just a short walk up viale di Trastevere to via Induno (go left).  The complex is a stone's throw from Porta Portese, away from the Tevere.