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Monday, March 19, 2012

Hunting for Fasci (Fasces) in Rome

Prominent, column-size fasci on a government building in Pomezia, a nearby "new" town,
built under Mussolini's regime.  Above the door, we learn that the building was constructed
in the year (A., anno) 17 (1939) of the Fascist (F.) Era (E.).
As readers of this blog and our book, Rome the Second Time, are well aware, we enjoy exploring the Rome cityscape for signs of Mussolini's Fascist regime (1922-1943), the most important political event in 20th-century Italy.  Some of those signs are obvious, including the monumental complex at EUR, south of the center, and Foro Italico (once Foro Mussolini), the complex of sports facilities north of the center, across the river from the Flaminio area.  Although neither of these areas is featured in Rome the Second Time (the book), the book's Itinerary 5, "Nazis and Fascists in Central Rome," offers a look at Fascist-era architecture on Via Leonida Bissolati and the lower reaches of Via Veneto.   For more on Fascist architecture, see our new book, Modern Rome: 4 Great Walks for the Curious Traveler (more at the end of this post).

There are other, more subtle ways to engage the Fascist heritage.  As we explain in a sidebar in Rome the Second Time (p. 85), many buildings constructed in the Fascist era proclaim their origin under the regime by using the Fascist dating system, which begins with 1922 (Year I, using Roman numberals).  Many if not most of these buildings retain these Fascist markings. 

Another way--and the subject of this post--is to look for fasces (the Italian word is fasci), the foremost symbol of the Fascist regime.   The fasci--a bundle of sticks with an ax blade emerging--dates to ancient Rome and means something like "strength through unity." 

The symbol has been widely used through the ages.  It appears on the "tails" side of the U.S. mercury dime; on the emblem of the Knights of Columbus (right); on the insignia of the National Guard Bureau; and on the seal of the Adminsistrative Office of the United States Courts (above).  In the twentieth century, it was most prominently employed by Italy's Fascists, whose movement takes it name from the fasci. 

Hacking away at a symbol of the
Fascist regime, Milan, 1943.

Although some fasci were removed by angry anti-Fascists when Mussolini's regime fell in 1943 (left), and others since then, many still remain as reminders of the dictatorship.

Fasci on a school building in Centocelle, a
close-in suburb of Rome
A high schematic example, from Fascism's
year (A.) 9.  In Garbatella

Here the fasci decorate an ornate fountain
in the main piazza in Grottaferrata,
a town in the Alban Hills.  Probably 1920s. 

Below, we offer some of those we found in the last two years.  Good hunting! 

The base of a flagpole at Cinecittá, the
movie-making center, with wrap-around fish.
One seldom sees a light standard with fasci, perhaps because they're quite public.  This one, featuring a schematic design, was in an ironworks exhibit in the Casino delle Civette, in Villa Torlonia.

Because manhole covers are seldom changed and seldom stolen, they are a good source of fasci.  This one is obviously from Pomezia. 

Here, a contemporary artist has juxtaposed fasci with
other images from or of the 1930s. 

For more on fasci and Fascist architecture, see our new print AND eBook, Modern Rome: 4 Great Walks for the Curious Traveler. Modern Rome features tours of the "garden" suburb of Garbatella; the 20th-century suburb of EUR, designed by the Fascists; the 21st-century music and art center of Flaminio, along with Mussolini's Foro Italico, also the site of the 1960 summer Olympics; and a stairways walk in Trastevere.

 This 4-walk book is available in all print and eBook formats The eBook is $1.99 through and all other eBook sellers. See the various formats at 

Modern Rome: 4 Great Walks for the Curious Traveler now is also available in print, at, Barnes and Noble, independent bookstores, and other retailers; retail price $5.99.

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