Rome Travel Guide

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

PRESENTE: A Close Look at a Tuscolano Poster

While spending a pleasant evening in the quartiere of Tuscolano, one of our old haunts, we--Dianne, actually--noticed a poster.  On the surface it was hardly unusual.  There were the standard signs of right-wing propaganda: the Celtic cross, the hyper-masculine body in marble, referencing the muscled, athletic frames of the statues across the city at Foro Italico (once Foro Mussolini) and, in the distant past, the glories of ancient Rome. 

Later that evening, and the next day, we saw dozens of these posters in Tuscolano, and for good reason.  As the very small print on the posters reveals, there is a time, a date, and a place at issue here: 7 p.m., January 7, Acca Larenzia. 

Acca Larenzia is a street nearby.  It was there, on January 7, 1978--as historian Paul Baxa explained on this blog--that a left-wing militant shot and killed two members of the neo-fascist Movimento Sociale Italiano.  The event, yet another tragedy of Italy's Anni di Piombo, is remembered today where it took place.  A plaque names the two victims (and another who died days later in the chaos that followed). 

The poster, then, commemorates an event that took place 34 years ago.  But it also commemorates the Italian effort in the Great War, fought against an entrenched Austria-Hungary enemy in the northeast of Italy.  One would think that the conflict would by now be long forgotten, or at least remembered in a neutral way.  But the poster reveals the emotional intensity with which that war is recalled and politicized, even a century later.  With the prominently featured word PRESENTE, the poster announces the military roll call, where each soldier responds to his name with "presente."  There is an additional valence to this word that we discovered only recently, as we explored World War I battles sites and commemorations. 

By any measure, the most impressive commemoration of the war is the massive monument and burial site at Polazzo, southwest of Gorizia, north of Trieste, and just a few kilometers from Monte San Michele, where thousands of Italian soldiers died in a critical and much-acclaimed battle on the rocky reaches of the Carso massif. 

The monument was designed and constructed by Mussolini's Fascist regime in the late 1920s  Above the tombs, repeated hundreds of times as the monument rises on the Carso--honoring those who fought, critical of those who did not, emphasizing the duty and privilege of combat, inspiring the Fascists of the twenties and the neo-fascists of  today's Rome--is the word PRESENTE.   


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

May I say that Bill's 29.08 posting was one of the most evocative yet, especially in the light of Paul Baxa's earlier one.

When I first stayed in Rome in May 1973, I stayed with friends in a basement in Via V Sivilla (near Via dell’Arcodi Travertino (and now Largo Falvaterra Metro Station)), not too far away from Acca Larenzia. I no idea of its geopolitical significance until you looked hard, and enlightened us.

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