Rome Travel Guide

Rome Architecture, History, Art, Museums, Galleries, Fashion, Music, Photos, Walking and Hiking Itineraries, Neighborhoods, News and Social Commentary, Politics, Things to Do in Rome and Environs. Over 900 posts

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Monte Sacro's ex-GIL

Monte Sacro's ex-GIL, 1935
If you've been a regular follower of the Rome the Second Time blog, or read the book, you might know what an ex-GIL is.  We've written more than 20 times about the most famous one in Rome (below), recently restored, that sits in Trastevere, not far from the river, next to Nanni Moretti's Nuovo Sacher cinema. (It's #10 on RST's Top 40, and the staircase is prominent on the post.)

Luigi Moretti's ex-GIL, as it was in the 1930s
Here's a reminder: the "ex" stands for "former," and GIL for Gioventu' Italiana del Littorio (Italian Youth of the Lictor [the lictors were bodyguards for Roman magistrates], founded 1937)--essentially a center for indoctrination of young people under the auspices of the Fascist Party.  It replaced a similar organization, the Opera Nazionale Balilla (ONB).  The ex-GIL in Trastevere is a lovely piece of rationalist architecture by famed modernist Luigi Moretti (in the U.S., he's best known for the Watergate complex), and is well worth visiting, if only for a look at the exterior.  The circular staircase, back left of the building, is superb--and usually accessible.

Now that we have that out of the way, we can get to the good stuff.  It turns out there's another ex-GIL, further from the center.  The address is viale Adriatico 140, in the community of Monte Sacro, on the northern edge of the central city, up via Nomentana.  The exterior of the Monte Sacro ex-GIL (sometimes referred to as the Casa di Montesacro) isn't as dramatic as the one in Trastevere, but it's still compelling, its facade covered in thin (2 cm) Carrara marble.  And the scope of the facility goes beyond its Trastevere equivalent; the complex once included sports fields, gardens, a girls' school offering courses in domestic economics, a theater (since demolished), an "ambulatorio" and a "refettorio," an institute for GIL instructors, as well as Italy's largest gymnasium and swimming pools, one inside (coperta), the other outside (scoperta--uncovered).

So it was a big deal when it was opened in 1937, and it's still quite something.

The Casa di Monte Sacro was designed by Gaetano Minnucci (1896-1980), a graduate both in engineering (1920) and architecture (1930). Minnucci spent some time in Holland and brought some of that sensibility to Rome, where he applied it to the design of a building at via Carini, 28, below.

Minnucci's first project, via Carini, 28

He also was the lead architect on the Palazzo degli Uffici (1939), the first building to be finished in the EUR complex, south of the city (below).

His other works include the Policlinico Agostino Gemelli in Trionfale (Rome) and the central hydroelectric building in Castel Giubileo (Rome), both below.

With the fall of Fascism in 1943, the institute for GIL instructors was suspended and later closed.  Until the mid-1960s the GIL building was used primarily as a youth hostel.  During those years, the complex suffered from lack of maintenance and gradually deteriorated.  The theater was demolished to make way for a post office (altering parts of the facade), some offices for the local government (the commune) and a school.  Unused, the swimming pools fell into disrepair.  In 2013, the regional government (Lazio) provided some funding for restoration and brought the facility much needed public attention.

Still, much remains to be done, as we saw the day we visited, on a tour that was part of the two-day spring event, Open House Roma.

The large gymnasium, recently restored, was impressive; boys were playing basketball.

Outside, the entrance to the gymnasium:

Today, the covered pool is a disaster, a favorite of graffiti artists:

Out in back, one could see the damage wrought by time.  Here's what part of the back facade looked like in 1937:

And here it is today, the victim of a poor addition, and disrepair:

And then there's the outdoor pool, once a handsome affair with a high board, all with a modernist look and the Fascist slogan "Credere/Obbedire/Combattere" (believe/obey/fight) on the far wall:

And the pool complex today:

Because the building is in use as a Montessori school and post office, and for some local government offices, it's possible that one could just walk in and have a look around, or ask someone to show you the pool areas and the gymnasium.

But even if you can't get inside or out back, the exterior is an excellent example of Fascist rationalist architecture.

Moreover, the surrounding area is interesting and devoid of tourists.  Finally, there's a convivial bar/cafe' next door: coffee at neighborhood prices, and tables at no charge.  You could do worse.


No comments: