Rome Travel Guide

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Saturday, October 24, 2020

The town of Pomezia, 25 km from Rome - of vaccines, Fascism, World War II

Bill looks like he's in a de Chirico painting here in Pomezia

We were surprised to learn that Pomezia, a small town created from scratch by the Fascists (inaugurated in 1939) in the Agro Pontino outside of Rome, is the site of the maker of one of the most promising Covid-19 vaccines. We knew nothing about that when we visited the town - several times in years past. We tried to figure out how we missed such an important industry. You may have heard of the Advent vaccine. That vaccine is being developed by Advent, which is an offshoot of Pomezia's IRBM, together with Oxford University. Some recent information on this vaccine trial is here. It's the Astra-Zeneca vaccine whose trial was halted for a while and is now restarted.

Our mission in the times we went to Pomezia was to view the Fascist architecture (see here for a reference to other forays) and visit the WWII German Cemetery. In those days, we were exploring the iconography of war cemeteries in and around Rome (e.g. here).  

Dianne posing with enormous fasci
 in a doorway, likely to the town hall.
The year is listed as "A. XVII E.F. -
Era Fascista, year 17 (or 1939)

We stopped in Pomezia's main square to get the requisite coffee (see Bill above) and saw some signs indicating there was to be a celebration of Garibaldi. We think that's the subject of the painting above.

We didn't have to look hard for the Fascist architecture.  Here are a couple examples (left and below, plus photo at top). There are more at the end of the post.

We then headed to the cemetery, which is only a short ways out of the town center. It's beautifully maintained and peaceful, the resting place of almost 30,000 German soldiers, some of them "unknown." 

I'll skip a description of the cemetery here, since our friend and Dante scholar, Virginia Jewiss, has written eloquently about it, and I want to give more space to her analysis in a later post.

The question remains, where is the famous laboratory making these vaccines, and why did we - who scour towns and cities - miss it?

It turns out the lab is very close to the town center, across the notorious via Pontina. It appears to be not very visible from the road (on a higher piece of land).  No doubt we scootered right past it.  See maps below.

IRBM Science Park. Pomezia's town center is at the upper right. This photo is looking South.

The map below right shows the IRBM plant on the map - at Google's inverted red drop -  with Pomezia's town center just to the West. The red cross below the green space (the town cemetery) shows the location of the German Cemetery - so obviously, we scootered right by the IRBM facility.

Italy's important connections to the Covid-19 vaccines also include a glass manufacturing company near Venice, founded in 1949 to make bottles for perfume and liquors, now devoting itself to glass vials for the vaccines. Forbes featured the family-owned company in an article here.

Jewiss says there's some irony that Pomezia, a town designed to laud the Fascists, is the resting place of Germans who fought with, and then against, the failed Italian regime. I view the cemetery as a cautionary reminder of the wages of war, and Pomezia now as a sign of the future - waging a different war - against the virus.

More on the German cemetery, and some of Jewiss's interpretations of its iconography, in a subsequent post.


Church - a central church was a
part of all the Fascist "new towns."

Pomezia's "GIL" or  youth center
(Gioventu' italiana del littorio -
the Fascist youth movement party),
the letters framed by two fasci.


A 50th anniversary monument (1990), testament to the town's forefathers - note the hand-driven agricultural equipment as the main symbol.

The ubiquitous "Bar dello sport,"
with a very nice 1953 decoration above the door,
echoing the style of Fascist figures
and also the town's agricultural founding.


Tony said...

Always enjoy your wanderings and your comments... still a fan, tifoso, ammiratore, ecc. .... Tony

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for sharing this magnificent Italian Fascist built town with the world. Personally, I am sickened by the world's reaction to anything connected with Italian Fascism and/or Benito Mussolini. Of course mistakes were made in the Fascist government but, what nation or political ideology hasn't made mistakes; America included. Sadly, there are buildings, towns and various complexes which were created and build during the Fascist era which are being allowed to decay simply because of their connection to Mussolini and/or Fascism; which, in my opinion are criminal negligence. For example, there were futuristic buildings created for Italian war veterans which are just rotting because of their Fascist connections. Again, I thank you for this information and photographs. (Do you sell photographic prints?) I look forward to more of the same in the future. Sincerely, Jeff di Giusto