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

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Remembering Giacomo Matteotti, and the Early Days of Italian Fascism


One of Rome's least prominent--and probably least visited--memorials is located on the Lungotevere Arnaldo da Brescia, just steps from the Tevere, near Ponte Pietro Nenni--a 5-minute walk from bustling Piazza del Popolo.

There, on June 1924 (two years after the March on Rome), while walking along the Lungotevere Arnaldo, the Italian politician Giacomo Matteotti was waylaid, thrown into a Lancia Lambda, and stabbed to death. Of the 5 men involved, one was a prominent member of the Fascist secret police. The extent of Benito Mussolini's involvement is not clear. [See the RST post on David Kertzer's book The Pope and Mussolini for more information.]

Matteotti was an anti-Fascist socialist--a member of the Unitary Socialist Party--and a deputy in the parliament. Ten days prior to his murder, he had spoken in the parliament, concerned about violence that had occurred during recent elections and critical of the anti-democratic Acerbo law, which had assigned 2/3 of the seats in parliament to the party of Mussolini--the largest in the body--which had won 35% of the vote. 

The monument to Matteotti occupies a semi-circular green space on an elevated terrace above the river. The space can be accessed by the Lungotevere or from the river bank, via a substantial staircase that appears to be a part of the memorial. 

Inaugurated in 1974 (50 years after Matteotti's death) and paid for by the Socialist Party, the bronze memorial consists of two very different sculptures, both by Jorio Vivarelli (1922-2008), who as a soldier was captured and imprisoned in 1943 by the German forces. The monument includes the words, "Although you kill me, the idea within me can never be killed."

The original plaque was smashed in January 2017, 6 months before we visited the site and these photos were taken.  


Thursday, November 9, 2023

Luigi Moretti's Il Girasole: a House Divided


Il Girasole. From this angle especially, easy to pass up, to walk by, as if were just another building.

We're walkers, but we don't recommend walking viale Bruno Buozzi (in the Parioli quartiere), unless there's a reason to do so. (Though it's named for an influential union leader murdered by the Nazis towards the end of World War II.) It's a long and curvy street, more or less connecting viale Parioli with via Flaminia, with few attractions and minimal commerce. Not all that interesting. 

But there is at least one reason to walk that walk: Luigi Moretti's "Il Girasole" (The Sunflower) house. 

Il Girasole, as it looked in 2012. That split in the middle is important.

Its architect is famous, and not only in Italy and Rome, his home town. Born in 1907, Moretti studied architecture at the Royal School of Architecture in Rome, then worked for several years with archeologist and art historian Corrado Ricci on aspects of Trajan's Market. In the 1930s he became one of Italian Fascism's favored architects, designing the fascist youth organization building in Trastevere (1933) and several buildings in the Foro Mussolini, including Mussolini's gymnasium (1936) and the Academy of Fencing (1936).

In the United States, he designed the Watergate Complex in Washington, D.C., notorious for the 1972 burglary of Democratic National Committee Headquarters that precipitated the "Watergate scandal," and produced the political term "Watergate" and all the other "-gates" (scandals) that followed.

"Il Girasole" is a postwar work, designed in 1949 and built in 1950. It's considered an early example of postmodern architecture, a building architect and theorist Robert Venturi described as ambiguous, existing in a new space between tradition and innovation.

This photo, from an earlier period, shows off the structure's 
horizontal lines as well as its vertical division. 

This shot of the interior emphasizes Moretti's origins in modernism, though the
brickwork/window, jutting out (and interrupting) at left, has a post-modern valence. 

Swiss architectural theorist Stanislaus von Moss has argued that Venturi's Vanna House (1962-1964) "recalls the duality of the facade of Luigi Moretti's apartment house on the Via Parioli [sic: viale Bruno Buozzi] in Rome." We agree. And both the Vanna House and Il Girasole disrupt the flow of modernism. Hence modernism, with a post-modern touch.

Moretti also designed villas for wealthy patrons, including La Villa Saracena (1954), in the village of Santa Marinella, about an hour by car from the center of Rome. In 1958, he was one of several distinguished architects who designed Rome's Olympic Village in preparation for the 1960 games. 

The trees are larger in this 2017 photo (not good for the look of the building), and there's more foliage on the roof.