The map of fascist testimonies that survive in Italy

Many and varied testimonies of the twenty years of Fascism are scattered throughout the Italian territory. A few steps from the Olympic stadium in Rome there is a large white marble obelisk, clearly visible, on which the name of Mussolini is carved followed by the Latin name with which he used to be called, dux: it is only the best known and most visible example of a sort of widespread museum of fascism, made up of monuments, streets and even fascist mottos written on the walls. Until now it was almost impossible to have a dimension of how widespread these traces were, but now the Ferruccio Parri institute has published the results of a project which identifies them and collects them in one online map.

The institute is part of the network of institutes for the history of the Resistance. It was founded in 1949 by Parri himself, a partisan, anti-fascist, as well as the first Prime Minister to lead a government of national unity after the Second World War. As the institute explains, the objective of the mapping is to “verify the geography” of the fascist traces, “read their historical stratification” in order to then get an idea of ​​how the memory of fascism has been preserved but also revived, especially “with the re-legitimization” of the fascist experience that has taken place in recent decades.

The obelisk of the Italian forum photographed in 1998 (ARCHIVE/ANSA/PAL)

The reflections produced during the study and the collection of testimonies ended up in a book edited by the historians Giulia Albanese and Lucia Ceci, The places of memory of fascist Italy, edited by Viella. Albanese also coordinated the entire project, together with a Parri working group and independent volunteers and scholars.

The idea of ​​systematizing the numerous fascist testimonies left in Italy arose following the controversy that arose in 2016 on the construction of a museum of fascism in Predappio, the municipality in the province of Forlì-Cesena where Mussolini is buried. The actual work then began in 2018, progressing somewhat slowly due to the limited funding available. The idea, however, was to finish most of the research in time for the centenary of the march on Rome, last October 28th. The first census was also carried out thanks to the volunteers of the network of institutes for the history of the Resistance, based on the prior knowledge of the scholars involved and on research in the various municipal archives.

Scrolling on the map you can find the most disparate places. Most of them are streets named after characters who had to do with fascism in various ways, but there are also former Case del Fascioex Houses of the Balilla, inscriptions with fascist mottos, war memorials. There is also one on the site methodological note which clarifies the criteria used: places and streets commemorating the history of the regime have been included, whose naming took place between 1922 and 1945; as regards the streets and places named after 1945, those dedicated to personalities with an active role and political responsibilities, to the fallen in the fascist wars, to colonial places have been included (but excluding those linked to the liberal era).

The generic fascist architectures, such as those abundantly present in Latina and Sabaudia, have not been included, but only those “that bear the explicit sign of a political-ideological message” have been indicated. Monuments which explicitly commemorate the history of the regime but which were built after 1945 have also been included, such as the monument to Rodolfo Graziani of Affilein Lazio.

A detail of the map in the Centre-South: in gray the monuments and streets dedicated to political personalities, in red titles “to other subjects”, in purple monuments “to other subjects”, in blue tombstones “to other subjects”, in green the writings

The Parri institute conceived the project as collaborative and in updating: anyone can submit a plate or a street of which they are aware to the examination of the scientific committee, and if necessary it will be included.

According to Giulia Albanese, who teaches contemporary history at the University of Padua, the mapping of these places is offering new historical insights, for example on their geographical distribution. “The historic streets, especially those that refer to the personalities of the origins of fascism, have remained more frequently in southern Italy and in the smaller towns,” says Albanese. “This does not mean that overall there are fewer in the North, simply the permanence has been different in the southern areas and overall greater outside the large urban centers and in the South”.

Another relevant fact is the circumscribed nature of many of the commemorative initiatives. “The work on memory of the fascist period is essentially local, and this aspect has limited in some ways a national reflection on memory itself,” explains Albanese. Initiatives such as those of Affile or the Predappio museum, but also the naming of streets and squares in cities, often come from local administrations and the debate, even when it ends up in the national newspapers, remains confined there. The national map elaborated by Parri, on the other hand, could help to develop a reflection on a larger scale, beyond the single contexts.


The monument to the Victory of Bolzano (ANSA)

There is also the chronological aspect of the testimonies. As far as possible, scholars have tried to trace the date of construction of the monument or the naming of the street. In doing so they were able to observe a clear increase in commemorations since the 1990s, in various areas throughout Italy. Each monument and each street makes its own story, but this data suggests a connection with the political season that opened in those years with the birth of the National Alliance and the ruling right in the first Berlusconi governments.

The map allows us to observe other trends that could be further explored: Albanese gives the example of Padua, where “there is a large presence of colonial streets that date back to the 1950s, much more than in other cities”.

A further area in which the map will be able to provide new perspectives is the age-old debate on what to do with all these testimonies of the fascist past. When we talk about it, the abundance of these traces is almost always seen as something uncomfortable, an indication of the fact that Italy hasn’t really “come to terms” with its past. However, historians and historians have been thinking about this point and about what it really means to “come to terms with the past”. Beyond the various positions, there is a certain consensus on the fact that the preferable path is not necessarily to remove these traces, if anything, to contextualize them, to historicize them: «Do you want to leave Mussolini’s writings? All right. But they are adequately completed» wrote Gianni Rodari in 1960, hoping for additions that would illustrate the consequences and suffering caused by fascism.

“Naturally this discourse is valid for the monuments of the thirties of the twentieth century, not for those of the tens of the two thousand” explains Albanese. « The point is: what relationship do we have with the history of that period? A process of resignification and historicization, in particular as done in Alto Adige, is certainly the right path, because it involves the community and takes note of the value choices that republican Italy has made». Albanian refers at the Victory Arch in Bolzanowhich was built by Mussolini in the 1920s and today houses an exhibition itinerary that invites us to reflect on the Fascist and Nazi dictatorships.

The map of fascist testimonies that survive in Italy – Il Post