About two weeks ago I visited the EUR district in Rome, in particular the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana (Italian Civilization Palace), which, since 2015 hosts the headquarters of Fendi , a fashion house born in Rome that quickly connected its name with Italian and international fashion. Fendi organized an exhibition called Les Journées Particulières, which aim was to highlight the house’s values of quality, craftsmanship and made in Italy, as well as the people who collaborate with Fendi.
The Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, also known as the Colosseo Quadrato (Square Colosseum) because of its shape and architecture details that recall the famous monument, started its construction in 1938. It’s history is connected to the history of the whole district of EUR, a district initiated by Benito Mussolini for the planned 1942 world exhibition(Esposizione universale), which was never held because of World War II. The name EUR comes from Esposizione Universale Roma (World Exhibition Rome)
That year, 1942 would have marked the 20th anniversary of Mussolini’s March on Rome (Italian: Marcia su Roma).Mussolini took control of Italy on the 28th of October 1922, control that came after following a march with his troops to Rome. A fact that connects the March on Rome to Greek history is that in 1940 Mussolini choose that day, October 28th, to declare war against Greece, a war that he loose and a war that, according to many historians, was crucial on the fall of the fascist and Nazism regimes.
To honor this anniversary Mussolini wanted to make a monument on fascism and this world exhibition was the perfect opportunity for him. The new buildings would work as mean of his fascist propaganda; he wanted to praise the ideals and superiority of his regime. The sign at Palazzo della Civiltà can give an idea of that “Un popolo di poeti di artisti di eroi, di santi di pensatori di scienziati, di navigatori, di trasmigratori” (A nation of poets, artists, heroes, saints, thinkers, scientists, explorers, migrants)
World War II caused the stop of the constructions and as a result the buildings were left incomplete and with huge damages. They remained like that for about twenty years, until they decided to complete their construction and use them for the upcoming 1960 Olympic Games. Even though Italians wanted to forget about their fascist period and tried to delete everything that was reminding them of Mussolini, including artworks and buildings, they decided to complete the constructions and use them not as means of propaganda but as means of learning and reminding, because “Those who do not learn History are doomed to repeat it”
EUR today is a lively neighborhood and the buildings who supposed to host the 1942 exhibition today host Offices, Museums, the State Archive, Congress Centers and Exhibition Areas. There is also a park with an artificial lake, the so called laghetto del EUR, a favorite spot for spring walks. Caffè Palombini is another trademark and local favorite, a bar that, in my opinion, makes one of the best cup of coffee you will try in Rome. In order, every weekend there is a vintage market in front of the Colosseo Quadrato that locals love to visit.
Colosseo Quadrato is the center of the district, and has been nominated as a building of cultural interest. In 2015 Fendi has signed a rental contract for the building, until 2025. As an ambassador for arts and culture, Fendi has organizzed a lot of exhibitions ever since, like the one I visited two weeks ago.
This last exhibition’s primary mission was to highlight Fendi’s craftsmanship values and the quality of the materials used for the production of it’s luxury goods. The artisans that work for Fendi were explaining the techniques used to produce everything, from handbags to armchairs. The most impressive part, in my opinion, was the live performance on how to make a shoe; the artisan was really making a shoe from scratch in front of our eyes.
EUR might not be the picturesque cobblestone alleys you have in mind when you speak about Rome but it can definitely give you an idea on modern life in Rome, a side of the city that you couldn’t imagine. EUR will take you back in a time period that feels so far from us but also so close to our times. Given the current political and social situation reflecting on your past mistakes may provide us of repeating them. That is alone a good reason to visit EUR.
To reach EUR you need to get the B line of the Metro, direction Laurentina and get off in the stop EUR Magliana or EUR Palasport.
Have you ever been to EUR? Let me know in the comments.