Mussolini believed that the transformation of Italy into a great and imperial power depended on a growing population and the central role of the family. Demographic policy, the “Battle of Births,” provided the road to revolution, fascist style: Italy must be prolific in order to assert itself among the nations of Europe and beyond. He declared: “The birth rate is not simply an index of the progressive power of the nation; it is not simply, as Spengler suggests, ‘Italy’s only weapon’; it is also an index of vitality and the will to pass on this vitality over the centuries. If we do not succeed in reversing this trend, all that the Fascist revolution has accomplished and will accomplish in the future will be perfectly useless, as at a certain point in time fields, schools, barracks, ships, and workshops will be empty.”1

The necessity of large families dictated fascist policies to women and children. Women should play the roles of wife and mother. Financial incentives included benefits for families with more than six children. Schools, medical care, and camps kept children alive and healthy. Single males paid a bachelor’s tax to encourage them to marry and start families. That tax helped finance the state agency that provided the benefits for mothers and their children, the National Agency for the Protection of Motherhood and Infancy, the Opera Nazionale per la Protezione della Maternità e dell’Infanzia, or ONMI.

The regime took great pride in the work of ONMI and other youth and health programs. Italy’s drive for power and empire could here take the form of benefits for mothers and children. It is no surprise that a major exhibit appeared in the newly cleared Circus Maximus in 1937, devoted to summer camps and assistance to youth, La Mostra delle Colonie Estive e dell’Assistenza all’Infanzia. The progressive architect Giuseppe Pagano hailed this effort for both its design and content:

Sunday June 20: the National Exhibit of Summer Camps and Assistance to Childhood has been opened by the Duce in Rome. The political-moral and social echo of this exposition, unique of its kind, that demonstrates the interest of the fascist State in the health of children, has passed naturally to the forefront. Such is the value of the content and so much interest is there in acknowledging a work so complex and complete, which is that of protecting and increasing the race, that every artistic evaluation relative to the “form” of the exposition must necessarily pass to second place compared to “content.”2

Two years later, the new building for ONMI, designed by Cesare Valli opened in Trastevere in a prominent location on the Lungotevere Ripa overlooking the Tiber.3

These policies led also to the glorification of “ruralization” and control of migration to the cities. Rural families produced more children than urban families. Fascist surveillance worked more easily and efficiently in the countryside, whereas migration to cities and urban crowding, it was feared, might lead to social unrest.

These ambitious policies for population growth and control fell far short of their goals. Marriage and birth rates improved somewhat, but not in the dramatic way Mussolini expected. In addition, migration to cities continued—nowhere more markedly than Rome. Migration, not more babies, doubled Rome’s population during fascist rule. The nearly 700,000 inhabitants of Rome in 1921 grew to 1,415,000 by 1941. Between 1931 and 1936 annual population growth was 4.3 percent, with an immigration of 34,000 people each year.4 By 1938, the government estimated an annual population increase of 50,000. Therefore it had to come as close as possible to building new housing for that number and to create new streets and other basic services such as water, sewers, lighting, and gas.5

The magnetic force attracting migration to Rome put pressure on the regime to provide more housing for all classes. Mussolini’s Rome included the construction of new neighborhoods to accommodate people moving from other parts of Italy to the capital as well as housing for established Roman residents displaced by the regime’s demolition projects. The pressures of growth required the regime to meet, in Mussolini’s words, “the problems of necessity,” such as housing, schools, churches, and hospitals.

5.1 ONMI Building, Trastevere, 2000



Fascist housing in Rome and elsewhere in Italy formed a part of the complex of policies and achievements that included new streets, modern buildings such as train stations and post offices, the liberation of ancient monuments, and the reconfiguration of urban spaces. Mussolini appeared in newspapers and newsreels as the driving force of Rome’s transformation, symbolizing the dynamic energy of the fascist revolution. He was that combination of revolutionary hero and government leader whose “shrewd awareness of the need to win the loyalty of the masses led him to direct much of his efforts toward them in the public realm of Italian cities.”6


The first and least expensive type of housing was the borgate, which was constructed in outlying areas to house people displaced by the demolition of neighborhoods in the center.7 The first use of the term borgata appeared in 1924 for Acilia, fifteen kilometers from Rome, built for the residents displaced by the clearance of areas on both sides of the Victor Emmanuel Monument. By 1940, the Governatorato boasted of Acilia’s fine accommodations and social services, including a building for the rural housewives’ organization, La Casa delle Massai Rurali.8 The regime planned to make the borgate part of the ruralization effort and sometimes spoke of them as borgate rurali.9 Efforts, however, to transform working class urban dwellers into farmers proved a difficult if not impossible task.10

Borgata is a subspecies of borgo: a piece of a city in the middle of the countryside that is really neither one nor the other.”11 Other borgate followed: San Basilio, Pietralata, Tufello, Val Melaina, Prenestina, Quarticciolo, Primavalle, Gordiani, Tor Marancio, Tiburtino III, and Trullo.12 Initially construction was shoddy, and such services as private water and electricity were lacking. By the 1930s the quality improved as the housing became part of the system of public housing, or case popolari.13

In theory, the borgate offered residents new lives that brought them out of cramped, unhealthy conditions to lower-density housing with fresh air and basic social services. These improved conditions should provide a more fecund environment to encourage more child-begetting, or so the regime hoped and expected.14 Mussolini boasted to a New York Times reporter that “in directing the population toward the hills and the sea we are clearing away all the unwholesome hovels, purging Rome, letting in air, light and sun,” which meant health for the nation.15 The new conditions would give space, air, gardens, fresh drinking water, and other benefits that a “fraternal and paternal fascism [offered] to the humble,” creating an environment in which children could “flower.”16

In practice, the inhabitants of the borgate suffered many disadvantages, most notably living far from jobs in the city, with no easy means of transportation to them and in conditions that undercut fascist claims about the quality of life. Carla Capponi, later a major figure in the Roman resistance, gave a stark picture of life: “I slept at Gordiani, which was the worst borgata of all. It was made up of shanties, with four families in each—wide open, I mean, and in the entrance you could see beds lying on the ground, perhaps on boards, or nothing, on packed earth or concrete, and there they would lay mattresses and the children all heaped on top.”17

One of the largest of the borgate was Primavalle, located several miles outside the city center. Its first housing provided dormitory accommodations for the homeless. The initial project had six hundred beds with separate facilities for men and women. Officials boasted of the showers, laundry, and medical aid available.18 It subsequently grew into a working-class town for people displaced by the demolitions in the historic center. The new residents came primarily from the areas demolished to open up the Tomb of Augustus, to create the Via della Conciliazione, and to widen the Corso Risorgimento, parallel to the Piazza Navona. Many of these transplanted Romans came from the working class and leaned to the left in their politics. The regime could much more easily keep an eye on them in the isolation of their new borgata.19 Its location several miles northwest of the Vatican effectively cut it off from easy access to the city. Primavalle and other borgate thus harbored displaced and disgruntled populations among whom antigovernment sentiment was common. In postwar Rome these areas became largely left-wing and antifascist in politics.20

One Primavalle resident recalled his family’s transfer to the borgata: “I still remember when the trucks came, with the Fascists who loaded us up with those few rags we had; my mother screaming and us kids, on the trucks, thought it was a holiday. It was a long journey that seemed endless. They made us get off at a place that was a few scattered little buildings and mud all over. They said the name of the place was Primavalle.”21

By the late 1930s the borgate ideally included all the necessary social and educational facilities. The Tiburtina borgata, east of the city center, housed six thousand workers. By the end of the decade, it had a school with thirty-two classrooms; an open-air school, or scuola all’aperto, with six outdoor pavilions; a gym; a party headquarters or Casa del Fascio; and a swimming pool. These facilities had cost 3,800,000 lire and employed eight hundred workers for the fifty days it took to construct them.22


The next level of housing was the case popolari, the public housing that the national government began before the fascist regime. The rapid growth of Rome as Italy’s capital after 1870 required working-class housing. New construction in the Testaccio neighborhood provided some, while a more ambitious project arose on the little Aventine Hill around the medieval church of San Saba. The Istituto Case Popolari (ICP) built an entire neighborhood around a central piazza that provided space for open-air market stalls and small shops. Work began before World War I and was completed immediately thereafter.23 Mussolini’s government took over the ICP and quickly expanded its scope through an ambitious program of public housing.24

The new fascist regime also inherited the work recently initiated just south of the Aurelian Wall in Garbatella and continued developing the neighborhood in the 1920s and 1930s. Garbatella represented the takeover and then the gradual transformation of a planned working-class neighborhood. Unlike that of the borgate, Garbatella’s placement put it very much within the planned expansion of the central city as a suburb for workers. The plan in the mid-1930s to develop what became EUR enhanced Garbatella’s location as Rome now expanded to the south, promising new road and rail facilities.

The original, prefascist plan for Garbatella featured winding streets designed to look more natural than a geometric grid. It embodied an English-garden approach to urban planning.25 Plans included a variety of housing patterns with ten different types, from single-family houses to multi-family apartments, with the streets converging on several major piazzas. Facing the Piazza Michele da Carbonara were several large buildings that included housing for those temporarily displaced by demolition and awaiting permanent housing. Innocenzo Sabbatini designed several of these suburban hotels, or alberghi suburbani, in the late 1920s, the most visible being the bright red Albergo Rosso, between the Piazza Carbonara and the Piazza Eugenio Biffi.26 Sabbatini sought in this “hotel for the evicted” and several of his other buildings to find new ways of providing public housing in large buildings, in some cases providing communal dining halls as in this one.

The more obviously fascist imprint on Garbatella took shape during the 1930s. Apartment complexes appeared that had similarities with public housing under construction in other areas of the city. For example, architect Giorgio Guidi designed a curved apartment building constructed in 1935 as case popolari on the Via Luigi Orlando in collaboration with the engineer Innocenzo Costantini. The building incorporated the latest construction techniques and provided twenty-seven apartments of two or three rooms each, plus kitchen and alcove. The design “realized a solution most economical for the exploitation of the habitable area.”27

The largest space in Garbatella was the Piazza Domenico Sauli. This piazza furnished another example of the more monumental fascist style emerging in the 1930s. The clear intent was to create a massive square containing major centers of civic life as defined by the fascist regime. Giovanni Brunetto designed the massive school built in 1930 and named for the recently deceased fascist leader Michele Bianchi that dominated the piazza on the south side. On the opposite north side were businesses and stores in the characteristic brick and travertine materials of the 1930s.

Set in the middle of the piazza was the church of San Francesco Severio, typical in design of many of Rome’s churches from the period. Inside the church today one finds a dramatic painting of Pope Pius XII with outstretched arms before a crowd of Roman citizens. It is based on a photograph from 1943 when Pius visited bomb-damaged areas of the city. It was a dark time for Rome, given Mussolini’s ouster from office and the Allied invasion of Sicily and then mainland Italy. The king abandoned the city to seek safety behind Allied lines in the south. The mural captures the drama of Pius XII reasserting leadership in the city at the time of fascism’s demise, Italy’s defeat, and the beginning of the armed resistance.

5.2 Albergo Rosso, Garbatella, 1999


Case popolari sites appeared in neighborhoods throughout the city. In some instances, they were scarcely distinguishable on the exterior from more expensive, middle-class housing, case convenzionate, although apartments inside were more modest in size. Innocenzo Sabbatini’s innovative design for an ICP project on the Via della Lega Lombarda in the Nomentana quarter in 1930 offered one example. The triangular building had layered, stepping-stone stories.28

Case popolari projects continued throughout the 1930s, often becoming larger and embodying more sophisticated concepts of urban planning. The complex on the Via Donna Olimpia on the Janiculum Hill demonstrated these trends. The project included housing for nearly three hundred families in a series of buildings of eight stories each. The plan included a church, a school, and other services such as those offered by the ONMI. Mussolini attended the opening in 1939 with lavish attention from the press. The regime boasted of its success in planning: “In the field of high density public housing, the example is given precisely of how much better it can be done when there is the coordination of training based on long experience with the healthy economy and the rigorous directives of autarchy.”29

Once again, the recollections of a resident convey a different picture of life in the new housing project. Goffredo Cappelletti, born in 1930, told an interviewer in 1997:

I lived in Donna Olimpia. They build these big projects, the [so-called] skyscrapers, and in my way of thinking these projects were not conceived in order to give a home to working people. They were conceived in order to concentrate the people who were adverse to Fascism in strategic places, where they could be controlled easily. This is my opinion. Because my father owned his own house [near] the Colosseum, where I was born, and practically he was expelled when they were making via dell’Impero in ’30, and they gave him a place in these projects.30


The need for housing increased more rapidly than the ability of the government to meet it through such public housing. A different approach emerged by the 1930s, in which the Roman Governatorato worked in partnership with quasi-public and private firms to provide large numbers of new apartments, known as case convenzionate, for Rome’s rapidly growing population. This new program led to the construction of buildings in already populated neighborhoods and, quite dramatically, in completely new neighborhoods.

In 1928, the government lifted rent restrictions imposed in 1917. Rents immediately surged, and many families faced eviction. This development coincided with the influx of newcomers to the city. A new law created “conventional housing,” or the case convenzionate, by providing financial incentives to banks, insurance companies, manufacturers, real estate companies, and construction firms for apartments built with the understanding that rents would be affordable for the working- and middle classes. The law provided also for fixed rents for five years. Thus thousands of families could now afford new apartments, and the firms building them were guaranteed a steady return on their investment.31

Governor Prince Ludovico Boncompagni Ludovisi supervised the first projects that would meet the housing “crisis” facing the rapidly growing city. Although the Governatorato stayed out of the building business, it exercised control in return for subsidies and guarantees. In particular, it had to approve of the tenants assigned to the case convenzionate through its Office of Social Assistance, the Ufficio di Assistenza Sociale.32 Potential tenants had to respond to a set of questions. The decisions on who gained admission endeavored to avoid “any appearance of arbitrariness and favoritism,” and used five criteria to assess applicants: (1) disabled from the war or the fascist revolution; (2) large families; (3) veterans and decorated veterans of the war; (4) workers and pensioners of the Governatorato; and (5) those evicted by judicial authority for reasons other than failure to pay rent or questions of “morality.”33

5.3 Case popolari on the Via Donna Olimpia, 1938


The Società Generale Immobiliare, SGI, became one of the major firms in this type of housing. With its origins in the nineteenth century, the SGI had developed into a major construction and real estate business in Rome and “under Fascism financed the clearances in the city centre. In 1935 the Vatican took control of SGI (25 percent of shares) using part of the money it had acquired from the Italian government as negotiated in the Lateran Pact of 1929.”34 Another major provider of funds for the case convenzionatewas the national insurance giant Istituto Nazionale Assicurazioni (INA). These and other firms produced the apartments that the Governatorato then allocated to families. The combination of private financing and public control of residents thus gave the fascist regime another layer of housing above the borgate and the case popolari that provided means for the development of new neighborhoods in Rome.

The law of 1928 and regulations led to an upsurge in building. Both the SGI and the INA took part in the construction of case convenzionate in a number of quarters of the city such as Flaminio, Prenestino, Nomentana, and Appio. One report on activity in 1930 showed that new apartments could accommodate nearly two thousand families. Thus the regime demonstrated once again its ability to meet the needs of the growing city, claiming “another victory of the Regime and its Head, less apparent, because more complex and scattered, but no less profound and salutary than others.”35

The apartments typically had up to three rooms and a kitchen. A few had four rooms and a very few five rooms, the latter no doubt for those families responding successfully to the challenge to produce more children. The family depicted in the 1977 Italian filmUna Giornata Particolare (A Special Day) lived in such an apartment on the Viale XXI Aprile. Sophia Loren portrayed the mother of six children and thinking of a seventh to qualify for the special subsidy from the government. Her husband worked for the regime and thus received special consideration for the apartment as a government employee.36

The apartment in the film was part of the largest single project of the case convenzionate type. Located at 21-29 Viale XXI Aprile, it consisted of two large buildings with 442 apartments, 70 stores, a parking garage, and a cinema that is today a supermarket. Mario De Renzi designed the complex whose buildings reached eight to ten floors in height, real “high risers” by traditional Roman standards but not unusual in this new type of housing.

The Viale XXI Aprile extended out from the Piazza Bologna, where one of the regime’s four major post offices was completed in 1935. In fact, the whole neighborhood radiating out on all sides from the Piazza Bologna arose in the 1930s. It remains today as one of the most extensive areas of Rome produced during the fascist period. The case convenzionate type of apartment building dominates the neighborhood. A walk through its streets provides a clear view of what Mussolini’s Rome furnished for its citizens of the “middling sort.”

The case convenzionate also appeared prominently in the Flamino, Prenestino, Via Taranto, Corso Trieste, and Piazza Mazzini neighborhoods. Prenestino was also the location of a film Roma Città Aperta (Rome Open City), director Roberto Rossellini’s neorealist masterpiece about Roman life under Nazi occupation. The apartment scenes take place in a large casa convenzionate on Via Montecuccoli, off the Via Prenestina.37

5.4 Case convenzionate, Viale XXI Aprile, 2000


5.5 Case convenzionate, Prenestino neighborhood, 1930


The fascist regime also administered the Istituto per le Case dei Dipendenti del Governatorato di Roma, known as INCIS, which had its origins in 1920 to provide housing for city employees. This type of housing resembled in design and quality the case convenzionate and some of the case popolari. Mario De Renzi, for example, designed the building on Via Andrea Doria, 1-27, which opened in 1930, adjacent to recently constructed case popolari.38 This area, the Prati neighborhood in the shadow of St. Peter’s, bordered the Trionfale Quarter, which also expanded markedly in the 1920s and early 1930s. Included in the latter neighborhood expansion were Innocenzo Sabbatini’s casa popolari at Via Trionfale, 120-126, opened in 1925, and the Governatorato’s large office building and parking garage, the Autoparco Centrale della Pubblica Sicurezza, in 1930 at the corner of Via Trionfale and the Via Andrea Dorea.39

Another large INCIS project went up just outside the Aurelian Wall between the Porta Latina and the Piazza di Porta Metronia, not far from the Lateran. Once again, the new housing would replace what the regime saw as old and decrepit housing hastily built early in the century during the decadent days of Liberal Italy. Mussolini appeared on site in May 1938 to inaugurate construction. 40 The complex included a middle school on the Viale Metronio, surrounded by the new apartment buildings.

Other projects appeared in the Via Taranto and Piazza Mazzini neighborhoods. 41 In fact, the four new post offices sponsored by the government illustrated both its support of innovative architecture and its planned expansion of neighborhoods. Each of the locations—Via Taranto, Viale Mazzini, Via Marmorata, and Piazza Bologna—was central to the development of a new area of the city.42

5.6 Mussolini at the cornerstone laying for the INCIS housing at the Porta Metronia, 1938


5.7 Model for the INCIS housing at Porta Metronia, 1938


5.8 Via Porta Angelica, 2003


The development of the Via Porta Angelica between Bernini’s colonnade in front of St. Peter’s and the Piazza Risorgimento served as another dramatic example of new construction in an old neighborhood. The four-block area constituted part of the urban reclamation analogous to the land reclamation of the Pontine Marshes. In this case, it was “building reclamation,” or bonifica edilizia. This work followed from the project under way to construct the Via della Conciliazione. It would redeem the neighborhood by getting rid of a “picturesque and characteristic area of old Rome, but [now] in such a condition of indecorous and miserable decadence as to be no longer tolerable.”43

The Società Generale Immobiliare expropriated the land in collaboration with the Governatorato. After demolition of the existing structures, building began on the four blocks of the Via Porta Angelica. The ground floor of each building accommodated offices and stores, but the upper five stories supplied apartments of three to six rooms. Altogether the four buildings contained 160 apartments. Construction took place in 1940 and 1941.44


The upper level of housing in the period carried the names of palazzini and villini. As the names imply, these were apartments suggestive of the level of a palazzo or a villa. They appeared in more modest-sized buildings that were freestanding, often with gardens and shrubs enhancing the appearance. Usually villini were two to three stories and palazzine, three to five.45 While such buildings could appear in spaces within the historic center, they became particularly conspicuous in new neighborhoods just beyond the historic center. Their occupants thus enjoyed both the prestige and comfort of the best new housing in Rome and the convenience of proximity to its center. This type of housing, sometimes described as signorili, or “lordly,” dominated both the Aventine Hill and Parioli neighborhoods.


The villas and apartment houses of the Aventine Hill are almost completely the products of the fascist and immediate postwar years. The Aventine lay within the historic center defined by the third-century Aurelian Wall, but by the twentieth century it had little residential housing. Churches, monasteries, convents, and the Knights of Malta accounted for most of its buildings. The fascist transformation of the historic center from the Victor Emmanuel Monument to the Circus Maximus and around to the Colosseum and back included the Aventine. The new Via Circo Massimo ran along the Aventine slope overlooking the Circus Maximus, and the new Via del Mare connected the hill with the Piazza Venezia.

The Aventine, one of ancient Rome’s seven hills, was convenient to downtown Rome and now lay within the area under intense development by the fascist regime. At one point, Mussolini considered building the fascist party headquarters on the Viale Aventino before it was finally decided to construct it at the Foro Mussolini. Apartments sprang up in the late 1920s that began the trend toward residential development. The additions in the mid-1930s took on the look of similar construction at that time, with the brick walls and travertine-bordered windows now found throughout the city.46

The Via San Alberto Magno, just south of Santa Sabina, has a solid wall of apartments from the 1930s. In the middle building there are three arches to accommodate both auto and pedestrian traffic. Beyond the arches opened a view down the Via di S. Domenico, with similar apartment buildings on both sides of the street. Nearby at the Piazza Santa Prisca, the Via di Terme Deciane offers a similar view. These apartments offered suitable accommodations for middle-and upper-middle-class Romans, including fascist officials.

The trattoria Castel dei Cesari, just above the church of Santa Prisca, provided a dramatic view across the Circus Maximus to the Palatine. When Mussolini received the property as a gift, he turned it over to the Balilla. The youth organization rebuilt it as one of its principal facilities in the historic center. Plans went ahead for placing Mazzini’s statue between it and the Circus Maximus on the new (1934) Piazzale Romolo e Remo, although that did not take place until after the war. Antonio Muñoz completed the restoration project for the church of Santa Sabina in 1936-1937, and the park adjacent to the church was also developed at this time.47 The park, known as the Parco Savello or Orange Grove Park, includes a panoramic view across the river to Trastevere and up the river to the dome of St. Peter’s.

The attraction of the Aventine neighborhood was further enhanced by the work accomplished around the Porta San Paolo. Another new park, the Parco Cestio, appeared behind Libera’s post office, which faced the Via Marmorata. The park site was the same one proposed in 1937 for the fascist party headquarters, the Palazzo del Littorio. The regime sponsored a design competition for the latter but decided subsequently to locate the building at the Foro Mussolini. 48 There were rail connections nearby to the Lido, and the new Ostiense station opened in 1938. Apartment buildings went up on the Viale Aventino after it reopened in 1934 from the Porta San Paolo to the Circus Maximus. The broad Viale Ostiense stretched south of Porta San Paolo, to Garbatella. It underwent extensive development, especially with case convenzionate.49 The whole area, from the Aventine south, developed out of Mussolini’s plan to extend Rome to the sea beginning with the Via del Mare project.

The Via Marmorata runs from the Porta San Paolo to the Tiber, with the Aventine Hill on the right and the Testaccio neighborhood to the left. It underwent significant development during the fascist period, both before and after the Piano Regolatore of 1931. A new fire station appeared in 1929 directly across the street from the site used six years later for the new post office. Apartment buildings of the case popolari type went up in Testaccio. One of the most striking examples faced the Via Marmorata in the block between the Via Luigi Vanvitelli and the Via Giovanni Branca. Architects Innocenzo Sabbatini and Innocenzo Costantini designed two apartment buildings completed in 1930.50 The street was widened at the point where it reached the Tiber at the Piazza dell’ Emporio, with new brick embankments opposite the Fontana delle Anfore, built in 1925.51

These neighborhoods arose outside the historic center and thus out of sight for journalists and tourists visiting Mussolini’s Rome, but they housed thousands of new Romans and were visible to thousands more who lived and worked in the city. The sheer volume of construction undergirded the image of Mussolini the costruttore, who guided the building of a Rome worthy of the new and imperial Italy. Rome and its dynamic growth symbolized an Italy that the regime likened to a vast shipyard, or cantiere, of constant construction. Mussolini regularly appeared as the leader of the effort, the capocantiere, in newsreels and newspaper photos.52

5.9 Case popolari, Via Marmorata, Testaccio neighborhood, 2000



The Parioli neighborhood occupies the area north of the Piazza del Popolo and the Porta Flaminia, adjacent to the Villa Borghese park. The Tiber defines its borders to the west and north, the Villa Glori to the northeast, and the large Villa Adda park to the east. This area provided ample space for sports facilities and the Campo Dux of the regime’s youth groups. The higher ground of Monte Parioli provided the space for the higher-end housing of the 1930s that defines the neighborhood to this day.

The Viale Maresciallo Pilsudski ran from the Via Flaminia, past the Stadium of the National Fascist Party, up to the Villa Glori. The stadium had opened in 1911 to commemorate fifty years of Italian unity and then underwent expansion by Marcello Piacentini to become the Stadio del PNF, with a capacity of 30,000 spectators. The Villa Glori held a monument to those Romans who fell in World War I. At the summit of the street, where it reaches the Villa Glori, the Governatorato constructed a monument to Josef Pilsudksi (1867-1935) with a bust of the Polish leader mounted on a column dedicated on December 19, 1937: “Next to the main entrance to this Roman Park of Remembrance, where four streets open and one of them descends to the Tiber, at the celebrated fonte of the Acqua Acetosa, there has been raised in a dignified way by the Governatorato of Rome a great bust of the Condottierio who has restored to Poland its place in the world.”53 Pilsudski was Poland’s national hero who led the rebirth of the nation after World War I and defeated the Bolshevik Red Army in the 1919-1920 war.

Just beyond the Pilsudksi monument and opposite the entrance to the Villa Glori, the immense church of the Cuore Immacolato di Maria, designed by Armando Brasini and completed in 1923, dominated the Piazza Euclide.54 The broad Viale Parioli snaked from there, south to the Piazza Ungheria, which contained another fascist-era church, dedicated to San Roberto Bellarmino. The street running from the Piazza Ungheria back to the Via Flaminia was dedicated to the martyrs of fascism, the Viale dei Martiri Fascisti. This new street brought “a notable contribution to dispersing city traffic” and would improve the flow of traffic in the Parioli and Flaminio areas.55 After World War II it gained a new name, Bruno Buozzi, after the antifascist and socialist leader executed by the Germans in 1944.56 Within the borders of these streets—Flaminia, Pilsudski, Parioli, and Martiri Fascisti—arose the new Parioli district.

The architects Mario Paniconi and Giulio Pediconi were celebrated for their modern apartment house overlooking the stadium of the fascist party, the Stadio del PNF.57 Its location on the Via Cavalier d’Arpino gave its occupants a sweeping view of the whole area. The architects employed materials in accordance with the regime’s drive for autarchy, which meant limiting the use of imported metal in the building’s construction. The building contained only two ample apartments and represented the most expensive and prestigious housing available in Rome, the villini.“Demolished in the Sixties, the villino Pantanella testified to an architectonic research very close to the lexicon of European rationalism and in particular to the work of Le Corbusier.”58

Mario Ridolfi designed the palazzina at Via S.Valentino, 21, completed in 1936 and containing three large apartments. His design provided ample light and space carefully planned for functionality.59 Ridolfi collaborated on this project and also on a palazzina of similar size and design at 39 Viale di Villa Massimo, near the Piazza Bologna, with Wolfgang Frankl. Both buildings are notable examples of modernist, rationalist domestic architecture.60

Back in Parioli, the long and winding Via Archimede was the site of many more expensive apartments in modern buildings. Gino Franzi’s palazzina of six floors opened in 1930, with the upper five floors each containing one apartment, and “considered one of the first ‘modern’ apartment houses built in Rome.”61 Nearby, a five- story palazzina appeared in 1936 designed by Mario Tufaroli Luciano. It too had one apartment on each floor.62 Another example was at the corner of the Via Guidubaldo del Monte by architect Luigi Piccinato, opened in 1939. The design took full advantage of the location to give maximum light and panoramic views. In fact, this and many of the apartments in the area featured balconies for precisely that reason.63 These buildings also frequently provided garage space for private automobiles. Collectively they demonstrate that the modern architectural style favored by Pagano remained important for the highest-priced housing in fascist Rome.


Similar housing appeared on both sides of the Parioli district. The area to the west, between the Via Flaminia and the Tiber, developed at the same time. Gino Franzi produced a building of five stories, with two apartments on each floor, on the Via Maria Adelaide. Each apartment had a living room, dining room, study, three bedrooms, and servants’ quarters.64 Other examples lined the Lungotevere Flaminia. A rather large complex of five buildings containing palazzine by Angelo Di Castro was completed in 1937.65 A corner building of seven stories, also on the Lungotevere Flaminia, was designed by Ugo Luccichenti and completed in 1939.66 Mario De Renzi and Giorgio Calza Bini collaborated on the striking Palazzina Furmanmik on the corner of Via Canina, which today houses the offices of the Diners Club.67

On the eastern border of Parioli between the Piazza Ungheria and the Villa Ada park was another area developed with the more expensive housing of palazzine. The Via Panama runs alongside the Villa Ada, and the Via Bruxelles runs parallel to the Via Panama one block away. Andrea Busiri Vici designed the four-story apartment house on the Via Bruxelles, completed in 1935. The below-ground garage provided eight parking spaces, one for each apartment. The outdoor terraces wrapped around the three sides of the building.68 Mario Tufaroli Luciano completed two projects on the Via Panama. The first, completed by 1936, had five stories, with eight apartments on each floor. Although more modest than some other examples, each apartment had seven rooms with a separate service entrance and staircase and a projecting terrace.69 The second project contained two five-story buildings. The design of each was different, but the ground floors and the similar sizes and shapes tie the two together.70 Mario De Renzi also designed a palazzinaon the Via Panama by the Piazza Cuba in 1929.71

The broad Corso Trieste lay just to the south of this neighborhood on the way to the Via Nomentana. It developed in the 1930s as another fashionable area with substantial housing and public buildings. Pietro Aschieri designed the six-story palazzina on the corner of the Piazza Trasimeno and the Corso Trieste, which opened in 1931.72 The Corso Trieste was also the location of one of the period’s largest schools, the Liceo Giulio Cesare, designed by Cesare Valle, which opened in 1937.73

These new residential neighborhoods also required new parish churches. For example, in the Piazza Ugheria, the church of San Roberto Bellarmino was designed by Clemente Busiri Vici and completed in 1933.74 Another notable public building in this area dominated the Via Romania: the Caserma Mussolini, completed in 1935.75 This building occupies a triangular lot with curved walls and a tower at the apex of the triangle. The design and brick construction were similar to the post office at the Palazzo Bologna.

The more expensive housing of the palazzine and villini also appeared in neighborhoods with mixed housing, especially case convenzionate, but also case popolari. The area near the Lateran and just outside the Aurelian Wall near the Porta Latina, Porta Metronia, and Porta San Giovanni offers a good example. In 1936, the architect Mario Paniconi’s Casa Ceradini included twelve spacious apartments with balconies. The apartment building stood at the foot of the new fascist street, Via Amba Aradam, on the Piazzale Metronia, adjacent to the more modest complex of INCIS housing, noted previously, that would appear a few years later.76 The new neighborhood school had opened in 1932 on the Via Vetulonia, just beyond the Porta Latina.77

5.10 Caserma Mussolini, Viale Romania, 1938


Beyond the Villa Ada and the Via Salaria, adjacent to the Via Nomentana, was the area of Monte Sacro. Its development began early in the century but accelerated during the fascist period. The regime built a major complex of sports and fitness facilities for the Gioventù Italiana del Littorio in 1935. Gaetano Minnucci designed the project, which included a pool, a gym, locker rooms, a solarium, a theater, and a school for home economics.78

The expansion of Rome south of the center led to Ostia on the sea. It too underwent major housing expansion in the 1930s. The Società Immobiliare Tirrenna sponsored a competition to spur housing development that envisaged a group of fifteen buildings. Adalberto Libera ended up designing four of the villini included in this group.79 Ostia also boasted a strikingly designed post office by Angiolo Mazzoni.80


As we noted in touring these new neighborhoods, new churches as well as new housing went up. The Lateran Accords of 1929 did not prevent tensions between the fascist regime and the church, but they opened the way for Mussolini to show the people that his regime recognized Catholicism as Italy’s official religion. One way was in the provision for new parish churches. The number of parishes in the city during the 1930s rose from 64 to 103.81 In some instances, special recognition went to new churches deemed particularly noteworthy for their style. The church of Christ the King, Cristo Re, on the Viale Mazzini, designed by Marcello Piacentini and completed in 1934, was one of them. Its red brick construction and its twin towers embodied a modern religious building that “continues the tradition of monumentality proper to Rome.”82 Another indication of government support for local churches was the restorations by Muñoz of such ancient churches as Santa Sabina, Santa Balbina, and San Giorgio al Velabro.

The regime boasted of its efforts to improve the health of the nation. Social services, slum clearance, schools, camps, youth programs, and benefits for mothers and infants all played their roles. Major programs were designed to reduce tuberculosis and malaria. Clinics opened in new neighborhoods, and the borgate and several hospitals arose. The two largest and most often featured by the government were the Ospedale Littorio and the Sanitorio Carlo Forlanini, adjacent to each other on Monteverde, just south of the Janiculum.83

This survey of housing types and neighborhoods underscores the rapid expansion of the city and its population during fascism’s two decades of rule. The sheer volume of Rome’s growth played an integral part in Mussolini’s attempt to show that the fascist revolution could indeed work miracles. Here was proof of fascism’s ability to be modern while reinventing the glorious past of the Roman Empire. The theme of Mussolini as builder of the new Rome played a central role in fascist propaganda right up to the end. Here it is in a German publication written in 1942 but not published until August 1943, after the coup that toppled Mussolini and put him under arrest:

Only someone, after having known Rome before the advent of fascism to power, seeing it today after twenty years of the Regime, can value what the Duce has done for Rome in this period. The city now is extended externally in a surprising measure and has reached the greatness of the capital of the first empire under Augustus: in 1870, when Rome became capital of Italy, it had only 226,000 inhabitants. In 1922, when Mussolini accomplished the March on Rome, it counted around 700,000 people. In one decade of the fascist regime the population had grown almost as much as in the fifty years preceding. In 1932 it passed one million inhabitants, and in 1942 it boasted 1,450,000. With that Mussolini has clearly doubled, in scarcely twenty years of work, the number of inhabitants of Rome. Naturally this incredible development must bring with it a decisive change in the image of the city.84

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