Those fond of contemporary history cannot but be fascinated by the remains of the great architecture of the fascist regime which are still visible throughout Romagna.
During the fascist period, due to new and intense regulatory plans, former summer camps, clinics, war factories, churches and even private villas transformed the region and the historic city centres of areas such as Forlì, Castrocaro Terme and Predappio, which was the birthplace of Benito Mussolini, leaving an indelible mark that is still visible today.
Through the development of the economic and tourism potential, architectural and urban planning projects aimed to create a model of progress and modernity that would serve as an example for the whole of Italy.
Forlì, like Predappio, was also a sort of test laboratory for the architects of the regime who were trying to make the perfect fascist city here.
The signs from that period are still very visible today, particularly if you follow one of the itineraries that wind through the main areas that contain examples of totalitarian-style architecture. Starting at the Railway Station, the monumental Piazzale della Vittoria, the Monument to the Fallen, the Aeronautical Institute, the Casa del Balilla [House of the Fascist Youth Movement], the Technical Industrial Institute and, moving towards the centre of the city, you will arrive at the Post Office Building, the State Offices Building and the Courthouse.
In order to increase the number of tourists who could pay homage to the native lands of the “great chief of Italy”, Mussolini also ordered significant building works at the small town of Castrocaro Terme.
In a short time, the spa town was revived thanks to the creation of new facilities, which are still open and working today: The Padiglione delle Feste e del Divertimento [Pavilion of Festivals and Entertainment], the Stabilimento Termale [Spa Centre], the Grand Hotel and Palazzo Piancastelli were all enriched with pictorial decorations and ceramics created by the famous Chini Furnaces of Borgo San Lorenzo.
The Terme of Castrocaro is today one of the most popular spas resorts in Italy, offering its guests a variety of services and offers.
A demonstration of these rationalistic tendencies is well represented at Predappio, a small town 15 km from Forlì in the heart of the valley of the River Rabbi.
Here, between 1925 and 1940, Benito Mussolini completed one of his many projects to celebrate his power, going so far as to completely redesign the town in order to idealise his “working class” origins in the eyes of the Italian people.
Today the town is a real urban museum, an original testament to the urban and architectural styles in vogue in the 1920s, which is now studied and cared for by experts of international renown.
Along the main avenue (Via Roma), which divides the town in two, the fascist architects experimented with innovative town planning solutions. There you will find the former Appennino Hotel, built to welcome the streams of pilgrims visiting Predappio; the Post and Telegraph Office; the Mercato dei Viveri [a food market]; the Case Economiche [affordable or social housing], assigned to the civil servants; Palazzo Varano, right up to the monumental Casa del Fascio [House of the Fascist Party] with its "virile and very modern" Littoria tower.
In addition to the edges of the province of Forlì and Cesena, there are many cities in Emilia-Romagna that still contain remnants of rationalist architecture. A special mention goes to the small town of Tresigallo, halfway between Ferrara and the valleys of Comacchio.
Between the shores and the hinterland of Romagna, you will find In Loco, an open-air project-museum dedicated to the memory of fascist construction and the architecture of the early twentieth century: there are no tickets required, no walls or confidential documents, just abandoned public and private spaces for visitors to explore.