it was the 1930s: Mussolini was in power, Fascism was here, and Italy was chosen as the site of the 1942 World’s Fair. of course, Il Duce wanted to showcase the resurgence of the country as the heirs to the glories of Ancient Rome, empowered by the Fascist ideals of nationalism. to do this, he started building a modern complex of buildings to the south of the city for the Esposizione Universale Roma: EUR. due to World War II, the World’s Fair never happened, but the buildings remained and EUR is now a business district full of a slightly out-of-place geometric modernity. the buildings are largely in Italian Rationalist style: linear and bereft of decoration, but with echoes of Ancient Rome in its columns and arches.
sidebar: practical matters in Italian, EUR is pronounced as a complete word, sort of like English “air”, not as individual letters. getting there is easy — just take Metro Line B south towards Laurentina; all EUR stops are labeled as such. in fact, this subway line (Rome’s first, predating Line A) was conceived of to bring people from the city center to EUR. i spent about three hours exploring and wandering this morning, although you could easily spend more if you go into the museums. if you’re hungry, the Palombini cafe near the Square Colosseum is a good place to stop for a caffè and a bite to eat (and it has free wifi).
the quote at the top of the Square Colosseum, loosely translated: “A nation of poets, of artists, of heroes, of saints, of thinkers, of scientists, of navigators, of travelers.”
the top of this building has a Mussolini quote in which he proclaims the Third Rome will grow on other hills, on the banks of the sacred river towards the sea. the development of EUR pushed the city’s expansion southward to the Mediterranean.
for me (someone who has always been enamored with 20th century monumental architecture), EUR is a fascinating glimpse at a vision of a modern Italy, one unencumbered and yet empowered by its past. as much as i loved the style and the mod vibe (especially all the dated commercial buildings from the last century), i admit to preferring the Rome of the city center, grittier and firmly rooted in its history.