Instawalk: Rome’s EUR District, An Architectural Remnant of the Fascist Era

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.

EUR Panorama

So close, yet so far: This doesn’t look like the Rome we’re used to! The wide boulevards (watch out for speeding cars), the open spaces, “modern” architecture — it’s a world away. To the left is the Palazzo dei Congressi, ahead is the Obelisco di Marconi, and to the right is the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana.

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).


From the EUR Magliana subway stop in the upper left, this is the approximate path I took, ending at the EUR Palasport stop. Note the very planned and monumental layout of the complex.


An apartment building(?) near the EUR Magliana Metro station


Supposedly originally designed as a mausoleum for Mussolini, now the Basilica SS. Pietro e Paolo. Not much inside but it’s hard to *not* think of it as a mausoleum — creepy!

The symbol of the EUR, the "square colosseum"

The symbol of the EUR, the “Square Colosseum”, the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana. According to Wiki, it’s going to be the headquarters of Fendi starting next year.

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.”

Love love love dated architecture

The Palazzo Uffici, the first building to be built in the area, functioning then as the head of the World’s Fair organizing committee and now as the offices of the government-owned company that owns and manages the EUR land and buildings.

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.

I'm having way too much fun here

Palazzo dell’INA


Palazzo dei Congressi — closed when I was there, but worth a peek through the windows. There’s an unfinished mural and what looks to be a pretty grand open inner courtyard. Now a convention center, it hosted fencing for the 1960 Summer Olympics.


Arches, Viale Lincoln

Obelisco di Marconi

Obelisco di Marconi

How do I get in here?!

Towards the southern end of the district was a group of buildings that looked to be abandoned mid-construction. How I wished I could have gotten access!

Building behind the vines

Continue south to the Parco Centrale del Lago which surrounds the manmade Laghetto dell’EUR to find a park with fountains and waterfalls — and this small building hidden behind some vines. The upper part of the park that leads to the round PalaLottomatica (a sports/concert venue which hosted basketball and boxing during the 1960 Summer Games) was closed, but the views were nice from the base.

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.

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