Walking Guide: History of Fascism in Cosenza
What is Liberation Day?
Liberation Day, or Festa della Liberazione, in Italy takes place on April 25th. It commemorates the end of the Italian Civil War and the end of the Nazi Occupation of Italy during World War II. Liberation Day also pays special tribute to those who sacrificed their lives in order to put an end to 20 years of fascist dictatorship under Benito Mussolini and the Nazi troops that occupied Italy during the Second World War. This resistance led the way to the historical referendum of June 2, 1946, when Italy became a Republic and later created the Constitution of Italy in 1948.
Fascism in Cosenza
Even though it’s been over 70 years since the fall of the Fascist regime in Italy, there are still many places throughout Italy that still have remnants of this period.
I’ll be honest, I really didn’t know much about Fascism or Mussolini. I mean, I went to school in Toronto, so it wasn’t really something we studied. But, in an attempt to discover more about my current hometown, I discovered that you can still see fragments of the Fascist Era in Cosenza.
This year, on Liberation Day, I invited my new friend Nilla of Image Earth Travel and Nilla’s Photography (go check out her pages, she’s got some amazing pictures!) to join me for a walk to check out these sites.
I’ve decided to put together a walking guide so you can check out these places for yourself in case you ever find yourself in Cosenza.
Walking Guide: History of Fascism in Cosenza
Here is a helpful map that I’ve done up on Google Maps with the best route to take in order to see all these interesting sites.
Ok, so let’s get started!
Piazza Dei Bruzi
Let’s start at Piazza dei Bruzi. The City Hall of Cosenza sits on the confines of the historic centre but it stands out for its modern architecture . The building was inaugurated in 1959 and although it was constructed after the fall of the Fascist regime, you can’t help but notice its resemblance to Italian fascist architecture. It’s large, symmetrical and with little design details. If you look carefully, you’ll see some similarities to the Palazzo delle Civiltà (EUR, Rome) or the Giuseppe Sinigaglia Stadium (Como) which was actually commissioned by Mussolini and completed in 1927. I’ve tried to look into whether or not this was done intentionally, but I haven’t found anything. Regardless, it definitely caught my attention.
Piazza Dei Valdesi
Take a short detour across the river to Piazza dei Valdesi. Find the Mary Jane Pubhouse and look up. You’ll see a very faded stenciled quote – “Chi si ferma è perduto” (The one who hesitates is lost). This famous quote is one of many that Mussolini used in his speeches.
Piazza Francesco Crispi
Now let’s backtrack over the bridge again and head to Piazza Francesco Crispi. This square is home to La Fontana del Balilla, a white marble fountain built in the first decade of the Fascist period. The figure of Balilla, the Genoese boy who is said to have provoked an uprising against the Austrians in 1746 by throwing a rock at an Austrian official, stands dominantly atop the fountain as a symbol of the Italian people’s struggle for independence and unification.
Following the riverside along Lungobusento Tripoli, look carefully at the buildings that line the opposite side of the river. Look for the building with “DUCE” stenciled onto its exterior walls. “Duce” is the title that was given to Mussolini which means leader or commander. These stencils are considered cultural patrimony and cannot be painted over or tampered with.
Follow Via Rodi, and you’ll pass a large white building . It almost looks out of place in the historic centre. It was built in the 1930s and was once the headquarters of the G.I.L (Gioventù Italiana del Littorio) or the Youth Movement of the National Fascist Party. Today it is known as Cinema Italia or CineTeatro Aroldo Tieri and mainly holds special events.
Now let’s start heading away from the old town. Go along Via Isonzo until you reach a staircase seemingly guarded by two lions. This is known as the Scalata dei Leoni. Growing strong and tall between the two lions is an Araucaria Araucana tree. This species of tree grows in tropical climates and was imported from Africa while the Fascist regime was making their mark on the area.
As you climb the stairs, look up to the building on the right. See those letters on the side of the building? INCIS is an acronym for the Istituto Nazionale per le Case degli Impiegati Statali. This building in particular was one of its offices. The INCIS was created to build and make housing available for civil and military workers, especially those with lower income.
Take a look at the architecturally beautiful buildings that surround this square. They were all once INCIS housing. In the centre of Piazza Cappello stands the ex-Casa Littoria (Fascist Part Local Offices), which was inaugurated in February of 1934. At the time the square was called Piazza Michele Bianchi, after the First Secretary of the Fascist National Party, who was also Calabrian.
On March 30th, 1939, Mussolini came to Cosenza to this very square. There are many old photos showing Mussolini standing on the balcony of the building overlooking the square. Later, after the fall of the fascist regime, the square was renamed to Piazza Paolo Cappello in honor of a young socialist worker who was killed by a group of fascists.
Piazza XXV Luglio
Cross the street and down the steps to Piazza XXV Luglio (ex- Piazza Scanderbeg). This square was renamed to commemorate the actual date when a vote of no confidence was passed against Mussolini. As a result, the fascist party fell from power. In the centre of the square sits a fountain. Plaques surround the fountain paying tribute to those who fought and lost their lives for their homeland.
Let me know what you think of the walking guide and if you’d like to see more in the future. I had a lot of fun exploring my city, learning its history, and sharing it with you.