Villa Mussolini, the former Villa Carpena, is located just beyond the Limits of the city of Predappio. Mussolini’s 1933 Freccia Oro motorcycle is on display in the garden. Inside there is the office where Mussolini worked; the uniform he wore in Milan on April 25, 1945, three days before he was shot by an Italian partisan; and the mirror in which, according to our guide, those sensitive to images of power and receptive to messages from beyond can glimpse the frozen reflection of Il Duce staring down at them.
In the garden behind the villa, an excommunicated Catholic priest, Father Giulio Maria Tam, presides over what can only be called a fascist mass. Tam has been known to tell his audience that his “real tunic is a black shirt, size XXL”. This is a reference to the volunteer Blackshirts, or Camicie Nerewhich constituted the paramilitary wing of the Italian National Fascist Party.
To begin, Tam says, “Comrade, ready! and the congregation stamps their feet once in unison. “Comrade, watch out! he then said. They trample again. Tam continues to attack homosexuals, immigrants and even the pope. “You look at the state of the church right now,” he said, “look at how religion has been diminished. Pope Francis has reached his peak. Religion seems to be made of peace, mercy and good Samaritans. It’s the Red Cross, not the Catholic Church! So what does Mussolini say? History will prove me right. Those gathered do the fascist one-armed salute – banned in Italy – over and over again. Some are heard saying “Bravo”, “Well said” and “He’s right”.
The villa’s owner, Domenico Morosini, renovated the building and renamed it Villa Mussolini in the early 2000s, after buying it from one of Mussolini’s sons. Today, he says, visitors come “from France, Slovakia, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, Spain, the United States, the United Kingdom. . . they come from everywhere.
And their number is on the rise. According to data collected by the province of Forlì-Cesena, where Predappio is nestled among the green hills of the Emilia-Romagna region, the number of Italians who visited the village in 2015 more than tripled compared to the last year. During the same period, the number of foreign tourists has increased more than tenfold.
“I came to show my children the good side of history”, proudly says a shopkeeper from Veneto who had brought his 12 and 15 year olds. An Austrian doctor who came with his wife said: “If Mussolini came back, he would fix things in Europe.
Our next stop was Predappio Tricolore, one of three stores nostalgic for burgeoning fascism in the city center, which operate despite Italy’s 1952 Scelba law, banning the sale of propaganda and merchandise offering “apologies” for the regime. fascist. Law enforcement has been inconsistent at best. Perhaps nowhere more so than in Predappio.
“I’ve had this license since 1983,” explains Pierluigi Pompignoli, the shop’s owner. “The souvenirs we have here of Mussolini are sold as the Pope is sold in Rome.” He points to specially wrapped Mussolini sugar packets. Merchandise also includes bronze busts of Il Duce, swastika clothing, commemorative batons and bottles of Castor oil, or castor oil, administered in large doses to Mussolini’s enemies. To this day in Italy, the expression “usere olive oilor “using castor oil” means forcing someone to do something against their will.
Elsewhere on the shelves are wine, beer and coffee mugs emblazoned with the strong-jawed profile of Mussolini or the mustachioed face of Adolf Hitler. Ladies’ thong underwear bears the fascist motto “Boia chi mollaor “Death to those who surrender”. A white cotton baby onesie features a child performing the one-armed fascist salute next to the words ‘Piccoli educhiamolior “Let’s educate them like children.” The store does a vibrant online business with customers all over the world.
Our final stop is Mussolini’s Crypt, reopened in 2019 for year-round visitation (the Mussolini family had it closed in 2017) by right-wing mayor Roberto Canali, backed by the Italian Brotherhood, whose election this that year ended more than 70 years of the left. wing rule in the village.
Canali said he wanted to promote the crypt as a tourist attraction to help boost the local economy, and it did indeed help. Fascist tourism is the only industry in this village. Revenues from tour tickets, souvenir sales, restaurants and hotel accommodation generate €20 million per year for the local economy.
The crypt, which would be the third most visited last residence in the world, behind those of Jim Morrison and Elvis Presley, welcomes a parade of nostalgics of fascism. They came to lay flowers and kiss the plaque bearing Mussolini’s name. Their ages span half a century. Few dress in a way that would identify their political leanings. They look like people who might live next door.
It is their comments that reveal them:
“What this man did is inexplicable. Something no other man has been able to do. We are the ones who want him back. Long live the Duce.
“Mussolini is an example to follow.”
“Giorgia [Meloni] is one of us. Now you will see how things change.
“I believe in Trump.”
Francesco Bertolucci is a journalist based in Viareggio, Italy. His work appeared on Rai 5 and in Domani, La Nazione and Junge Welt. Follow him on Instagram @francesco.bertolucci.
Stefano Morelli is an Italian photographer and visual anthropologist. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian and publications in Italy, Spain, Austria, Germany and Qatar. Follow him on Instagram @stefanomorelliphoto.