Predappio is a small town in Italy whose international fame arises from the fact that Benito Mussolini, the founder of Italian Fascism was born, and subsequently buried, there. However, its historical significance lies not lonely in this reason, but also because it was constructed entirely in the1930s and represents, in architectural terms, a form of celebration of the regime and a place where the myth of Mussolini was to be built. It was designed as a town which could welcome thousands of visitors, with buildings that were emblematic of the architectural styles of the Fascist period. It was intended to be the “City of the Duce”, and although its inhabitants have always shown themselves to be on the side of democracy, it has remained in the post -war years (and partly today) the site of “nostalgic” rallies which take place every year on specific dates during which the memory of Mussolini is celebrated.
Of the sites of memory in Italy, many of which have been “museified” and transformed into truly democratic cultural institutions, Predappio is one of the few in which “memory” is charged with ambiguity, imprisoned as it is within an unwanted conflict between its negative image and its cultural aspirations. Over recent years, the town council has begun a process focused on historical research, a revisit of the past and the discouragement of stereotypes and simplifications, in order to combat against the usual ideologised and politically weighted views of memory in the face of recurring temptations to mythologize or repress the past.
This is the background behind the creation, in a large building of high symbolic value currently in a state of decay, of the Casa del Fascio which will act as an international center for historical research tasked with the mission of studying and promoting an understanding of dictatorships and totalitarianism of the twentieth century. The center will include a major historical museum of Fascism, whose aim will be to provide information about the period between the two wars in Italy, and to enrich the historical museums of Italy country which, on the whole, limit their treatment of totalitarian regimes to the last two years of the Second World War.
A commission of experts is currently working on the content and forms of display for what will become the first museum in Italy on the history of Fascism. This involves major research into areas such as the relation between history and memory, means of communication, the emotional and cultural involvement of the audience (and in particular of young people), as well as the full potential of new technologies. The project aims to have a strongly European perspective, specifically a strong connection to those countries which see the elaboration of historical memory as a condition for the evolution of their own democratic systems.