Fascismo Abbandonato: The Children’s Colonie of Mussolini’s Italy
Dan Dubowitz, Essays by Patrick Duerden and Penny Lewis
Dewi Lewis Publishing, Stockport, 2010
The colonie were far removed from both the towns of Italy’s past and from the traditional structures of family and community. They offered a dramatic daily programme of activity with marching, synchronised exercise and gymnastics, flag raising, saluting and swearing of allegiance to the regime. It was a programme that in turn inspired architectural features in the buildings – including towers, ramps and elevated platforms – all designed to dramatise the parades and presentations by the young people. Even in the context of massive public works programmes, the building of the colonie offered unprecedented opportunities for progressive architects. They became a distinctive type of fascist building that evolved under the directives of the youth organisations.
Despite the spectacle of the buildings, official policy declared luxuries as anti-educational and anti-social. Accordingly only the most basic of accommodation was provided. Dormitories were intimidating, open plan and stark; each might accommodate several hundred children. Italian parents would routinely admonish recalcitrant children with the threat ‘ti mando in colonia!’ (Behave, or I’ll send you to the colonia!). For a generation of Italians the experience of fascism was a formative one, from which some never recovered.
An architect by training, artist and photographer Dan Dubowitz is also a cultural master-planner who has worked on major public arts projects both in the UK and abroad. Patrick Duerden is a well-respected architect and writer. Penny Lewis was editor of Prospect, the Scottish architecture magazine, from 2003-2008 and now lectures at the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen.