29 September 2021

Giorgio Frassineti - politician

Mayor who proposed museum of Fascism

Giorgio Frassineti was mayor of Predappio for 10 years, from 2009 to 2019
Giorgio Frassineti was mayor of Predappio
for 10 years, from 2009 to 2019
Giorgio Frassineti, the politician famous for proposing a museum dedicated to Fascism in Predappio, the birthplace of Benito Mussolini, was born on this day in 1964 in Forlì in Emilia-Romagna.

A member of the centre-left Partito Democratico, Frassineti served as mayor of Predappio from 2009 to 2019.

Predappio, around 18km (11 miles) south of Forlì, has a population of less than 6,500 and is not on the tourist trail.  Apart from by private car, it is accessible only by bus from Forlì, which is a pleasant small city but one that tourists mainly pass through on the way to Rimini and the Adriatic coast.

Yet 50,000 visitors a year descend on Predappio, mainly to visit the house where Mussolini was born in 1883, or the family mausoleum where his body was laid to rest following his execution by Italian partisans in 1945.

Despite his World War Two alliance with the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, Mussolini is still admired by some Italians and Predappio’s main street has shops that openly sell Fascist memorabilia, in part a cynical exploitation of the village’s evolution as a place of pilgrimage for Mussolini supporters, but in part also a reflection of the country’s more ambivalent attitude towards his memory.

Matteo Salvini, leader of the right-wing Lega party that won 17.4 per cent of the vote in the 2018 election, has spoken of Mussolini as someone who “built so many things”.

Giorgio Frassineti inside the building that was to house his museum
Giorgio Frassineti inside the building
that was to house his museum

Yet Frassineti was concerned that Il Duce’s reign was rather too fondly remembered in Predappio and in the year he was elected mayor the sale of Fascist souvenirs in the village was banned.

But it was his proposal, raised for the first time in 2014, to open a museum in Predappio dedicated to the history of Fascism that attracted national - and international - attention.

His plan was to house the museum on Predappio’s main square, renovating a former municipal building built in 1937 that had become known as the House of Fascism, a classic example of the stark, rationalist architecture that Mussolini wanted to be symbolic of the Fascist movement.

Given his concern that Predappio had become a place where the era of the Italian Fascists was celebrated, it seemed a counter-intuitive idea.  Critics immediately argued that such a museum would attract even more right-wing fanatics to the area.

But Frassineti, who wanted to preserve rather than destroy the buildings Mussolini had built in the village, said that the museum would be a place of reflection rather than celebration, where visitors could learn about the political and economic circumstances in which Fascism gained popularity, in the hope that future generations would never be drawn along the same path.

Predappio already owned the building that would house the museum, and Frassineti secured €3.5 million ($4m; £3m) in private and state funding for the plan. He assembled a team of historians, claiming that serious study of Mussolini’s dictatorship and racial laws would serve as an antidote to a rising tide of Fascist nostalgia.

Frassineti raised €3.5 million to convert Predappio's 'House of Fascism'
Frassineti raised €3.5 million to convert
Predappio's 'House of Fascism'
However, before the project could begin on the date proposed - in 2019 - Frassineti was defeated in the mayoral election of that year by Roberto Canali, a politician from the ultra-conservative Brothers of Italy party, which was backed by Salvini’s Lega party, and the project was cancelled.

Canali, the first right-wing mayor of Predappio for 70 years, stopped the centre on the grounds that architectural heritage inspectors objected to plans to demolish a staircase and add a floor in the building.

He also argued that the concept of historians trying to understand how Italy fell for fascism was not something to be encouraged because it would “exacerbate polemics and arguments”. 

However, Canali subsequently argued that Mussolini’s tomb should be open to the public all year round to “increase tourism” rather than limited to the anniversaries of his birth, death and the 1922 March on Rome, as it had been previously.

The entrance to the crypt that houses Mussolini's body
The entrance to the crypt
that houses Mussolini's body
Travel tip:

Predappio, where Mussolini was born in 1883, is a small town in Emilia-Romagna situated around 18km (11 miles) south of Forlì.  After a landslide hit the town in the winter of 1923-24, many people were left homeless, prompting the Italian government to build a bigger, more prestigious township to celebrate the birthplace of Mussolini, following the architectural styles favoured by the emerging Fascist regime. Along with the nearby town of Forlì, Predappio was given the title of La Città del Duce. After his death at the hands of partisans in 1945, the former dictator was buried in a family mausoleum in a cemetery just outside the town, which has become one of several attractions in the town for the neofascists who visit in their thousands each year.

Piazza Saffi stands at the heart of the city of Forlì in Emilia-Romagna
Piazza Saffi stands at the heart of the
city of Forlì in Emilia-Romagna
Travel tip:

With a population of almost 120,000, Forlì is a prosperous agricultural and industrial city with a beautiful central square, Piazza Saffi, which is named after Aurelio Saffi, a radical republican who was a prominent figure in the Risorgimento. Its major attractions include the Abbey of San Mercuriale and the Rocca di Ravaldino, the strategic fortress built by Girolamo Riario and sometimes known as the Rocca di Caterina Sforza.  The Abbey and the Church of San Domenico, which overlook Piazza Saffi, are both well preserved medieval buildings.

Also on this day:

1901: The birth of nuclear physicist Enrico Fermi

1913: The birth of footballer Silvio Pioli

1936: The birth of politician and entrepreneur Silvio Berlusconi


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