How many things come to mind when you think of Italy? The art? The culture? The food? Well, these are just a few of the many experience the Bel Paese offers. In addition to great artists, painters, and musicians there are also important architects who have helped design towns based on concepts of beauty and functionality, have magnified the men with political and religious powers and have encouraged commercial development.
Considering the Middle Ages as a turning point, take a look at the urban architecture from the Renaissance where towns were considered as a unique element to be organized in their entirety.
During the first decades of the XIX Century, Italy experimented with the last great examples of urban architecture by means of a new way to design modern towns; construction of large buildings, “square” in shape and the use of white materials.
This was the era of rational architecture, developed in Europe, mostly in countries under the totalitarian regime. Rome, Milan and Turin became the action field for young architects coming out of the best Italian universities.
The main idea was to create a unique coherence between different buildings, “convert” them into a single object through their concise, classic and functional form in the “clear light of day.”
There are many such examples to enjoy in Italy, but the European Cultural Routes are worthy of a try. Single-themed itineraries which explore Italian beauty in very uncommon and sophisticated experiences.
A new route which begins in a small town in Romagna, full of symbols and buildings which bear witness to the Rational Architecture during Totalitarianism, Forlì.
Strolling along the streets is like living through the ages; from the Roman foundation, followed by the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the period of Fascism. In the main square, you can see something from every period in a clear and majestic way – the Romanesque Cathedral, the Mediaeval noble palaces and the main Post Office (an example of Rational Architecture) to name a few.
Let’s start: follow along Corso della Repubblica, the main road until you reach another square. Here is where the victory of WWI was celebrated and you’ll come across a special monument remembering the victims of this war. As it opens onto a large avenue (similar in design to those in Paris or Turin), you’ll note this unusual change for such a small town. You’ll see schools, technical vocational schools, an aviation school, housing for employees and public employees with electricity, indoor running water, plumbing and restrooms. At the end is the railway station, built exactly as the one in Milan.
This was Mussolini’s town. He also built the new town of Predappio, the town where he was born, and structures for housing summer camps for children (Colonie Estive) in Cesenatico, where Leonardo da Vinci worked. Architects Piacentini and Valle were responsible for the most important buildings of the area: schools, houses, libraries and public buildings. Everything representing a new age and the concept of the New Italy - functional, rational, organized, strong and powerful.
From Forlì, head towards the Adriatic Sea where you’ll come upon Cesenatico, a welcoming neighbourhood of fishermen which hosted huge buildings for children. The rational organization of space, in order to guarantee the correct physical and mental education of children, gave origin to gorgeous buildings, still visible today. The Colonia Agip, designed by the Architect Valle, is a spectacular example.
Moving back to the hills, we end up in Predappio, Mussolini’s hometown. Driving along the long road, you’ll enter the town. On the right and left, you’ll notice the homes built for the Caproni Aviation workers, the public offices, a primary school, the main square and, at the end on the left, the military station of the Carabinieri and the Casa del Fascio, a round and stately building where the National Fascist Party had its headquarters and which also was used for educational and political activities for youth and people in general.
Romagna is just the starting point of the Atrium Route and Italy has so much more to offer and see. Start with one of the more important cities such as Rome and surroundings (Latina and Sabaudia, for example). Enjoy one of the last projects of Urban Architecture in Italy.
Helpful Tips and Information
The Atrium Route is an international route. In addition to Italy, 7 other European countries are also included. For a complete list and general information, please visit http://www.atriumroute.eu/index.php/atrium-members-friends.
If you are in the area and interested in visiting, more information can be found on the Tourism Board’s website, http://www.turismo.fc.it/_vti_g2_1.aspx?rpstry=22_, or take a look at this very handy blog written by a local blogger www.21grammy.com.