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I’ve not been to what was the Colonia Marina XXVIII Ottobre at Cattolica since it was an abandoned cluster of some of the most intriguing, and bizarre, of all the many “colonie”, or summer camps, buildings commissioned by Mussolini’s government. Here were expressionist concrete buildings in the guise of stylised ships and locomotives for Italian youth to spend fascist summers by the sea. The design, dating from 1932, was by Clemente Busiri-Vici [1887-1965], and today’s shark pool, I discover from Suarez and Roia, architects of “Le Navi” was indeed once the canteen.
This reminded me of a trip I made some years ago to Calambrone to see the empty shell of the Colonia Maria Rosa Maltoni Mussolini designed, from 1925, by Angiolo Mazzoni [1894-1979], an architect who had married the daughter of Galeazzo Ciano, Mussolini’s Minister of Communications. The buildings were special, and haunting. But, should they be condemned physically as well as morally because of their fascist past?
In truth, the reason surviving Italian fascist “colonie” are largely abandoned has less to do with their political provenance and more to do with the fact that they are often set in remote locations, and finding new uses for them has not been easy.