Fascism is known as the archetype of a nationalist and aggressive dictatorship. The first years of Mussolini's
government (he became Prime Minister in 1922) however were marked by a greater attention to domestic issues rather than foreign
policies. One of his biographers (Paolo Monelli) called this period Mussolini piccolo borghese where piccolo borghese is a
reference to the emerging middle class in post WWI Italy.
In Rome this class was mainly composed of civil servants, people with a certain degree of education and the desire to imitate the standard of living of the upper classes, but prevented from doing so by a rather meagre salary.
While in the previous centuries the idea of a summer vacation was strictly linked to a villa on a hill, towards the end of the XIXth century sea bathing became a more exciting way to escape the heat: the beaches of Lido di Venezia (where Thomas Mann set Death in Venice) and Viareggio with their luxury hotels attracted the rich who found rather boring the traditional villeggiatura. With the intent of meeting the expectations of the Romans who could not afford any travel expense, the government developed Lido di Ostia, a beach near the ruins of ancient Ostia, a long stretch of rather blackish sand in an unpopulated area which until few years before had been regarded as very unhealthy.
Decorations in the hall of the Roma - Lido di Ostia Railway Station
The basic idea behind the development of the new beach was that the Romans would have their summer vacation at the sea ... staying home and travelling every day back and forth from Rome to Lido di Ostia. For this purpose a fast electric railway was completed in 1924 near Porta S. Paolo: the circle line tramway made this location within easy reach from all parts of Rome. The decoration of the railway station gave travellers an anticipation of the joys of their day at the beach.
Although at the time of Ancient Rome the coastline was closer to Ostia and the area of the current beach was under water, nevertheless the gardens of Lido di Ostia were decorated with some ruins to give them a "touch of class". A monumental church allowed those who had left home in a hurry to attend Sunday mass before going to the beach and maybe have an occasion to sin again.
Decorations in Palazzo della Delegazione Municipale (1924-26)
The main building of Lido di Ostia was decorated with several elements of the nationalist rhetoric Fascism was in the process of developing (Roman eagles, she-wolves, arrows), but these were contradicted by other references to much more domestic and middle class desires.
Today Lido di Ostia is a large residential quarter still part of the municipality of Rome, but the Romans continue to go there on a daily basis using the electric railway: bathing establishments have special rate arrangements with companies and public offices and during the week most mothers go there with their children and continue, at the beach, the social life they pursued in Rome.
Some sections of the beach with limited facilities can be freely accessed. In recent years a very long free beach has been opened to the public south of Lido di Ostia. It belonged to a summer residence of the President of the Republic. People used to trespass through holes in the fence and the beach became known as il Buco (the Hole): it was not a beach for families to say the least. In the end a minor section was retained by the Presidential residence and it was better guarded while the major part of the beach was opened to the public: it is divided into two sections: one known as i cancelli (the gates) is a sort of expansion of the free beaches of Lido di Ostia; the other, known as Capocotta, caters for naturists.
Tor S. Michele
Lido di Ostia borders on the north with the Tiber: here at the mouth of the river (today a few hundred yards inland) Pope Pius IV decided to build a tower to serve as an early warning of the arrival of corsairs. Its design is attributed to Michelangelo although we know for sure it was completed by Nanni di Baccio Bigio in 1568 when Pope Pius V had already replaced Pius IV.
Note: the photos of the beach were taken in May.
Other Days of Peace pages:
A Sunny Day in Villa Borghese
At the Flea Market
Voicing Your Views and feeling better!
A visit to Roseto di Roma
Christmas in Rome
Celebrating the Foundation of Rome
The procession of La Madonna de Noantri
Running the Marathon
Watching the Parade
Finding Solace at the Protestant Cemetery
Attending 2007 July Events
Rome's Sleepless Night
Attending Winter Ceremonies
Jogging at Valle delle Camene
Sailing on the River to see the Bridges of Roma
An October Outing to Marino
Attending a Funeral ...and enjoying it!
A Special Spring Weekend
Embassy-hunting in Parioli
Celebrating Eritrean Michaelmas in Rome
Visiting Rome at Dawn
Visiting Rome in the Moonlight
Visiting Rome on a Hop-on-Hop-off Bus
Visiting Multi-ethnic Rome
Playing in the Snow at the Janiculum
Watching the Pride Parade
Visiting the Movie Sets at Cinecittą
Reading Memoirs of Hadrian at Villa Adriana
Looking up at the Ceilings of the Vatican Palaces
Reading Seneca at the Baths
Spending the Last Roman Day at St. John Lateran's Cloister
Reading Ovid at St. Peter's
Walking the Dog at Valle della Caffarella