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Most of Tourist Italy is old and beautiful. It is worth going to EUR, on the
southern edge of Rome, to see something new and ugly. Mussolini started work on
this huge complex of office buildings and apartment blocks in 1939. It was
supposed to host a big exhibition (Esposizione Universale di Roma) in 1942
but the war intervened. Olympic Games were held here in 1960 and now the place is
a bit like La Defense in Paris, home to trade shows and miscellaneous
My favorite part of EUR is the Museum of Roman Civilization (Museo Della
Civiltà Romana). It is huge and grand, just the kind of place the Fascists
would have liked. It is also incredibly uncomfortable. I was there on a cold
December day. Rain came through the roof in spots and fell into the unheated
galleries. There are no bathrooms. There are no public phones within a quarter of
a mile. You get a good idea of what the world would have been like if the
Fascists had prevailed in WWII.
The official highlights of the museum are scale models of Ancient Rome in the
5th century BC and at the time of Constantine (306-337 AD). They are impressive
but they are without explanation (the rest of the museum has reasonably good
signage in English and Italian).
Don't be deceived by the modern architecture of the apartment houses in EUR
into thinking that the inhabitants lead spare modern lives. I was invited for
lunch at one of these apartments and the interior was richly decorated with
Oriental carpets and antique furniture.
Go to EUR after you've spent some time in Italy and feel how the scale of the
place is dehumanizing. Then reflect that major parts of America are built in a
very similar manner.