Picture the bridge from Kenmore Square to Fenway Park as a pedestrian way, covered in mosaics declaring the glory of the Confederacy or the tremendous victory over Native Americans or the magnificence of slavery.
That might give you a sense of the loaded political messages of Rome’s Foro Italico and its mosaic pedestrian mall. Walked on by tens of thousands of people every day that Roma plays a home game in its football stadium, this, the largest mosaic project since the Roman Empire fell, was built for one purpose: to declare the glory of Benito Mussolini and his plans for returning Roman glory to modern Italy through a combination of empire building (he invaded Ethiopia in 1935), suppression of political opposition, imposition of race laws, and alliance with Nazi Germany.
The complex not only hosts soccer and rugby competitions but also is home to a major track facility (ringed by gargantuan statues of naked men with no-nonsense looks), a swimming pool, and tennis courts. Stone slabs declare the steps on the “advancement” of Italy under Mussolini, who staged a violent takeover in 1922 and remained dictator until 1943. The mosaics repeat over and over again the name of The Leader: “Il Duce, Il Duce, Il Duce.”
Today, few of those fans know the story of the complex or what they are walking on. More disturbing is that, in a nation and continent enduring an ongoing economic crisis and a resurgent right wing, fans are being encouraged to remember Il Duce — and to miss him.