Shock and horror news stories have filled the main stream media over the last few days as up to 4000 marchers celebrated the centenary of Benito Mussolini’s March on Rome. On October 28, 1922, black-shirted fascists entered Rome, launching a bloodless coup that ended two days later when Italy’s king handed Mussolini the mandate to start a new government.
100 years on, the streets of Predappio in the northern Emilia-Romagna region, Mussolini’s birthplace and final resting place, were filled with the sound of people chanting and singing in praise of the late Italian leader. Apart from Italians, participants came from as far away as Belgium and the United States.
Many gave the salute as the crowd stopped outside the cemetery where Il Duce is buried to listen to prayers and greetings from Mussolini’s great-granddaughter, Orsola.
“After 100 years, we are still here to pay homage to the man this state wanted, and who we will never stop admiring,” Orsola Mussolini said, to cheers. She listed her great-grandfather’s accomplishments, citing an infrastructure boom that built schools, hospitals and public buildings, reclaimed malaria-infested swamps for cities, and the extension of a pension system to nongovernment workers. She was joined by her sister Vittoria, who led the crowd in a prayer. At the end the crowd gave a final shout of “Duce, Duce, Duce!”
Inside the cemetery on Sunday, admirers lined up a handful at a time to enter his crypt, tucked away in a back corner. Each was given a memory card signed by his great-grandaughters with a photo of a smiling Mussolini holding his gloved hand high in a Roman salute. “History will prove me right,” the card reads.
One of the participants, Rachele Massimi, traveled with a group from Rome on Sunday, bringing her 3-year-old who watched from a stroller. “It’s historic,” she said. “It’s a memory.”
Italy’s high court established that pro-Mussolini manifestations are permissible as long as they are commemorative “and don’t meet the criteria that risks the reconstitution of the fascist party.”
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