Professor Lisa Colletta presented her paper “Sabaudia: Mussolini’s Rationalist Utopia” at a conference at the University of Derby dedicated to exploring affective responses to landscape. Hosted by Derby’s Centre for Identity, Conflict and Representation, the conference brought together scholars from around the world and from a variety of disciplines to investigate they ways in which landscape affects feelings of community and personal and national identity.
The town of Sabaudia was part of Mussolini’s plan for the Agro Pontino, a massive public works project that drained the malarial swamps southwest of Rome and created rich agricultural land. In a very short time in the early 1930s Mussolini built five new towns, eighteen villages, and 3000 colony houses and transplanted workers from the heavily industrialized northern cities of Veneto and Emilia-Romagna to work the land. Professor Colletta’s work examined the rhetorical nature of the architecture and urban planning of Sabaudia. The uniform feeling of the town was planned for ideological reasons to reflect a sense of the past but with a new sense of modern order and control—its genius loci was to give settlers an new ‘Italian” identity, based on the glories of the past, but built on order and control, rational and progressive mastery of the environment, and offering a bright new future. Mussolini saw it as an ideal town for the Fascist regime where important Fascist symbols were to be made visible just as the layout of the towers and buildings themselves make visible the power of the state, the role of religion, and the glory of work and community.