On my forthcoming visit to Italy in less than two weeks time, I am going to make an extra special effort to visit the The Stadio dei Marmi that stands beside the larger and better-known Olympic stadium. A little off the beaten tourist track, but something I do want to visit, for the sheer monumentalism and aesthetic look of the place.
Designed by Enrico Del Debbio and built in 1932 as part of Mussolini’s grand plan this is fascist architecture with a softer edge. I know one shouldn’t extol the virtues of a repressive regime, but the stadio is beautiful, from the white marble to the intricate mosaics in the plaza surrounding it.
The crowning achievement of its design are the 59 (originally 60) marble statues of athletes in the classical style outlining its perimeter. These are hyper-muscular athletes in poses of exaggerated physical vigour that portray the aesthetic of the time and Mussolini’s grandiosity. We have all seen various pictures of these statues not realising where they have come from. These represent the power which Italy was to become drawing inspiration from a classical past.
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