Italy confronts its demons with debate over burial of Mussolini

The descendants of Benito Mussolini, Italy's dictator for 20 disastrous years, were locked in tense meetings yesterday as a new argument broke over the fate of Il Duce's remains.

The family were said to be bitterly divided over whether the body should remain in the family tomb in the Adriatic Sea town of Predappio, or moved to a grander location in Rome.

The row came less than two months after an unrelated argument pitted members of the clan against each other over whether the body should be exhumed for clues as to who killed him. The woman behind the initiative to move Mussolini is Carla Puccini, widow of Romano Mussolini, the jazz pianist who died earlier this year.

Speaking to Corriere della Sera newspaper, she said: "It's hard to know which way the decision will go, because members of the family have opposing views. For me, Benito deserves to rest in Rome, in a suitable setting." In two weeks they will assemble in a notary's office to try to resolve the issue.

One nostalgic Mussolini fan close to the family favours the Altar of the Nation, the vast marble monument to Italy in the centre of the capital, across the road from the balcony where Mussolini made his most inflammatory speeches. It is a choice that would rouse furious opposition in a nation still deeply split between Fascism's apologists and its sworn enemies.

If it is decided that Mussolini should leave the family crypt where he lies alongside the wife , Rachele Guidi, and their four children, for a grander and more imposing tomb in the capital, the town of Predappio might heave a sigh of relief. But in the longer term it would be in the soup.

"The presence of Mussolini is vital to the town," said Nicholas Farrell, the British author of a biography of the dictator. "Thousands come here every year, and they come to stand in front of his tomb and pay homage. They could still see the villa where he was born and so on. But there is a cult of Il Duce: we're talking about a man who many still see as semi-divine."

Last weekend, the 84th anniversary of Mussolini's "March on Rome" in 1922 which heralded his ascent to absolute power, some 6,000 black-shirted Fascist sympathisers descended on the town to pay their respects and fill up on souvenirs. Shops have a flourishing business selling items most European countries banned long ago: flags, lighters, beer tankards, bottles of wine, caps and other items emblazoned with Fascist, Nazi and SS symbols.

Would they continue to come if he was moved? It seems unlikely.

The rest of the family was yesterday observing a prudent silence. But one grandchild said: "Il Duce and his wife Rachele must be spinning in their graves".

One of the reasons for a move is the growing tension between the family and the biggest seller of Fascist and Nazi souvenirs in the town, Pierluigi Pompignoli. "For 20 years I've cleaned his grave every day," says Mr Pompignoli. Despite those efforts, he claimed, Mussolini's grave was in a parlous state. "I've offered the family €15,000 [£10,000] to refurbish the tomb." To which Carla Puccini replied: "I wouldn't accept so much as a bent penny from him."

Mr Pompignoli said yesterday: "Mussolini will never leave Predappio. He means everything to this town. This was where he declared in his will that he wanted to be buried.

"Mussolini was the greatest man who ever walked the earth," he added. "Hitler was a criminal, but Mussolini was great. This talk about moving him is the chatter of a few imbeciles."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before