Italy confronts its demons with debate over burial of Mussolini
Wednesday 01 November 2006
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."
Belle Knox: How the porn star student from Duke University became bigger than Justin Bieber
Top 10 most expensive cities in the world: Singapore named costliest place to live – but what about London?
Oscar Pistorius trial: Neighbour feared athlete would use gun that killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp to shoot himself
Oscar Pistorius trial: Athlete 'cheated on me' with Reeva Steenkamp, former girlfriend Samantha Taylor tells Pretoria court
Channel 4 announces two-hour TV show to be broadcast 'Live from Space' later this month
Apple's Tim Cook: Business isn’t just about making profit
Thousands of young people forced to go without food after benefits wrongly stopped under 'draconian' new sanctions regime
Ukraine crisis: New navy chief 'defects' and surrenders Crimean HQ as Putin claims ultranationalists forced intervention
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Ukraine crisis: Russia dismisses '3am ultimatum' as 'total nonsense'
If you're horrified by a flame-roasted dog, you should be shocked at a hog roast
- 1 The future of sex: The first female condoms were derided, mistrusted and shunned - but will their modern counterparts catch on?
- 2 South African rhino finally put down after roaming Kruger park for days with horn hacked off and bullet in brain
- 3 Channel 4 announces two-hour TV show to be broadcast 'Live from Space' later this month
- 4 Man stabbed with Legend of Zelda Master Sword in serious condition
- 5 Study suggests that 'gaydars' are real - at least for women
£12000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: A small but growing chain of boutique hot...
£12000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: The company works with Tier 1 FTSE 100 Ba...
£45 - 60k Per Annum: Charter Selection: Highly profitable leisure brand, marke...
£30000 - £50000 per annum + Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Residenti...