Mussolini’s Cities: Internal Colonialism in Italy, 1930-1939

by Federico Caprotti


In 2007, the Pontine Marshes are very much part of the Italian national landscape. A traveller who takes a Eurostar train from Rome to Naples will pass through the marshes, which are a marshland only in name (Agro Pontino in Italian). It is hard to see the landscape of the Pontine Marshes and to simultaneously cast a historical eye back eighty years to when the area was avoided by people.

It is hard to realize today that the Pontine Marshes were the focus for an extraordinary national land reclamation and urbanization project during Mussolini’s fascist regime. Between 1930 and 1939, the marshes became the target of massive national investment, internal migration (often non-voluntary) and engineering work. In the 1930s, the Pontine Marshes became key protagonists in national culture: featured in newsreels, newspapers and propaganda, they became a metaphor for the regime’s modernizing drive and ambition to create a new Italy where one had not been able to exist before. In particular, the regime’s planners clamored to create New Towns in the reclaimed marshes; these were to be planned along fascist lines, and populated with selected colonists from the north.

This book looks at the Pontine Marshes project and brings together cohesive strands of research which have not appeared alongside one another before. For example, the book explores the architectural and urban planning aspects of the totalitarian minds which devised and built the New Towns; the lived experience of the 'colonists' who were forced to populate the new cities; the technological aspects which made the project possible, such as the fight against malaria, seen by fascism to be a 'non-totalitarian' disease; and finally, the promotion of the Pontine Marshes project through the press and film. Mussolini's Cities will be a welcome addition for collections in Geography and Italian Studies.


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