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Architecture of Totalitarian Regimes of the XXth century In Europe's Urban Memory

Since 2014, ATRIUM has been certified as one of the cultural routes of the Council of Europe. The ATRIUM - Architecture of Totalitarian Regimes of the XXth century In Europe's Urban Memory Cultural Route finds its foundation in a common urban and architectural heritage, which can be described as "dissonant" or "uncomfortable". The totalitarian regimes, which characterised much of Europe in the middle decades of the 20th century, had a major impact on the urban landscape. Today, the ATRIUM cultural route, of which the Municipality of Cervia is a member, proposes to reflect on this legacy through local and transnational activities focusing on architecture, memory and the people affected by these non democratic regimes, with the aim of promoting human rights, democratic values, mutual understanding between peoples and cultural diversity in today's Europe. For more information, please follow the link:


Milano Marittima, piano regolatore

Cervia, from salt town to holiday resort

Cervia's transformation from salt town to tourist resort began in the first decades of the 20th century.

On 14th August 1912, based on a futuristic project by the Milanese painter Giuseppe Palanti, the "garden city" was created, one of the most accomplished projects of "ideal holiday resort" in Italy at the time.

Milano Marittima thus became a modern seaside resort for the Milanese bourgeoisie, where nature and architecture harmonised. The splendid Art Nouveau villas envisaged in the project, built between the sea and the pine forest, were gradually joined by others. Some combine different styles, others, like Villa Perelli, built in 1940, are examples of futuristic architecture. With increasing tourism, slowed only by the two world wars, hotels, holiday camps and restaurants began to be built in 1927. In the more peripheral areas, the so-called "colonie", holiday camps for the children of workers, desired by Benito Mussolini in the 1930s, were built, examples of architectural experimentation. In 1939, two large colonies were built in Cervia: the Varese colony, designed by Mario Loreti, and the Montecatini colony, designed by Eugenio Faludi, fine examples of rationalist architecture. From Art Nouveau villas to large hotels such as the Grand Hotel opened in 1931, the town became a popular seaside resort. 


The Atrium sites in Cervia

Villa Perelli

Milano Marittima, Villa Perelli

Designed by the brilliant architect Mario Cavallè in 1940, this is the most original of the villas in Milano Marittima built during the Fascist period. It is said that Benito Mussolini was hosted here during his many visits to the city.

Immersed in the pine forest, with its high veranda with five columns, it seems to rise above the vegetation and enjoys views of the sea.

Inspired by Italian futurism and the myth of interventionist political power, it is reminiscent of the prow of an ocean liner on its way to new conquests.

Inspired by Italian futurism, thus by the myth of an interventionist political power, the veranda takes the form of the prow of an ocean liner bound for new conquests.

The villa later became a hotel, then a residence (Residenza Touring). Now closed, it remains a testimony to the expansion of Milano Marittima promoted by the regime's tourism policy.

For further information  Villa Perelli


Milano Marittima, Colonia Varese

Colonia Varese

The Varese Colony, designed by architect Mario Loreti, was built between 1937 and 1939.

The monumental building expresses the celebratory and symbolic characteristics typical of Futurist architecture's interpretation of Fascist politics.

The building, which looks like a seaplane from above, was intended to be a health centre but also a place of education for Fascism.

Between futurism and propaganda

The symmetrical structure consists of a central building and two lateral buildings that housed the dormitories and service rooms. At the centre of the structure, a monumental five-storey reinforced concrete grid supports an original flight of steps. These enormous Piranesian ramps consisted of crossing inclined planes, visible through large central windows. In effect, the purpose was to display the gymnastic exhibitions and ceremonial parades of the Fascist youth.

Contrasting uses

After only two years of housing children, with the outbreak of World War II, the building was given a new function as a military hospital for the Italian army, and with the German occupation as a prisoner of war camp. Partially damaged during the war, it underwent minor restoration immediately after the war, when the central ramps were rebuilt. In 1949, the holiday camp returned to its original function, but was finally evacuated in 1957 as it had become unsafe.

The Varese Colony today

Today, the monumental building is totally abandoned. Through the skeletal structure one can glimpse the horizon over the sea. It served as a film location for two Italian films: Marcello Aliprandi's La Ragazza di Latta (1970) and Pupi Avanti's horror film Zeder (1983).


Colonia Montecatini - Ph. collezione Gabriele BiniMontecatini Colony

The imposing structure, designed by Eugeno Faludio, on an area between the pine forest and the beach, was inaugurated on 24 August 1939. It could accommodate up to 1500 children and young people and was a place of indoctrination and propaganda.

The colonies for the children of workers were promoted by the Fascist regime as part of the health programme to encourage demographic growth and strengthen the Italian race, with the aim of ensuring the health of children and young people so that they would become strong soldiers.

At the same time they were places of education in the principles of discipline, obedience and loyalty to the Fascist cause.

A structure with a functional design

The structure was designed to be functional for the life of the colony, offering adequate space for the moments of a tight routine: marching, flag-raising, saluting, gymnastics and physical and political education.
There were pavilions for medical care, kitchens, a refectory, a laundry, guest rooms, classrooms, libraries, a large recreational area and the church. A 122-metre long, four-storey high building housed the boys' dormitories and was accessible by a ramp, called the Arengario tower.

A ramp to the sky

The structure, built in the rationalist style, was intended to demonstrate the avant-garde spirit of the fascist regime and an impressive staircase, 50 metres high, symbolised virility and modernity and helped to demonstrate the athletic talent of the fascist youth.
A large arch suggested the imperialistic ambitions of fascism.

The colony today

Like other colonies, it was used as a hospital during World War II. German troops, who occupied it in 1944, undermined the base of the tower, which collapsed and also demolished part of the central body. It was finally occupied by Canadian troops. The tower, rebuilt at a height equal to that of the dormitories, was previously much higher and, in addition to having a water tank at the top, was climbed by the boys in a race, and was used to show off the athletic skills of the young fascists who ran up it.

Built by Montecatini to house the children of its employees, it was sold to the State Monopolies. Abandoned since the 1980s, the slowly decaying colony remains as a testimony to an uncomfortable past.


Cervia - Grand Hotel - Ph. Ph. Gabriele BiniGrand Hotel Cervia

Fascist policy was to promote mass tourism, especially on the Adriatic coast. Cervia was destined to become a residential, tourist and health resort. Among the various hotels and villas that were built, the Grand Hotel remains a remarkable example of Art Nouveau.

The luxurious hotel was inaugurated in 1931, after the square in front of it had been enriched by the construction of a fountain by the sculptor Giuseppe Casalini. It hosted various personalities from the world of literature and culture of the time. After a period of neglect, the building was managed by various managers.

Il Grand Hotel oggi

 It is now privately owned and will soon be restored to its role as a hotel.


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