Predappio, anniversary March on Rome – Middle-aged Man in a blackshirt uniform carrying a sign
A man wearing a blackshirts-inspired uniform. All photos: Guido Calamosca.

Fascist Sympathisers Are Still Celebrating Mussolini in Italy

Almost 2,000 people commemorated the brutal dictator at his birthplace on the 100th anniversary of his March on Rome insurrection.

This article originally appeared on VICE Italy.

Predappio is a small town in central Italy cursed by two events: It’s the birthplace of Italy’s fascist former dictator, Benito Mussolini, and the site of his final resting place.


In theory, nobody was supposed to know the latter. After he was shot dead in 1945, Mussolini’s body was displayed in public at one of Milan’s largest squares and buried in an unmarked grave to keep his final resting place a secret. But, in April 1946, fascist militant and former politician Domenico Leccisi and two accomplices managed to steal the dictator’s remains and placed it in the custody of some sympathetic priests. After long and complicated negotiations, the body was finally buried in the Mussolini family crypt in 1957.

From that moment on, Predappio became a site of worship for nostalgic fascists. It is still a pilgrimage spot to this day, particularly to commemorate Oct. 28th, 1922 – the day of the so-called March on Rome, which infamously began Mussolini’s takeover of the Italian government.

Predappio, anniversary March on Rome – group of men in all black holding up signs and flags

Participants carrying flags from Arditi d’Italia, the organisers of the event, and the National Group of Soldiers and War Veterans (RSI)

Exactly 100 years ago this year, about 20,000 members of Mussolini’s fascist paramilitary group invaded the Italian capital in an attempt to force a coup. The move came at a time of great turbulence for the country. After World War I, Italy was left heavily in debt and humiliated by its failure to receive the territories it had asked for in post-war negotiations.


At the time, socialism was also becoming increasingly popular with the Italian working class, leading to widespread protests demanding better working conditions in the factories and in the fields. Paramilitary groups led by Mussolini, known as the Fasci or the Blackshirts, rose to power by squashing these movements on behalf of the bourgeoisie. These vigilante activities also earned them favour with the country’s richest. 

Italy’s young parliamentary monarchy was also proving unstable, with successive governments collapsing shortly after obtaining power. Mussolini spotted an opening to establish his fascist revolution and began to remotely coordinate the March on Rome. Right as the fascists began parading through the streets of the capital, then-King Victor Emmanuel III decided to appoint Mussolini prime minister to avoid triggering a civil war.

Predappio, anniversary March on Rome, Ferdinando Polegato – middle-aged man wearing a black fez hat, a black shirt with a fascist cross on it and black suspenders, doing the fascist salute in the middle of a crowd. A younger man next to him is also doing the salute.

Ferdinando Polegato, a fascist restaurant owner known for his "imitations" of Benito Mussolini.

“We have a moral obligation to commemorate the March on Rome,” said Mirco Santarelli from Arditi d’Italia, the neo-fascist organisation that organises the commemorative event every year. He added he was happy about Giorgia Meloni’s victory and suggested that attendees should refrain from doing the fascist salute to avoid getting in trouble with the law.


Displays of fascist sympathy are ostensibly banned in Italy, but the law is rarely applied due to its ambiguous formulation and its supposed contradiction with the right to free speech. Instead of the salute, Santarelli said, sympathisers should pay their respects by “putting a hand on their hearts”.

Santarelli’s suggestion appeared to fell on deaf ears on the day of the event. Around 2,000 participants were heard chanting “Duce! Duce!” (the Italian equivalent of “Führer”) as they extended their right arms to the sky. 

The fascist symbolism was not-so-subtle. People – even children – were seen wearing all black, especially black shirts, which were part of the uniforms used by the Fasci. These paramilitary groups were later integrated in the regime, and remained a powerful force of intimidation wielded against political adversaries throughout the 20 years of Mussolini’s dictatorship. 

Predappio’s two souvenir shops were also crowded with fans buying mugs, swastika stickers, Mussolini statues and ashtrays featuring the fascist slogan, “God, Homeland, Family”. The motto has recently been adopted by contemporary far-right leaders, including Italy’s new Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Brazil’s newly-defeated president Jair Bolsonaro.


As a first-timer to Predappio, I was struck by how abnormally normal everything felt. It’s absolutely surreal that this stuff is still happening in the 21st century, and yet here we are. The worst part is: Nobody seems to care enough to do anything to stop this. Welcome to Italy in 2022.

Predappio, anniversary March on Rome – close-up of a tattooed man wearing a black t-shirt made for the anniversary and a celtic cross necklace

A t-shirt made for the event reading "Roma, October 28, 1922 - 100 years - Predappio, October 28, 2022"

Predappio, anniversary March on Rome – close-up of a man with long white hair wearing a black shirt and two necklaces, one with the head of a soldier, the other with a celtic cross

A participant wearing a necklace with Mussolini's head in a combat helmet and a Celtic cross, a fascist symbol.

Predappio, anniversary March on Rome – photo of a young child in a full blackshirt uniform, standing at attention in front of a crowd

Child in a modern version of the blackshirt uniform.

Predappio, anniversary March on Rome – two middle-aged women dressed in black carrying a red, white and green wreath with a sash reading "cento anni" (100 years)

A funerary wreath in the colours of Italy with a tricoloured sash reading "100 years"

Predappio, anniversary March on Rome – photo of the window of a shop selling fascist memorabilia including small statues of mussolini, keychains, mugs, t-shirts and face masks with fascist slogans

Some of the souvenirs sold in Predappio

Predappio, anniversary March on Rome – young child in all black, wearing a wig and holding a scarf with an image of mussolini printed on it
Predappio, anniversary March on Rome – group of men in procession wearing black clothing and carrying neo-fascist signs

A procession with the flags of Arditi d'Italia and the National Group of Soldiers and War Veterans

Predappio, anniversary March on Rome – close-up of the back of a man's neck where he has the tattoo of a skull
Predappio, anniversary March on Rome – photo of a crowd carrying signs and flags, standing in front of the Mussolini family crypt

The crowd waiting in front of the Mussolini family crypt

Predappio, anniversary March on Rome – close-up of a woman sporting a manicure with the tricoloured flame, a fascist symbol in the colours of the flag of Italy, and flipping off the camera.

Woman wearing the colours of the flag of Italy. Her tie reads "Per l'onore d'Italia" (For Italy's Honour), a fascist slogan.

Predappio, anniversary March on Rome – photo of young man wearing a black fez hat and an Italian flag with an eagle in the middle around his shoulders, walking towards the crypt
Predappio, anniversary March on Rome – Photo of a greeting card thanking people for participating in the anniversary celebration

A card thanking people for their participation to the anniversary.