Although a bit off the beaten path in terms of typical tourist places, Rome’s EUR neighbourhood is a remarkable and fascinating area. It is certainly worth checking out, and has many surprises in store.
In the heyday of Mussolini and the Fascist regime, the big thinking leader wanted to create a new site for ‘modern Rome’ to prosper from, and he chose this spot for it’s proximity to the sea ports (Ostia). Rome was awarded the honor of hosting the World’s Fair in 1941, but Mussolini moved the date to 1942 to coincide with the 20 year anniversary of Fascist power in Italy. The district is named after this event, Universal Exhibition or Esposizione Universale Roma. Marcello Piacentini was nominated as master architect of the region in the late 1920’s, and he developed plans for long-standing sites throughout the area as well as temporary pavilions especially for the fair.
All designs were created in accordance to the Italian movement of “Rationalist Architecture” rules, an architectural style that is unique to Italy. Rationalism, combines the classical aesthetic of Ancient Rome: exaggerated proportions of grand, supreme authoritarian size that imposes power and absolution. All of the buildings created for the fair were made from travertine stone- the exact same material the Colosseum was build out of.
The most dramatic landmark is the unmissable Palazzo della Civiltà del Lavoro, or better known as the Square Colosseum. A perfect quadrilateral shape, it has been likened to swiss cheese by some critics; however its arches and classical sculptures peaking out around the base, give an antiquarian yet eerie quality to it. The design is six arches up and nine across: B-E-N-I-T-O up and M-U-S-S-O-L-I-N-I across. Currently, mega fashion house Fendi is restoring the premises, and plans to move their main headquarters there. Rumor has it that the ground level will be an exhibition space open to the public.
Due to the outbreak of the Second World War, the development of the EUR area was halted. It was picked up again in 1955, with fresh ideas of how to integrate the neighborhood back into central Rome, and new buildings were constructed with the 1960 Olympics in mind. One of these sites, the Palazzo dello Sport, is a circular domed Stadium that holds up to 12,000 people. It’s more commonly referred to as Palalottomatica, the popular venue known for concerts and live music events. Behind the Palazzo is EUR’s famous Central Park Lake, a man-made lake. This too was used for the 1960’s Olympics, and features incredible waterfalls and fountains. One of the best times to visit the lake area is in March, when the “Passeggiata del Giappone”, or Japanese Walk, is in full cherry blossom bloom.
These days EUR is know as a business district, with the main headquarters of banks, large institutions and public sector organisations based there. EUR has also been the cinematic backdrop for many directors, both Italian and international. The most recent being the highly-anticipated James Bond movie Spectre which will come out in November. However, the iconic example is in black and white: Antonioni’s 1962 film, L’Eclisse. The vastness and almost metaphysical feeling of the area perfectly reflects Monica Vitti’s character’s mindset. Wandering through the endless colonnades and boulevards, it is easy to feel transported to a completely different city, one very different from the known Rome.
Although the area now draws visitors for one of the great beacons of Western civilization- the mega shopping mall, EUR has many interesting places to discover. Imagine great nightclub venues, parks, and eateries- not to mention fantastic photography opportunities.
For a hardcore dance venue:
Piazza Guglielmo Marconi 31
Aperitivo at the poolside, Dinner, Live Show, Lounge Music Bar:
Vicolo 88 Garden
Viale America, 18
For high-class, high quality Italian destination eating:
Viale America 151
The go-to place for brunch on Saturday and Sunday
Viale America 89
Perfect place for panini, fresh food and nice guys cooking:
OtBread Gourmet Bar
Viale Europa, 23
Incredible collection of artefacts from ancient civilizations.
Pigorini National Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography
Piazza Guglielmo Marconi 14
Huge, artificial, landscaped lake. Tranquility and beauty from any point.
Central Lake Park
Viale America, Via Cristoforo Colombo
On the highest point in EUR, find the only church of the region. Said to be built as Mussolini’s own mausoleum, and modelled on a Michelangelo design.
Peter and Paul Church
Piazzale dei Santi Pietro e Paolo 18
Massive, three floor shopping mall. Opened in 2008, but the design evokes the decorative baroque, with a glass domed atrium.
Via Cristoforo Colombo, corner of Viale dell’Oceano Pacifico
Huge auditorium for live music, events and sports. Plus a lovely terrace overlooking the artificial lake.
Piazzale Pier Luigi Nervi 1
Live music venue, covering a large array of styles, national and international acts. Special party nights and events also.
Viale dell’Oceano Atlantico 271 d