The evocative district in the South of Rome where ancient meets modern
EUR district is definitely not what first comes to mind when one thinks of Rome. Its monumental, modernist architecture and grand avenues stand in stark contrast to cozy, intimate Rome of Trastevere or Monti. Full of symbolism, the district is definitely interesting, worth visiting, and for those who dug deeper into its history, even slightly disturbing.
In the heyday of Mussolini and the Fascist regime, the delusional leader wanted to create a new site for ‘modern Rome’ from which his new Roman Empire would prosper. He chose a southern suburb of the eternal city for its proximity to the seaport in Ostia. Rome was awarded the honor of hosting the 1941 World’s Fair, but Mussolini moved the date to 1942 to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Fascist coup d’état. The district is named after the Universal Exhibition (which never took place) – Esposizione Universale Roma, or EUR for short. Marcello Piacentini was nominated as master architect of the region in the late 1920s and he developed plans for permanent sites throughout the area as well as temporary pavilions designed especially for the fair. All designs were created in accordance with the Italian style of Rationalist Architecture. Rationalism combines the classical aesthetic of Ancient Rome: exaggerated proportions of supreme, authoritarian size that impose power and absolution with a simple, devoided of convoluted ornaments, form of Modernism.
The result is similar to what one might find when looking at fascist architecture in Germany or at Social Realism in the countries of the former Soviet Union. To add to the general symbolism of Old Rome – New Rome, the main building material of the district was the traventine stone. The same material form which the Colosseum was built.
The most dramatic landmark is the unmissable Palazzo della Civiltà del Lavoro or better known as Squared Colosseum (Colosseo Quadrato). A perfect quadrilateral shape, located on a vast, empty plaza, divided from the rest of the district by high fence gives it an authoritarian and eerie quality. At the same time, its arches and classical sculptures peaking around the base, evoke ancient Rome. According to some its six arches up and nine across correlate to the number of letters in Benito Mussolini’s name. Currently headquarters of the mega fashion house Fendi are occupying its premises. The ground floor is open to the public with an exhibition on Italian craftsmanship.
An uncommon feature in the rest of Rome, EUR is characterized by wide avenues and a grid- like street system. On the opposite side of one of those avenues, facing Palazzo della Civiltà, lies the Palazzo dei Congressi. A monumental, neoclassical conference center, it overlooks Piazza delle Nazioni Unite, one of the central locations of the district. Unlike Palazzo della Civiltà, this conference center is open to the public and hosts a vast array of events.
Another interesting landmarks of the district that break away from the fascist-era symbolism is the La Nuvola – Roma Convention Center. Unveiled in 2016, and designed by Massimiliano Fuksas, it was acclaimed as a beautiful example of modern aesthetics and a combination of eco-friendly materials and innovative technological solutions. Similarly, to the Palazzo dei Congressi, La Nuvola is the location of many interesting events and congresses.
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 on how to integrate the neighborhood back into central Rome and to wash the fascist stigma. 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 is a popular venue known for concerts and live music events.
Behind the Palazzo lies EUR’s famous artificial lake, called Laghetto dell’Eur. It was also constructed for the Olympic Games and features incredible waterfalls and fountains. One of the best times to visit the lake area is in Spring, when the “Passeggiata del Giappone” or Japanese Walk, is in full cherry blossom bloom.
These days EUR is known as a business district, with the main headquarters of banks, large institutions and public sector organizations based there. EUR has also been the cinematic backdrop for many directors, both Italian and international. A few scenes of James Bond “Spectre” had been filmed on the site of the Museum of the Roman Civilization. Many buildings were featured in the films of Federico Fellini like “81/2” or “Boccaccio ‘70”. However, the most iconic example remains Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1962 black and white film “L’Eclisse”. The vastness and almost metaphysical feeling of the area perfectly reflects Monica Vitti’s character’s mindset. When wandering through the endless colonnades and boulevards, it is easy to feel transported to a completely different city.
Recently the Planetarium, one of the oldest in the world, situated inside the Museo della Civiltà Romana, has also been restored and offers immersive tours to visitors who want to discover more about the universe and its secrets.
Moreover Eur district has recently returned to prominence thanks to the Formula E, the race which involves only electric-powered cars which takes place here every year in April. Although the area now draws visitors for one of the great beacons of Western civilization- the mega shopping mall called Euroma2, EUR has many interesting places to discover. Imagine great nightclub venues, parks, and eateries- not to mention fantastic photography opportunities.
Piazza Giuliemo Marconi 31
Popular dance venue.
Viale America 14
An enchanted restaurant and lounge garden overlooks the EUR Lake.
Viale della Civiltà Romana 1
Chic restaurant and a dance club. During the day they offer lunch and dinner to exchange tables for a dancefloor later at night.
Le Terrazze – Palazzo dei Congressi
Piazza John Fitzgerald Kennedy 1
Found on the top of the beautiful Palazzo dei Congressi, this venue can easily host up to 2000 people a night. On Fridays the club has a vintage vibe – on Saturdays, it plays pop and house music.
EUR Social Park
Via di Val Fiorita
Popular summer hangout.
As usual in Rome the best way to find a good bite is to just walk around. Opportunities are always ample. Bellow a few more specialized proposals:
La Pagnottella Gourmet
Viale Beethoven 90
Gourmet Panini place.
Viale America 89
Bakery offering American-style baked goods.
Il Bistrot 4.5
Via Amsterdam 140
Chic place specialized in Aperitivo but also open throughout the day.
Piazza Guglielmo Marconi 23
Geco Restaurant is a metropolitan loft in the heart of Eur, where design and quality cuisine meet.
Acqua by Lexus
Viale dell’Arte 28
High-brow restaurant specializing in fish.
Museum of the Roman Civilization
Piazza Giovanni Agnelli 10
Museum of Civilization, a complex of exhibitions all located within the Palazzo Delle Scienze
Piazza Guglielmo Marconi 14
Museum of the History of Communication/Museo Storico della Comunicazione
Viale America 201
Piazza Giovanni Agnelli 10
One of the oldest planetarium in the world.
Via Giovanni l’Eltore 35
A new exhibition space in an old cow farm
Palazzo della Civiltà del Lavoro
Quadrato della Concordia, 3
Fascist-era landmark of the district. Headquarters of Fendi.
Central Lake Park
Viale America, Via Cristoforo Colombo
Huge, artificial, landscaped lake. Tranquility and beauty from any point.
Peter and Paul Church
Piazzale dei Santi Pietro e Paolo, 18
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.
Via Cristoforo Colombo, corner of Viale dell’Oceano Pacifico
Massive, three floor shopping mall. Opened in 2008, but the design evokes the decorative baroque, with a glass domed atrium.
Via delle Tre Fontane 100
An amusement park with roller-coaster and water slides.
Palazzo dello Sport
Piazzale Pier Luigi Nervi 1
Huge auditorium for live music, events and sports. Plus a lovely terrace overlooking the artificial lake.
Viale dell’Oceano Atlantico 271 d
Live music venue, covering a large array of styles, national and international acts. Special party nights and events also.