Italy sells off Mussolini buildings to raise cash

Cash-strapped authorities in Rome are to auction off four Mussolini-era public buildings to fund the completion of a long-delayed but eagerly-awaited new conference centre by acclaimed architect Massimiliano Fuksas.

Italy sells off Mussolini buildings to raise cash
The Eur district takes its name from Esposizione Universale Roma, the world fair dictator Benito Mussolini planned to stage there in 1942. Eur photo: Shutterstock

Three museums and a building currently housing state archives will be advertised shortly with the hope of completing the sell-off by the end of the year, said a spokesman for Eur Spa, the state body which currently owns the buildings in the Eur district of the capital. "We are hoping to raise at least €300 million," the spokesman told AFP.

The company, which owns most of the major buildings in the district, is owned 90 percent by the ministry of finance, ten percent by the City of Rome.

Some of the funds raised will go to clearing debts and some to completing a groundbreaking glass, steel and teflon construction that has been dubbed "Fuksas's cloud" by the Italian press.

Fuksas is one of the giants of contemporary Italian architecture. His past projects include the futuristic new airport terminal at Shenzhen, China, Ferrari's ultra-modern headquarters and Armani stores on 5th Avenue and in Ginza, Tokyo.

The cloud of his Eur project refers to a suspended cloud-shaped steel and teflon auditorium that will be the centrepiece of the new centre.

The 70-year-old has said the idea for the ultra-fluid structure came to him while watching clouds from a beach. He won the competition to build the new conference centre in 2000 with a design that, with its rectangular exterior, also references the rationalist architecture of the surrounding buildings.

Cash constraints meant construction did not get underway until 2007 and the building is still not finished, thanks partly to overruns on costs which have seen its budget rise from €221 million to €276 million.

The Eur district takes its name from Esposizione Universale Roma, the world fair Italian dictator Benito Mussolini planned to stage there in 1942. That plan had to be scrapped because of the Second World War with many of the buildings only half-finished.

They were mostly completed in the 1950s and 1960s after the Roman authorities decided to turn the area into an edge-of-town business district that became a model for London's Docklands and La Defense in Paris.

Eur Spa said it has already had significant interest in the buildings to be sold from private investors. As they are all listed because of their historic value, once a sale price has been established, the government will have an option to buy them at that price and keep them in public ownership. That is seen as unlikely given Italy's current budget constraints.

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Body of missing American tourist found in Rome’s River Tiber

The body of a missing 21-year-old tourist was found in the River Tiber on Thursday morning, according to media reports.

Body of missing American tourist found in Rome's River Tiber

Elijah Oliphant, from Dallas, Texas, was on holiday with his family in Rome when he went missing several days ago.

Oliphant’s parents reported his disappearance after he left his hotel room shortly after midnight on May 24th and did not return.

Hotel security footage showed him leaving the premises wearing a white undershirt and pyjama bottoms, which he was wearing when he was found.

Oliphant’s corpse was reportedly spotted by passersby near the Ponte Sisto bridge in Rome’s Trastevere district around 10am on Thursday morning. His body was positively identified by his parents.

Members of the fire brigade and river police who recovered the body say there were no obvious signs of violence, but an autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death. Trastevere police are reportedly investigating the matter.

The Oliphant family had arrived in Rome for a holiday on May 23rd. When Elijah went missing the following day, his parents launched an urgent appeal to help find their son.

His disappearance was featured on the missing persons television show, Chi l’ha visto (‘Who’s seen them?’) on May 25th.

Several foreigners have been found drowned in the Tiber in recent years, though there are no indication that any of the incidents are linked.

In 2016, the body of 19-year-old American student Beau Solomon was recovered from the river.

Rough sleeper Massimo Galioto was charged involuntary manslaughter in the case, but was ultimately acquitted in 2020.

Prosecutors said that Galioto pushed Solomon in the course of a violent argument. Galioto’s defense team acknowledged that the two had argued but said the student had accidentally slipped.

In May 2019, 37-year-old Imen Chatbouri, a former athletics champion from Tunisia, was found dead in the Tiber after a night out. CCTV footage later showed she had been pushed from the Ponte Sisto bridge.

A then-26-year-old man whose advances she had rejected earlier that evening was convicted of her murder in November 2021.