Article 293 was approved in the Italian Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of parliament, by more than two thirds of the MPs who participated in the vote. It must now go the Senate before it becomes law.
The ban envisages custodial sentences of between six months and two years for any individual or organization that promotes "the propaganda of images or contents of the fascist party or Germany's National Socialist German Workers' Party (the Nazi party) or its ideologies, even only by means of the production, distribution, dissemination or sale of goods depicting people, images or symbols clearly referring to such parties or ideologies".
The regional government in Emilia Romagna, Mussolini's birthplace in Central Italy, banned souvenirs and trinkets bearing the fascist leader's face in 2016. But stores in Italy's capital Rome, as well as in other Italian cities, have openly sold fascist memorabilia – calendars, busts, posters, key rings, T-shirts and medals – for years.
The proposed law has divided Italy, with many not sure where the lines will be drawn. Some people have called for the removal of 1920s architecture and statues in Rome, but Emanuale Fiano, the centre-left PD Parliamentarian who put forward the motion, said on social media that the law would not target "art or architecture".
"I am opposed to the destruction of 1920s monuments or buildings or to iconoclastic measures of any kind," wrote Fiano in a post on Facebook, in which he clarified that he also does not intend to target the obelisk enshrined with the letters DUX, and MUSSOLINI, near Rome's Olympic football stadium.
The law was passed with 261 'yes' votes, 122 'no' votes and 15 abstentions.
Senior lawmakers came out for and against the proposed ban. "Ideologies of hate and intolerance can be reborn, they are not folklore. The Fiano Law is necessary and contemporary, it defends democracy and liberty," tweeted Ettore Rosato, a senior Democratic Party (PD) centre-left MP.
Le ideologie d'odio e di intolleranza possono rinascere, non sono folklore. Legge #Fiano necessaria e attuale, difende democrazia e libertà— Ettore Rosato (@Ettore_Rosato) September 12, 2017
Giorgia Meloni, president of the centre-right Brothers of Italy party, responded to the vote on the proposed law with a tweet in which she claimed the the law "was a folly designed to kill liberty."
Right-wing MP Ignazio La Russa jibed that PD leader Matteo Renzi was showing his anti-fascist credentials by going after "lighters and key rings," reports Il Messaggero.
Last week a group of 45 centre-left parliamentarians co-signed a letter to Italy's Interior Minister Marco Minniti asking him to cancel a scheduled Forza Nuova march, which the far-right group has said it plans to hold on October 28th in Rome, the 95th anniversary of Mussolini's rise to power.