Rome is well known as one of the most, if not the most historic city on Earth, but there is a lesser known spot that I was quite interested in on our trip to Italy a couple of years ago, Benito Mussolini’s balcony.
I’m a huge history buff, so every once in a while here on the blog, I like to highlight one of my favorite travel destinations, as it relates to history, with a particular emphasis on World War II history. Hopefully, you will find it as interesting as I do.
You can see the first two installments here:
Ep. 1 – Prague, The Czech Orhodox Cathedral of St Cyril and Methodius
Ep. 2 – Bavaria, Neuschwanstein Castle
Your sightseeing in the amazing ancient city of Rome will no doubt take you to the Victor Emmanuel National Monument (or Il Vittoriano), one of the most impressive and significant buildings/ monuments in a city filled with them, but if you weren’t familiar with World War II history, you might not even realize the significance of an inconspicuous balcony on an old building next to il Vittoriano.
Located in the heart of Rome, the Piazza Venezia was the gathering place for Italians in the 1930’s and 1940’s to hear fascist dictator Benito Mussolini give his infamous speeches.
Massive crowds would convene where today endless lines of cars and buses navigate around the egg shaped center of the Piazza.
Palazzo Venezia, the building at the west side of Piazza Venezia (and the reason for it’s name) was built between 1455 and 1464, and was a papal residence for a century after it’s construction.
Following a time as the Embassy of the Republic of Venice and as the seat of the Austrian Ambassador to the Vatican, in 1916 the renaissance style mansion became the property of the Italian state.
Between 1929 and 1943, Palazzo Venezia became the headquarters of Mussolini’s fascist government, and as such, from the balcony off of the Sala del Mappamondo (Globe Room) he would address the huge crowds gathered below.
From this balcony Mussolini delivered all of his prominent speeches including the declaration of the Italian Empire in 1936.
On June 10, 1940 as he looked down from the balcony on a cheering crowd he aligned his country with Nazi Germany as he declared war on Great Britain and France, saying “People of Italy! Rush to arms and show your tenacity, your courage, your valor.”
On December 11, 1941, three days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Mussolini again took to the balcony off the Sala del Mappamondo to declare war on the United States of America.
Less than five years later Mussolini would be shot dead in Northern Italy by an Italian resistance fighter.
The Wrap Up:
Mussolini’s Balcony is not widely publicized in guide books or online, but is a fascinating piece of world history. Although the Palazzo Venezia is now a museum, the Sala del Mappamondo is not accessible except for special events.
When you are in the Piazza to see the other iconic sites, take a glance up at the balcony and try to picture a scene like the one below. A sobering reminder of a dark time in world history.