I had been living in Italy for around 8 months. I had seen everything from the colosseum of Rome to Mount Vesuvius to Lake Como. I'd seen Florence, Assisi, you know.. all those touristy places. But I was living in a smaller town, called Forli' about halfway between Bologna and Rimini. I, and my boyfriend, was thinking that it was about time to see some of the local things. Sure I had seen the center of Forli' millions of times, and the road that leads from Forli' straight to Florence (about a 2 hour trip straight through the mountains). Me and my boyfriend went to a little bookstand one day thinking about buying some books about Romagna (the region where Forli' is located). Luca (my boyfriend) would be coming to America soon, and wanted something to remember is home region by.
So, we went to the appropriate section, looked through some poetry books written in dialect, history, pictures, etc., and finally we found just the type of think that I was looking for: the Atlante Romagnolo (basically an atlas of the region). We looked through it and found that it listed every single community in the region, and its main attractions. I thought that was a really great idea, and we bought it for a mere $6 (USD). We looked through the book that night, writing down all the interesting places we could go... we went to see castles, museums, all your run of the mill Italian things... we even drove an hour and trekked 2 hours through the mountains just to see the Acquacheta waterfall (to those of you who have seen the Niagara Falls, this would be nothing: but to me, it was awesome, I'd never seen a waterfall before afterall).
Anyways, back to my point... after visiting just about all the places in the books I finally just came out and said "Come on! We have to go to Predappio!!" (Predappio just so happens to be the hometown of the famous Benito Mussolini). I just couldn't help it.. I can't understand how one can knowingly be less than 10 miles away from the grave of Mussolini and not go to see it! Luca didn't want to go though.. "I'm not a Fascist!" he said tons of times, before I finally convinced him (although I don't think I could express with words how ashamed he was to actually go). So one day we drove out there, and of course I brought my camera. I have to admit I was a little nervous walking through such a sacred place as a cemetery (an Italian one at that) just to take pictures of a dead dictator's tomb.. but I did.
We were looking around, wondering where the heck the thing was, when all of a sudden this huge church-like building just sprung up in front of me. It was huge! I tried to take a couple of pictures without anyone noticing, and then Luca says to me, "Okay, let's go now." No way!! Do you really think I would go all the way to Italy, find out how close I am to this tomb, and not go inside?!
So, after a little twisting of the arm, we go towards the crypt, and start to hear voices coming from inside the building (no, it's not Mussolini's ghost or anything). Then I started to feel like maybe we should leave.. who was that in there anyways? What if it was family? What if it was some hard-core fascists? I don't really know what I thought in that moment, but after listening for a few minutes, we went through the entrance, and read all the plaques and things that were hanging on the wall. After we decided that the ppl downstairs must have been cleaning people or something of the sort, we thought it would be best to wait a few minutes. Finally... finally the voices went away, and apparently the people had left. We went down the stairs into a little room. Inside, there were (don't quote me on this, because I don't remember the exact number) three sarcophaguses, pictures of Mussolini's family, candles, flowers, all your normal cemetery things. Then, I turned around, and just burst out laughing. At the head of the room, in a tiny chamber, not only were there flowers and wall hangings, but another sarcophagus with above a huge shiny bust of Mussolini. I think that had to be the most ridiculous thing I saw in all of Italy. To think how much so many people hated him, but that he actually had a huge crypt that people could visit, and of all things this obnoxious statue! (The man is still arrogant even after death ;) )
Then after my little outburst, I noticed that there were a couple of old men there.. speaking in dialect of course, paying their respects to Mussolini. I felt a little bad about laughing, but what could I say... it was Mussolini's head on a shelf.
So, I waited for the men to leave, and then finally got up the nerve to take a picture of it. I didn't know if it would turn out, but it did. Of course the picture doesn't do it justice, you just have to see it. It was really weird being there, knowing that the majority of people never go and see something like his tomb. Most Italians, I think, don't even know that that's where he is "buried." But I had a pretty unique experience, and even signed the guestbook down in the basement.
I would recommend to anyone: Fascist, Communist, Republican (yes, even Democrats ;) ) that if there were ever in that area (Bologna, Forli', Rimini, Ravenna, etc.) to go and see the crypt. While it may not be as impressive as the Colosseum, or as beautiful of the Duomo of Milan or Florence, it is pretty neat in its own way. After all how many people can say that they went to see the tomb of one of the powers of Europe of WWII (after all Hitler doesn't have one now does he?).