‘Il Duce’ Calendars and Beer Mugs: Mussolini Cult Alive and Well in Italy
Every year, thousands of people in Italy hang a fresh calendar of images depicting Benito Mussolini on their wall, just one of many indications that the cult of “Il Duce” is alive and well in the country. Many still consider the fascist dictator to have been an honorable man, and it is a weakness that politicians such as Silvio Berlusconi have been able to exploit.
Decked out in army fatigues, his hand raised in fascist salute, he emblazons newsstands, lies ready in bookshops and is splashed across countless websites: Benito Mussolini, the Italian dictator and founder of fascism known simply as “Il Duce”, enjoys massive popularity in Italy as a calendar pin-up. One month he’s in a steel helmet, his chin jutting sharply forward, the next he’s clutching a Roman short sword, the famous chin still at attention. His valiant, steel-helmeted soldiers also march on annually, in color or black and white, accompanied by fascist symbols like the swastika.
Foreign tourists, especially Germans, are shocked when they see these openly flaunted calendars. Yet even in 2013, the former Italian dictator has a loyal fan base at home. And they’re not just buying calendars.
The full extent of the Mussolini cult — a phenomenon many foreigners find difficult to understand — can be seen in Predappio, a small town in the Emilia-Romagna region with barely 7,000 inhabitants. As a tourist destination, Predappio is not really worth the trip. But it was here on July 29, 1883 that Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini, the son of a blacksmith and a village school teacher, began a life that would lead to his coronation as “Il Duce,” the architect of fascism who was the precursor and in many respects a model for Adolf Hitler.