Apparently Scott does not know me well enough to know not to even vaguely encourage me to talk about Mussolini's impact on the city of Rome. I tried to play it cool by connecting to Timed Finals before, but now someone has shown interest and you will all pay.
First, Scott mentioned googling the Foro Italico, which I realized was something I had not done, so here are a couple of links to sites with decent information and photos.
Italy Cyber Guide gives a little of the post-Mussolini history of the site (PP and I were trying to remember when the Olympics were in Rome. He guessed 1964 and was close: 1960). They include a photo of the entire track and you can see the little muscular dudes ringing it, even though they look like little white specks. If you are looking for more close-ups, you might consult this book, which provides thirty-some excellent b&w images of the statues. And this is an absolutely awesome article about the pool and its mosaics--with tons of excellent clear well-lit butt-shots--I mean photographs of the mosaics--definitely check it out.
Sporty types and especially soccer types might be interested to know that the Stadio Olimpico was renovated in 1990 for the World Cup, and that both AS Roma and SS Lazio play there. I see that the Italian Open tennis tournament also happens there. If you read Italian (and really, even if you do not), Wikipedia has a decent, if very brief entry about it, with a couple more photos. And if you want a look for yourself, why not book a night at the Youth Hostel just up the street? Oh right, because we are not really youth anymore. Curses.
But those of you who have visited Roma on a tight itinerary have also seen Mussolini's impact. How could you miss it? He was the dictator of "clear out the detritus" and "let's build wide avenues I can hold parades on."
Did you approach St. Peter's this way?
Before Mussolini's day, you could not have, as the only way into its piazza was through windy little streets. He cleared out a big section of town--full of neighborhoods of windy streets--to build this avenue. If you were to go to the Vatican back in the day, and walk into that piazza, then the world's longest basilica would scare the bejeezus out of you because it is SO MASSIVE, and it is almost impossible to get all of it into your eyeballs. But thanks to the via della Conciliazione, you can watch it grow from a great distance, and get used to it before you walk in. Is that the reconciliation? Or was Benito trying to keep the Vatican from sneaking up on him?
I am certain that most Roman itineraries include a journey to the Roman Forum, and perhaps some of the other fora, like the Forum of Augustus, the Markets of Trajan, etc. Well, before Mussolini, there was not a vast avenue through the middle of those, either. I am talking about the road (now called via dei Fori Imperiali, then called via dell' Impero) that connects the Piazza Venezia (and the Palazzo Venezia, home of his famous balcony) to the Colosseum.
You probably traveled on or looked down that road, but you may not have noticed these maps:
There is a whole series of them, built into a retaining wall, and they document the various stages of the Roman empire--something our Benito was very interested in.What about these flagpoles?
After the war, Italians broke the hatchet heads off the fasci, but they are still fasci! Anyway, Mussolini built this road specifically to make a connection between his government, housed in the Palazzo Venezia, and ancient Rome. He was subtle that way. And never mind the important archaeological material lurking underneath that roadway.
There is more--like the church that Mussolini had moved so that it would not be in the way of one of his building schemes. Or the various houses--many of them dating from the medieval period--that were demolished to make the tomb of Augustus (previously a closed-in concert venue with amazing acoustics) more visible. But these, my friends, are stories for another day.