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  • Writer's pictureVanessa Valenti

Tresigallo, the Metaphysical City: the capital of Italian rationalist architecture

Tresigallo is a small village in the province of Ferrara, in Emilia Romagna, not far from the Comacchio's valley and it's considered the capital of Italian rationalism. Tresigallo in fact is also called the Metaphysical City: the colored marble buildings follow a rigid, clean and authoritarian architecture in full rationalist style that strongly recalls the fascist style. This place literally seems suspended in time: silence and order reign in the streets, almost being in another dimension full of geometry and straight lines. The Metaphysical City is small and the points of interest are all concentrated a short distance from them, making it a real gem to visit in half a day, walking among the large spaces and the huge and oversized buildings compared to the inhabitants who populate it.

Viale Roma e la Casa del Fascio, Tresigallo
Viale Roma e la Casa del Fascio, Tresigallo

Let's find out more about its history: Tresigallo as we see it now was born around the early 30s when the then Minister of Agriculture of the fascist regime Edmondo Rossoni, a native of Tresigallo, financed and designed the new face of the town following an urban planning and symbolic-formal logic. The style in fact aims to enhance the Function by eliminating the elements considered superfluous and decorative.

It is one of the few examples of a refounded city designed to counter the strong emigration from the country caused by extreme poverty and a high rate of unemployment in the early 1900s.

Tresigallo: walking route

Once in Tresigallo, park the car in via dello Sport behind the Primary School, right at the beginning of the town (on the south-eastern border), where you will find free parking. From here begins the visit to Tresigallo where, on the roundabout entrance to the town and which connects Via del Mare, Via dello Sport with Viale Giuseppe Verdi, you will immediately find three exemplary buildings of rationalist architecture.

- The Sports Fields

The monumental entrance to the Tresigallo Sports Fields is huge and covered in marble and is inspired by the triumphal arch, recalling the classicism that inspired the fascist regime.

- The Primary School

Right in front of the entrance to the Sports Fields stands the imposing greenish, austere and authoritarian building of the elementary school, which it still is today.

- The Domus Tua

The Domus Tua, not to be confused with the Domus Tua hotel, is a very scenic building with its central turret which today houses private apartments, but was originally a ballroom.

Then continue walking on Viale Giuseppe Verdi where you will come across three other buildings worthy of note which, however, catch the eye less, so be careful!

- The Embroidery House

In the 1930s, the Embroidery House hosted the headquarters of the sewing and embroidery school for single mothers, i.e. an educational-training center that facilitated the integration of young girls into the world of work and into society. It is no coincidence that it was the twin building of the Ex O.N.M.I.: today it is private and abandoned.

- The Ex O.N.M.I. (National Maternity and Childhood Opera)

The former O.N.M.I. was a building used for the protection and support of mothers and children in difficulty and inside there were nurses and doctors available; today it houses the municipal nursery school.

- The Domus Tua Hotel

Located next to the Ex O.N.M.I., it is nowadays a retirement home, but it was born as a luxury hotel to host entrepreneurs and important personalities of the fascist regime.

At the end of Viale Giuseppe Verdi you will come out in Piazza Italia where you cannot fail to notice some particularly significant buildings.

- The Church of Sant'Appollinare and the splendid portico

On your right as you walk along Piazza Italia you will come across this church which dates back to Roman times but which has been renovated completely changing its appearance with marble bas-reliefs.

The portico is super classic, with reinforced concrete columns that give the square an authoritative and scenographic aspect. The upper part of the portico is embellished with a long sequence of panels depicting the symbols of the agricultural culture of the area. In front of the church you can admire the current Carabinieri station, also in clear rationalist style, with cubic and geometric elements.

- The Parish Kindergarten

To the right of the portico is the parish kindergarten, of which the entrance door certainly stands out with one of the mottos of the fascist regime: "The Sacrifice of Heroes burns perennially".

From here keep walking on the left into what is surely the main avenue of Tresigallo: Viale Roma, which in itself is an example of rationalist architecture, but some of its buildings contribute to the style.

- The Casa del Fascio

The Casa del Fascio is perhaps the most representative building of rationalist architecture, with its elegance and its geometries it dominates Viale Roma: it is no coincidence that it housed the headquarters of the Fascist Party.

- Bar Roma

The Bar Roma is today an abandoned and decadent building which has allowed the conservation of all the original elements thanks to which we can imagine it in its period of splendour.

- The ‘900 Theatre

The '900 Theatre, which today houses a cultural association, was inaugurated in 1935 with the screening of the film Red Passport. Later, the minister Edmondo Rossoni brought the great Italian opera there. The building is currently the headquarters of the Arianna Alberighi Musical Association – Philharmonic Band Music School.

In the middle of Viale Roma, take Via Antonio Gramsci on the left and you will find yourself on the huge Piazza della Repubblica.

- Piazza della Repubblica

Piazza della Repubblica is also known as the former Revolution Square and consists of a huge semicircle with a fountain in the center with 4 gazelles intent on drinking it. The peculiarity of this square, which distinguishes it from the classic squares, is that it does not concentrate civil, political or regime functions, but only symbolic and formal ones.

Piazza della Repubblica, Tresigallo

From Republic Square continue along Viale Ferrara and you will arrive on Via del Lavoro which merges into via 1°Maggio. Here you will find the most iconic and famous buildings of Tresigallo.

- Baths - Urban Center SOGNI

The building of the Baths is undoubtedly the symbol of Tresigallo and the most photographed building. The large writing DREAMS, in the iconic font that distinguishes the whole city and the rationalist style, stands out in the sky above the blue building. The building was born as a dressing room and bathrooms for young people involved in the propaganda of the fascist regime, while now it is used as a space for exhibitions and reviews.

- Ex G.I.L. - The House of the Culture

The current House of the Culture is located next to the Urban Center and was born as the House of the Italian Youth of the Littorio, a kind of gym where young people were trained physically and ideologically during the fascist period. Inside was the gymnasium, the office for pre-military education and the driving school, now it houses a library and the information center of Tresigallo.

At the end of Via 1° Maggio you will find the Agricultural Consortium and the S.A.I.M.M.

- The Agricultural Consortium

The Agricultural Consortium was a warehouse with a capacity of 20,000 quintals, and was used for storing grain. Today it is a municipal building being renovated to be reused.

- The S.A.I.M.M.

The S.A.I.M.M. it was an engineering factory for the production of agricultural machinery built according to the Rossoneri concept of a model industry, where the workers' homes were located next to the sheds. Nowadays it houses workshops of artisans and small local businesses. And finally at the end of Via Filippo Corridoni the Cemetery.

- The Cemetery

The Cemetery is surrounded by a wall which is accessed from a huge portal. Inside is the monumental tomb of Edmond Rossini, the proponent of the re-foundation of Tresigallo as we see it today. A peculiarity that distinguishes this cemetery is the fact that it is the only one in Italy, in its original design, where the symbol of the cross does not appear. On the way back, take via del Mare where you will find the former mill and finally, on the left, the beautiful Parco degli Sceriffi Ecologici, in the center of which stands the splendid Post Sanatorial Colony.

- The Post Sanatorial Colony

When it was built, the Colony housed only women who, during their convalescence, were being prepared for their reintegration into work. Now the structure is used as medical clinics and nursing homes.

- The Park of the Ecological Sheriffs

The park surrounding the Post Sanatorial Colony is a splendid green space outside the center of Tresigallo, full of games for children, benches and tables that are excellent for a nice picnic!

I must admit that visiting Tresigallo aroused mixed emotions in me: the visit was certainly extremely interesting and I can only recommend it, it is in fact an unusual and iconic destination, as well as historical and certainly peculiar from an architectural point of view.

I really liked the tour itself but if I have to say it's beautiful then I'd be lying: it's my personal taste as an ignorant of architecture but it gave me a perception of excessive order, control and homologation.. too authoritarian, it seemed to me really lacked freedom and liveliness. Talking about it with Enrico, he too had this impression: the influence of the authoritarian regime is definitely felt and we felt almost crushed by these imposing buildings that observe you from above. Let me know what you think in the comments! Have a nice trip!


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