Exploring Rome’s EUR District

This unique neighborhood is a monument to Italy's history and vision of the future.

Palace of Italian Civilization in EUR
The Palace of the Italian Civilization in Rome. Photo: Erin Doering on Unsplash.

The EUR district is a striking but largely unknown area of Rome by visitors to the country. Roughly a 30-minute drive south of the city center by Via Cristoforo Colombo, and now the financial district for the city, EUR is a monument to a period of Italy’s recent history, and vision of the future.

Mussolini and Fascist Italy

Construction for the project began in 1937 under Mussolini’s instruction, meant to represent the new imperialist Rome under the Fascist party. It would serve to host the Universal Exhibition of Rome (the EUR acronym stands for Esposizione Universale di Roma) in 1942, coinciding with the 20th anniversary of Mussolini’s March on Rome, but plans were scrapped with the outbreak of World War II and Mussolini’s subsequent defeat.

The Rationalist architectural style is unique but dramatic, inspired by Fascist ideology and classical Roman urban planning, characterized by the wide streets and austere squared-off buildings in the area constructed from white marble (typical of the ancient Roman empire). It is surrounded by green open spaces, and even features a manmade lake.

One of the most iconic buildings completed during this initial period is the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana (Palace of Italian Civilization), earning the nickname ‘Colosseo Quadratto’ (Square Colosseum) due to its shape and superficial resemblance to the Ancient Roman construction: the completely square building was designed in 1938 by architects Giovanni Guerrini, Ernesto La Padula, and Mario Romano; and features a façade of arches in rows of six by nine (allegedly corresponding to the number of letters in Benito Mussolini’s name) covered with a travertine cladding. It remained unoccupied in the post-war decades until 2015 when Fendi transferred their headquarters to the building, using the ground floor as an exhibition space that is open to the public.

Other buildings from this era include the Palazzo dei Congressi and the Archivio Centrale dello Stato (State Archives), both in the same clean straight lines and fuss-free exteriors.

Post-war and the 21st Century

Construction restarted in the 1950s to reclaim the district into the new Italy, which saw the introduction of new buildings like the Palazzo dello Sport (built for the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome), and the Piscina delle Rose, an Olympic outdoor pool built in the manmade lake—the Laghetto dell’EUR remains a peaceful green space, and is the location of 2,500 cherry trees donated by the Prime Minister of Japan in 1959 which erupts into a cherry blossoms every spring for what is called ‘La passegiata del Giappone’.

The most recent construction is the Roma Convention Center, also called La Nuvola, by Studio Fuksas. Completed in 2016, the building is a hyper-modern creation made from glass and steel, containing an enormous white structure inside which looks almost cloud-like. It was used extensively during the Covid pandemic as a vaccination processing point for the city of Rome. At this point though, most buildings in the area are owned by the state-owned company EUR Spa, and is the location of the head offices of many banks, as well as ENI and Poste Italia.